It is common for older (pre-1974) homes in South Florida to experience failure of their cast iron sewage lines. These are the pipes that lead to the septic tank (or to the sewer). Homeowners affected by this situation must be smart and alert in order to get through this most unfortunate situation.
If you’ve ever heard gurgling sounds after a load of laundry or a long shower, you may be hearing the warning signs. Also, if a toilet seems to flush slower than normal or requires multiple flushes, take note. An increase in cockroach sightings and random bad smells can also signal problems. Water supplies are a more serious sign and you don’t want to just throw Draino away and forget about it. In my experience, it’s best to bring in a professional early and deal with this head-on. Here’s why…
As more and more homes face this problem, insurance companies are doing what they do best; deny and delay claims from current policyholders and promptly rewrite policies to exclude coverage for this very problem. The longer you wait, the more likely you are not to get paid or to get paid very little.
I won’t go into all the details of cast iron deterioration other than saying: (a) the bottom of the pipe thins first and develops pinholes, (b) interior scaling occurs , preventing the smooth flow of solids, (c) water seeps along the path of the pipe and begins to carry the supporting soil underneath, which can then lead to (d) collapse of the pipe and even create a potential for small sinkholes.
In most cases, after being diagnosed with deteriorated cast iron pipes, the only suitable solution is to replace them with PVC. This involves cutting through your home’s slab, removing cast iron, and using the same path and pitch to lay new PVC pipe over properly recompressed fill. You can expect a lot of mess and time in this process.
Do not treat this problem like an ordinary home repair. Reaching the cast iron pipes creates further repair work and can result in an almost complete interior remodel. As such, understand that you will be managing a project involving your insurance company, a plumber who specializes in this type of work, the local government clearance process, and possibly a contractor or two to repair the damage to your home afterward. have accessed the pipes.
While I am not an expert and each case and resolution is different, I recently experienced this with a Palmetto Bay home. My advice is:
● Do NOT fight straight away with your insurer. Use their claims adjuster and avoid the lawyer route. I believe my result was much better than if I had gone into the insurance claim looking for a fight and taking the first hit. You can always bring in a lawyer and a claims adjuster later.
● Choose a plumber who has a lot of experience in replacing cast iron. There are only a handful of them in South Florida. Additionally, when choosing your plumber, not only choose based on their plumbing skills, but also educate yourself on their ability to work with insurance companies regarding claims.
● Don’t believe your insurance company. Most will tell you that plumbing is a wearing item that is not covered by your policy. This is generally true, but they should cover access to the plumbing for repairing and restoring your home after the work is complete.
● Use the current building code and the authorization process to force the insurance company to pay what it owes, called code compliance coverage. In my case, they had to redo my electrical service because it ended up not complying with the current building code.
● Take time each day to take lots of pictures of work in progress. You may also want to shoot a video. I ended up submitting around 100 photos to my insurer to cover additional items.
Even if you don’t want to be a project manager, you will probably end up doing just that. I strongly believed in hiring different people for each phase of my project. It created natural friction and gave me multiple opinions on each task. Yes, it made it more complicated, but it also made a better job than if I just let the plumber bring in a bunch of other trades to “do all the work”.
There are so many facets to this question. As a real estate agent, I see it all. Please feel free to email me with any questions at [email protected] I will do my best to help.
Real estate update
As of September 18, Pinecrest, Coral Gables, Palmetto Bay and Cutler Bay markets have all been vendor markets. This is indicative of the effects of COVID-19 on the luxury home market. Historically low interest rates coupled with low inventory equals a good opportunity to sell! If you are ready to relocate, I can help you with local expertise, realistic expectations, and truthful advice. It’s easy to start miamihal.com/getstarted.
Hal Feldman (MiamiHal) is a real estate agent with RE / MAX Advance Realty. You can contact him with your story ideas or real estate questions at www.MiamiHal.com, [email protected] or www.facebook.com/MiamiHal