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What Does it Mean if Your Home Has Cast Iron Piping?

Nearly 40% of Florida homes were built before 1975 - and if yours one of them, it's very likely that you have cast iron plumbing under your foundation.

It is estimated that cast iron pipes can last up to 80-100 years, but problems like leaks, corrosion, rust and calcification can develop as early as 25 years due to Florida's salt and moisture-rich environment, deteriorating the pipes before their time.

If you do the math, that means that even if your home is toward the "newer" end of the cast iron era, your pipes are still at least 50 years of age or so, well into the time period where they may have issues. So what to do?

First, whether you're just buying a pre-1975 home or have lived in one for some time, it is advisable to get a pipe scope done by a licensed plumber. Not all plumbers offer this service, but a handful do (if you call us, we can connect you to one). For a couple hundred dollars, the contractor will feed a camera into the pipe system and record a journey through the interior of the system, showing if any roots have broken through, or if any significant natural erosion or material blockage has occurred. 

If it looks like your cast iron system is nearing the end of its natural life, replacing the network with PVC is the most popular solution today - with new pipes being run up the walls and through your attic in many cases. Then, the old cast iron system is essentially cut off and the water source is routed through the new PVC. There are other solutions as well (such as retrofitting the interior of your existing cast iron system with a new "liner,") but PVC replacement is the most common solution.

In relation to home insurance coverage, water damage from burst pipes of any kind is typically covered under a standard HO3 homeowners insurance policy, as long as that damage isn't the result of a sewer or drain backup. However, it can be hard to prove that your aging cast iron pipes were the culprit, so in some cases, you may need to hire a legal professional to back you up. Additionally, some insurance carriers won't cover homes with aging cast iron pipes (or their premiums are hiked significantly to cover the cost of eventual replacement). So know what type of plumbing you have and shop your insurance coverage carefully.

And a final note tied to the insurance side… your homeowner's insurance does not cover "wear and tear," so if your home does end up with a slab leak or water issue because of cast iron pipes, your policy MAY cover the water damage but will NOT cover the pipes themselves. 

If you're not sure if your home has cast iron pipes, you may not necessarily need to pull up floorboards to find out. If you see dark pipes coming up the walls in your laundry area, for example, and they have a "bulge" at each connection point, this is a giveaway.

In the end, it's not a "bad" thing to have cast iron pipes under your pre-1975 home, it's just something to be aware of. And if your system is nearing the end of it's life, it's much less expensive to replace it now - before a burst occurs that would also force you to replace expensive flooring, cabinets and drywall.

If you have questions about your home insurance policy and how your current plan applies to cast iron pipe replacement, call us anytime!

Tina Lange is a Licensed Florida Realtor and Marketing Manager for Wren Insurance Agency.