In Florida, many houses built before 1975 can possibly have cast iron pipes in their house. At Wind River Environmental, formerly Metro Rooter, we’ve seen a lot of this over the past 40 years that we’ve been in the plumbing business. We encounter customers that ask: Is that cause for alarm? Why would they use cast iron if it seems to be such a problem? Should I immediately obtain an estimate to replace all of them? Do I have an insurance claim that will pay for their replacement? All great questions; let’s delve deeper into each.
Cast iron was widely used because of its durability. For example, if one is digging with a shovel and hits a cast iron pipe, chances are it won’t break. A PVC line, however, may not be as lucky. Like all things in your home, it depends on how well they are maintained. For example, was there an unaddressed drip from a plastic connection that dripped down the cast iron for years, causing rust? Those situations can expedite the degradation of cast iron. Don’t allow drips and small issues to linger, call Wind River Environmental and have them addressed.
Is this cause for alarm, should I call a lawyer or plumbing company immediately? You wouldn’t want to start with a lawyer, but yes, possibly start by contacting a trusted plumbing company that has experience dealing with cast iron pipes. A reputable company, such as Wind River Environmental, can perform an audit on your house and will provide a qualified professional opinion and put your mind at ease. Of course, with plumbing, not all pipes can be easily accessed so each inspection will vary, dependent on the house.
If I learn I have cast iron, should I contact a lawyer for an insurance claim? Many of us in Florida have heard the incessant commercials pushing you to call them immediately and, “the attorney will win your case!” Don’t be so quick to call because there may not be a “case” and those attorneys only want fast, open, and shut opportunities for them to make quick money. The legal situations aren’t open and shut. It is not illegal to have cast iron in a house since 1970, so unless there’s damage, there really isn’t a claim to be had.
Many times, the claim starts with something simple, such as a leaking sink. A plumber is called to resolve the issue and he informs you of the cast iron in your house and the long-term leak that has caused collateral damage to other pipes. Insurance companies have protected themselves from liability, and they are quite adept at doing so! Many policies exclude water damage, to begin with, does yours? Others will not cover damage due to gradual pipe degradation or losses, so review your policy before wasting time with an attorney.
The big money claims you heard about may or may not have been for the actual pipes to be replaced. That is often misleading in the commercials we hear. Many times, it’s due to the overall damage caused in the house because of the cast iron pipes. Again, not a quick case to win, because significant water damage is usually caused by an issue with the water source, not a cast iron drainpipe breaking. Home drains hold little water, so if there’s a massive leak and floods a home, it was most likely an issue with a water source that continued to carry water into the house, and not a drain line leaving your house.
Regardless of your situation, the delicacy of cast iron concerns isn’t something you want to go DIY via YouTube. Assessing, inspecting, and auditing a plumbing system is something best performed by a licensed, knowledgeable plumber.
This article is not intended to provide legal advice. The author is not an attorney. Should further inquiries be needed regarding a claim, contact your insurance carrier or legal representative.