A new fire main in New York City is now required on many building types and in more situations than ever before. A recent example was in St. Albans, which is a primarily residential community in Queens. The case in point involved a single family house that was being legally converted to a two family house on 100th Avenue.
Only a very few years ago this building would not have required a fire main. Instead some easy to achieve modifications would have been required. They would probably have been limited to a properly rated fire stair partition, and adequate entrances and exits. A new fire main requires hiring an engineer and having plans approved by the DEP and Department of Buildings. Part of the additional work is proper metering devices and installing a fire sprinkler system throughout the building. All told this work costs many times more than a previous legalization to a two family house would have cost.
In the past two family homes did not require a fire sprinkler system. As a matter of fact three family homes only required sprinkler heads in the stairwell going to the upper floors. When a building must be fully fire sprinklered a larger fire main is required than in the past. A typical service line size used to be 1 1/2″, however presently most water service lines are 3″ or 4″ when full fire protection is mandated.
The cost difference in fire main sizes
The cost difference to increase from an 1 1/2″ or 2″ K copper water service line to a 3″ or 4″ ductile iron line is typically around $10,000.00. That does not include the cost of the metering devices, which is an additional $3,000.00 or so. A licensed master plumber then has to install fire sprinkler heads throughout the building.
About the fire main installation in St. Albans
The area of St. Albans was previously serviced by the Jamaica Water Supply Company. The NYC DEP took over control of JWS in the 1990’s and likewise inherited many old and inadequate water main lines. As an example at this job location on 100th Avenue the size of the main water line was only 4″. A 4″ main water line is two sizes smaller than the NYC DEP minimum size of 8″.
The 4″ pipe size meant that a new 3″ wet connection could be not be installed because the public main was too small. Instead a Tee connection had to be cut into the 4″ public main at an additional cost the the homeowner. In order to install a Tee type water line connection valve the DEP had to perform a shutdown of the water main on the block. When a DEP shutdown is required there is a bill for their services.
The new fire main must meet DEP code. That meant that the line must be over 3 1/2′ deep. It must also have the valve connection, curb valve, and inside control valve all in-line with each other. A DEP field inspector was on site numerous days to witness the installation of the three-way connection and the fire main itself. After the work passes the field inspection the DEP typically provides a final sign-off within a week.
Who to call when a fire main is needed
Joseph L. Balkan Inc. has been installing and repairing water service lines in New York City for over 60 years. Being centrally located in Queens means that they are highly familiar with their neighbors in St. Albans. When you couple Balkan’s expertise and experience with installing a fire main with their knowledge of the neighborhood, they become the clear choice to call.
Balkan is on call day and night, seven days a week. They continue to provide free on-site visits and written estimates at no obligation at all hours.