I’ve talked before on the blog about why we recommend replacing a cast iron sewer system instead of making repairs.
And while that is still our recommendation, we have shifted our policy slightly since publishing that post regarding cast iron repairs.
Why We Recommend Replacing Cast Iron Sewer Pipes
Let me quickly go over why this is our recommendation.
Cast iron pipes were designed to last for about 50 years. And that’s in an optimistic and ideal situation. For the most part, the last houses with underslab cast iron sewer pipes in the Dallas/Fort Worth area were built around 1985.
However, by then many houses were being built with PVC sewer pipes. So most houses with cast iron plumbing were built before 1980. Meaning most people’s cast iron systems in the North Texas area are more than 35 years old.
So with that mind, it’s more than likely any system made of cast iron will need to be replaced in the next five to 20 years (closer to five than 20, by the way). Added to that, making a repair means we have to cut out a piece of the pipe that is leaking and replace that section with PVC pipe. So now there are two spots on each side of that new PVC pipe that will be a leak — not might, will — in the near future.
Because the metal will continue to deteriorate as wastewater runs through it, the cast iron on each side of the PVC pipe will crumble or crack and break. And there’s nothing anyone can do because that’s just the reality of the situation, the nature of the material; the cast iron is going bad.
So we believe it is in the homeowner’s best interest to not waste any money on repairs and go ahead and replace the system.
Our New Policy Regarding Cast Iron Sewer Repairs
However, we’re finding more and more that the cast iron pipes we come across in our work is in pretty bad shape, to put it mildly. It’s worn out and rusted and needs to be replaced, not repaired.
So now not only do we know that one repaired leak will very soon be two more leaks in the same spot, we’re also doing what is referred to in our industry as “chasing pipe.” This means we have to follow the pipe to find a good spot to attach the new PVC pipe to which is getting more challenging because as I said, we’re seeing more worn out and rusted systems every time.
This is why we will no longer do repairs on cast iron systems with three or more leaks. It is our experience anytime we have a cast iron system with three or more leaks, we end up having significant problems with the cast iron once we’re under the slab.
There are always more issues with the pipe than we anticipated, and we end up spending an inordinate amount of time chasing pipe. It’s a mess, to be quite honest, and always ends up costing the homeowner more money in the end.
It’s a repeating cycle. We repair the leak, a year down the road that spot now has two leaks and because the pipe is bad there are more leaks to repair in other areas. So now the homeowner is spending more money on more tests that need to be done and more money is being spent to repair a leak that’s already been repaired.
Making the repairs is a band-aid solution, at best.
So before we do any tests, if you have a cast iron sewer system, we will let you know that we recommend going ahead and replacing the pipe. And we can give you a free estimate at that point.
But if you do decide to go ahead and pay for the test — leak detection and leak location — and we find three or more leaks, we will not do the repairs. We will only do a replacement, and you won’t get your money back for the testing.
There have been some situations in the past where we’ve done the testing but didn’t end up doing the repairs, and we refunded the cost of the tests. And I’ve explained in a few blog posts why we feel it’s important the same company do the leak location and repairs. We strongly believe that no company should do a repair with a different company’s test results. And this is why we would give the money back in some situations.
But going forward, with underslab cast iron sewer systems, if you decide to go ahead and have the system tested knowing we will not make any repairs on a system with three or more leaks, you will not get your money back for the testing. If you are willing to gamble the cost of testing with the hope that there are only two or fewer leaks, that is your choice.
We will be very clear and upfront about what we will and won’t do so you can make an informed decision.
Another Reason for Our Policy Change
I do want to explain briefly another reason we’ve come to this decision.
We’ve had situations in the past where someone is selling their home and wanted us to come out and test for leaks and then do the leak repairs even though we recommended replacing. But as is the case with most sellers, they didn’t want to spend the money on a replacement. They wanted a cheaper band-aid solution to get as much money out of the sale as possible.
So we made the repairs, the house is sold, and less than a year later the buyer inevitably calls us because of leaks. And with our one year warranty, we go out and now the buyer is mad at us, not the seller who is long gone.
This is not just bad business for us but also incredibly unfair to the buyer.
Call Us About Your Options
We understand replacing a cast iron sewer system is a big investment. And not everyone has the money to do it right away. But give us a call and we will do our best to find a good solution for you.
We are a business, yes, but doing right by our customers is and will always be one of our highest priorities.
If you have any questions give us a call at 972-494-1750 or email email@example.com.