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Protecting Your Investment From Fire—Transforming A Single Family Home Into A Multi-Family Apartment Building

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Transforming a large house into a multi-family apartment building can be a sound investment. In fact, one prominent real estate investor says it is the best type of investment he has made. Of course, the first step to take before making this type of investment is to find out if you are able to do so according to the local building code ordinances and fire codes. This will help you narrow down to a specific area where you can buy a house to transform into an apartment building. When you find and purchase the ideal property, you'll want to protect your investment from fire. Here's what you need to do. 

Improve the Electrical Circuitry 

When it comes to the electricity that will be used by your tenants, you could take the easy way out and include the electricity costs in the rental payments and pay for the electricity yourself. However, the electrical wiring and circuitry in the single family home you purchased may not be able to handle the additional loads that will be placed on it, particularly in the multiple kitchens. It's safer for your investment and for your tenants' lives to upgrade the electrical outlets, wiring, and circuitry to meet the additional demands, and it may be a legal requirement for you to do so in order to meet the fire code regulations. 

Use Fire Rated Building Materials & Firestops

When transforming the house into a multi-unit apartment building, use fire rated building materials in between each dwelling. The walls and floors should be fire rated to reduce the risks of a fire spreading rapidly through the structure from one apartment to the others. Also, install firestops in all spaces and gaps, such as around plumbing and electrical wiring, as well as in any spaces that could cause a chimney-like effect, such as is found in balloon-framed houses. Fire rated building materials and firestops can help contain any fires to allow more time for all residents from all dwelling in the structure to escape safely. 

Install a Fire Suppression System 

Install a fire suppression system in each apartment unit. This type of system is similar to a fire sprinkler system, but it uses foam, gaseous, or chemical agents to suppress fires instead of water. The reason this type of system is preferred for your type of real estate investment is that a fire suppression system typically does not cause the amount of damage that a fire sprinkler system would cause with water. A deluge of water from a sprinkler system could cause an enormous amount of water damage on top of the damage caused by flames, heat, and smoke from a fire. Of course, do make sure that you follow the guidelines of your local fire code authority as they may require the use of sprinkler systems instead. 

Install a Fire Alarm Monitoring System 

Install a fire alarm monitoring system, which includes a combination of smoke detectors, manual fire alarm boxes, and automatic fire alarms. If a smoke detector or high heat detector goes off in one unit, all fire alarms throughout the building should sound an alarm. You should also have a manual fire alarm box located in common areas, such as an entry way that all residents will use. That way, the tenants will have the ability to pull the manual alarm in case of an emergency. Have the system monitored so the local fire department can react quickly without anyone needing to call 911. Hire a fire and life safety system consultant who can configure your fire alarm monitoring system and other safety features in your apartment building.