Q: I have several ceiling tiles (approximately 52) that are scratched or damaged that has sprinkler heads in them. Is there a code that references or mandates the replacement of the ceiling tiles? Also, I was told once the old/current sprinkler heads are removed to replace the ceiling tiles, new sprinkler heads have to be replaced. Is that true?
A: If the ceiling tiles are stained, most surveyors will have a problem with that as that implies water which can lead to mold or mildew. If they cite the stained ceiling tiles, it would be likely be cited under an Infection Control standard.
If the ceiling tiles have gaps or cracks wider than 1/8-inch then that will likely be cited under a sprinkler installation standard or a smoke detector installation standard, as the ceiling needs to resist the passage of smoke in order for the smoke detectors and/or sprinkler to function properly.
But a ceiling tile that is scratched is not a Life Safety Code deficiency and likely would not be cited.
Yes… you cannot re-install used sprinklers (see section 6.2.1 of NFPA 13-2010), so if you need to remove the sprinkler head to change the ceiling tiles, then that is a great time to update to a newer style that uses escutcheons that are removable to allow easy replacement of ceiling tiles.
Brad Keyes, CHSP, is the owner of KEYES Life Safety Compliance, and his expertise is in the management of the Life Safety Program, including the Environment of Care and Emergency Management programs.