Question - We are concerned about fire. What is the absolute safest way to protect a wooden home with standard frame construction?

Answer - Affordable and dependable sprinkler systems with low-profile heads are available for one-and two-family homes. A sprinkler system combined with smoke detectors provides the most reliable form of residential fire protection for you and your family. Excluding deaths by explosion or flash fire, there are no known cases of multiple deaths in a fully sprinklerized building due to fire or smoke, according to the U.S. Fire Administration. Though 80 percent of fire deaths occur in residential buildings, they rarely have sprinklers.

Residential sprinklers are designed to protect people in the area of fire origin and reduce fire damage. They activate five to seven times faster than standard commercial sprinklers and have a different spray pattern and droplet size. Also, they prevent fire from growing to the flashover stage. This occurs when gases from burning materials accumulate and explode. Generally, flashover takes place when the temperature at ceiling level reaches 1,000 degrees to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, which sometimes takes only two to three minutes.

Designers have paid special attention to the appearance of the sprinkler heads. These project only about three-quarters of an inch from the finished ceiling. Many use escutcheon plates that can be painted or plated. The heads thread into feed pipes. Sprinklers can be installed during new construction or retrofitted into existing homes. For more information, contact the National Fire Sprinkler Association, Route 22,, Box 1000, Patterson, N.Y. 12563; 914-878-4200.

Question - A year ago we purchased a 100-year-old house. The upstairs bedroom and bath have double, exposed brick walls. The bricks themselves are very soft and porous, so I don't believe they were fired very well. I would like to seal the bricks against further deterioration and also to prevent the residue from coming off on anything that touches them. I also want to preserve the red color of the bricks, as some sealed bricks that I've seen turn yellow.

Answer - The brick deterioration is due to the moisture coming through from the outside. Stop this moisture and the brick deterioration will stop. If the exterior bricks themselves are porous, apply a sealer on the outside only. If you seal the inside surface, you'll trap moisture within the wall. What you can do to the inside wall is apply a waterproof coating. Several of these products are available at hardware and paint stores. They can be sprayed, brushed or rolled on. This will allow the interior surface to breathe, while stabilizing the face of the brick.