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Uninsulated Sprinklers Blamed For Flooded Nolensville Homes

Uninsulated Sprinklers Blamed For Flooded Nolensville Homes

CREATED Jan 9, 2014

by Todd Walker

NOLENSVILLE, Tenn. - At least a dozen homeowners in the town of Nolensville have been left with a big bill and a big mess after sprinkler pipes in their ceilings burst during our recent cold snap.

All of the pipes appear to have broken for the same reason: they were not insulated.

The town of Nolensville requires all homes to have a sprinkler system because it only has a volunteer fire department.

National regulations require those sprinkler lines be insulated to prevent freezing if installed in an area where temperatures could drop below 40 degrees. A dozen and counting homeowners, like Monique Johnson, found out the hard way it wasn't done in their homes.

"I could hear the water just pouring down," Johnson said. "It wasn't just a trickle or stream like out of the faucet, it was a downpour."

She came home Tuesday to find water gushing out of her walls, the ceiling and the light switches. The water was coming from the sprinkler system built into the house.

The break happened in the ceiling right above her master bathroom.

"It's a freezing cold attic up there and no insulation whatsoever on the pipes," Johnson said. "And that's what caused it to burst."

Johnson said about the same time, several of her neighbors started having the same problem. Sprinkler pipes in their ceilings, with little or no insulation at all, were frozen and bursting in the cold.

Dorene Herring caught cell phone video of water pouring through the ceiling of her garage. She lives a few miles away from Johnson.

"The pipes are insulated," Herring said. "But there's no insulation around there so the cold air is just coming right up over the eves and freezing them."

The pipes in question in Herring's home were wrapped in a thin layer of insulation but the attic area had none at all.

Don Swartz is the town engineer for Nolensville. He said companies installing sprinkler systems are required to provide the city with documentation the sprinklers were installed in compliance with national standards. Those standards include proper insulation if they could be subject to temperatures less than 40 degrees.

Swartz said given those requirements, the insulation on the pipe's in Herring's home likely did not meet standards.

"Ultimately the home builder is responsible for all components of that house," Swartz said. "It does not provide minimum requirements. It does not state depth of insulation, type of insulation, it simply they must be insulated to prevent freezing."

Herring's home was built by Beazer Homes. The company did not return a request for comment.

Johnson's home was built by Tennessee Valley Homes.

The company's attorney sent the following statement:

"It would be inappropriate to comment without knowing the specifics and verifying the facts involved however, all sprinklers having been installed in homes built by Tennessee Valley Homes within the Sunset Park subdivision were installed according to local governing codes and passed inspections conducted by the Town of Nolensville."

Both Johnson and Herring caught the problem fairly quickly. The breaks happened in the middle of the day.

Both women had heard of people who didn't discover the broken pipes until hours later.

Damages on the homes ranged from $5,000 to $15,000. Those amounts are likely higher for homes with more severe damage.

Both homes were insured.

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