Humanity has had a long and fruitful relationship with cast iron. After all, it’s a wonderful material in so many ways. We’ve found cast iron relics from as early as 2,500 years ago. It’s relatively easy to make, to cast into desired shapes, to machine, and it is strong. It’s also comparatively inexpensive to make and to work with. Europeans 500 years ago started making cannons from it. In modern times, car makers used cast iron for engine blocks and cylinder heads, and architects designed buildings around it. Cast iron is some strong stuff, and so is cast iron plumbing.
NOTHING IS FOREVER
But it doesn’t last forever. What does? Therein lies the problem for many Florida homeowners. Cast iron was the material of choice for piping for many, many years. A Florida home dating before 1975 almost certainly has cast iron piping. While the theoretical life expectancy of cast iron plumbing is 75-100 years, our properties in Florida shorten that considerably. In our environment, 40-50 years is average, with problems beginning as early as 25 years. Several local conditions are pretty unfriendly to cast iron plumbing.
Cast iron, after all, is made of iron, with a small percentage of carbon (2%-3%) added. Sometimes silicon, or other metals are also added to the alloy in tiny amounts. These ingredients give cast iron its notable resistance to corrosion. Notable, but not total resistance. Cast iron does, in fact, corrode. That slow but certain corrosion is at the heart of the cast iron piping issue.
CAST IRON PLUMBING IN FLORIDA
South Florida is a salty place. We’re surrounded by sea water on three sides. Moreover, the sea water doesn’t stop at the shoreline, as it creeps inland, under the ground. South Florida Water Management district scientists call this “saltwater intrusion”. Salt speeds up corrosion of cast iron, thus shortening the life expectancy of cast iron plumbing.
You may have noticed that South Florida is also humid. How could anyone not notice? Therefore, our environment is not only salty, but it’s also moist. It rains cats and dogs in the summertime leaving water everywhere in canals, ponds, and lakes. We also have Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades, so add this moisture of fresh water with salt water, and that’s just double trouble as the two work together to amplify each other’s effects.
THE END OF THE LINE
The consequences of a failure in a home’s cast iron plumbing can be serious, indeed. In Part II of this series, we’ll drill deeper into the causes of such failures, how to see it coming, and what to do about it. However, if you’re concerned about your home’s cast iron plumbing, don’t wait to read Part II. Call Florida Loss Public Adjusters now at (954)430-7333 and talk it over with an expert. Solutions can be costly, but your insurance company may have to compensate you. You don’t pay us unless we get you paid.