Florida Cast Iron Pipe Damage Lawyers

October 31, 2022 | Attorney, Matthew Dolman

Cast iron pipe damage is a common problem for Florida property owners. The state’s salty limestone soils and wet weather, combined with chemicals used to combat hard water and rust, can corrode cast iron pipes from the inside and out. In Florida, cast iron pipes fail in as little as 25 years yet last four times that in other parts of the country.

Fixing cast iron pipe damage can cost tens of thousands of dollars, an expense many homeowners cannot afford. Yet homeowner’s insurance companies tend to deny or limit payouts, even when policies cover the damage. Don’t let your insurance company deny or lowball your claim. You need to maximize your recovery to repair your home.

Contact a Florida cast iron pipe damage attorney with Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA for help with your Florida cast iron pipe damage claim. We offer free consultations and can direct you to repair experts, review your policy, assess the value of your claim, and demand that your insurer compensate you for your losses. We work on contingency, meaning you do not pay any legal fees unless we win your case. Reach out to our team to see how we can help you protect your rights and pursue the compensation you will need to restore your home.

What Are Cast Iron Pipes?

Florida Cast Iron Pipe Damage Lawyer

People used molten iron poured or cast into molds to make segmented pipes as early as the 17th century. Cast iron pipes fixed together in long runs worked well to transport water long distances and build sewer systems. Initially, the relative scarcity of iron and the labor-intensive process of manufacturing pipes out of it cost more than most people could afford. In 17th-century Europe, only royalty and the wealthy had cast iron plumbing in their homes.

Builders in the United States began using cast iron pipes in residential homes in the early 19th century. By that time, manufacturing and installing the pipes had become more affordable. Builders considered cast iron a durable material and expected the pipes to last 80 to 100 years in ideal conditions. But some cast iron pipes began failing faster sooner than expected.

In Florida, cast iron pipes sometimes fail in as little as 25 years. When plastic polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pipes introduced a more affordable, flexible, durable, and less labor-intensive option in the 1970s, builders quickly switched to installing PVC plumbing systems in new homes.

Who Has Cast Iron Pipes?

Before PVC pipes became standard in the 1970s, builders constructed tens of millions of homes and businesses using cast iron pipes. If your home dates to the 1970s or before, there is a good chance that it has cast iron pipes.

Why Do Cast Iron Pipes Fail?

Cast iron pipes fail because corrosion weakens and deteriorates the metal over time. The waste running through drainpipes to septic or sewer systems creates hydrogen sulfide gas. Because the gas rises, it tends to corrode the pipe’s upper inside surface or ceiling.

The hydrogen sulfide gas also oxidizes and produces sulfuric acid, which in turn corrodes or rusts the bottom channel of the pipe where the wastewater flows. The acid corrodes the iron, causing tiny flakes of rust to lift from the surface of the metal. Eventually, the acid creates pits that link into channels along the bottom trough of the pipe.

Warning signs for homeowners who can see their cast iron pipes include a hallmark crack running along the top of the pipe caused by hydrogen sulfide gas and bulging lumps of rust on the underside under holes eaten by sulfuric acid. These lumps may leak or drip intermittently as the rust swells and shrinks, temporarily resealing and reopening holes. Eventually, corroding cast iron pipes become thin and brittle, nothing more than dissolving tubes of rust.

Once cast iron pipes start to fail, leaking wastewater compounds the problem. Residential wastewater contains elevated levels of nitrogen. Nearby plants seeking water and nitrogen follow the source, find the pipes, and grow into holes or cracks. Corroding cast iron pipes become brittle and susceptible to breaking. Tree roots can shift or break apart sections at the joints to grow into the pipe. Eventually, roots will fill and block the pipe, causing backups and additional damage to your home. Warning signs include slow drains and frequent backups that need a roto-rooter service to clear.

Why Florida Has More Cast-Iron Pipe Damage Than Other States

Cast iron pipe deteriorates and fails much faster in Florida than elsewhere. Instead of lasting a century, it may fail in as little as 25 years. Three factors unique to the state appear to accelerate cast iron pipe damage.

Salty Soil

First, Florida has salt-rich, sandy limestone soils that eat cast iron drainpipes from the outside. Like acid, salt corrodes, rusts, and pits cast iron. Surrounded on three sides by saltwater, Florida has particularly salty soil, especially near the coasts. During the rainy season, cast iron pipes in saturated salty soils effectively sit in saltwater. The salt eats into the exterior of the pipe. Corrosion from inside and out simultaneously means cast iron pipes fail twice as fast in Florida.

Leaky Limestone

Second, instead of rocky or clay soils with a structure that supports pipes, Florida has sandy limestone soil that tends to dissolve and wash away under leaking pipes. Acidic water leaking from sewer pipes dissolves limestone soil faster than regular water. Once cast-iron sewer pipes begin to leak in Florida soils, voids form beneath them. Sewer water on the underside of the pipe also begins to corrode it from the outside. As the pipe fails, more water leaks faster into the soil, washing it away. If left long enough, leaking cast iron pipes can form sinkholes—directly under your home.

Adding Acid

Third, some Florida homeowners contribute even more acid than the sulfuric acid that wastewater already generates. Water percolating through limestone gives Florida extra-hard, mineral-rich tap water. Floridians without whole-house water softeners will see white mineral deposits build up on their faucets, showers, tubs, sinks, and toilets. Dishes wear a milky haze, and clothes quickly look faded.

Homeowners combat the crust with acidic cleaners, rinse packs for dish and clothes washers, and sprays after every shower. Those treatments remove hard water stains, but the acid runs straight down the drains, making wastewater extra corrosive.

How Do I Tell If a Home Has Cast Iron Pipes?

Know Before You Buy

Homeowners can check whether a home has cast iron pipes before buying. Although a standard four-point inspection won’t check for pipes buried under the house, it should include photographs of plumbing under the sinks. If the photos don’t answer the question, you can hire a plumber to perform an additional inspection that includes a camera examination of the pipes under the home.

The inspection will also show breaks or intrusions like tree roots. Taking the extra step of a camera inspection could be essential in helping you decide whether to invest in a home, ask the seller to make repairs, or get concessions so you pay a lower price and can pay for repairs yourself. Don’t buy a pre-1980 home in Florida without knowing whether it has cast iron pipes.

Check Any Visible Pipes

If you already own a home, the easiest way to see if you have cast iron pipes is to look for yourself. If your home has a concrete foundation, you may have difficulty finding a place where you can see your pipes. For other types of foundations, like pier-and-beam foundations with airspace under the home, homeowners often can simply look under their homes.

Look for grey, black, brown, or rust-colored pipes that appear slightly larger than the more modern white PVC pipes. Cast iron pipes sound metallic when carefully tapped—but remember, cast iron pipes may crack or break easily. If in doubt, call a plumber who can identify the type of pipes you have by conducting an inspection.

Homeowners on concrete foundations can sometimes determine whether they have cast iron pipes by looking at exposed drainpipes in key locations. Remember, builders may have used different materials for pressurized water supply lines than non-pressurized drain lines. Look where your drain lines attach to your plumbing fixtures in exposed locations, such as under sinks. Check the pipes from the underside of each sink to the point where the drainpipe exits through the wall or floor.

Also, keep in mind that if someone remodeled your home, they might have used newer PVC plumbing to attach new fixtures but tied into older cast iron pipes left in place. Sometimes remodelers deliberately hide all visible cast iron pipes by tying in as close to walls or floors as possible while leaving all the cast iron pipes in the foundation and the ground hidden. Consequently, you should try to find somewhere you can see a connection to the original pipes.

Sometimes home inspectors will note that a house has cast iron plumbing because an inch or so remains exposed beneath a sink so that new plumbing could tie into it. Finally, if you have a cleanout outside, check to see if you can see any part of the main sewer line where the cleanout ties into it. Remember, the cleanout itself may be PVC if installed after the 1970s, so you will need to see where it ties to the line. Make sure you can see the drainpipe itself, not just the cleanout.

Call an Expert

If you still can’t determine whether your home has cast iron pipes yourself, call a plumber. Most plumbers can run a camera through all the drain lines under the house. Watch out for plumbers charging excessive amounts up front for camera inspections. Often, plumbers specializing in repairing or lining cast iron pipes offer free inspections or apply the charge against the cost of repairing, replacing, or lining your pipes. Check your mailbox—cast iron pipe damage occurs so often in Florida that flyers offering free camera inspections and estimates will show up there.

How Do I Tell if My Cast Iron Pipes Are Failing?

Florida Cast Iron Pipe Damage Attorney

The simplest way to tell if you have failing cast iron pipes is to have a plumber run a camera through all the pipes under your home. Plumbers can take videos showing any damage.

Otherwise, warning signs of failing cast iron pipes include:

  • Visible Corrosion: If you can see the outside of your pipes or have a plumber run a camera down them, look for any visible corrosion. Common signs include flaking rust, pits, and cracks.
  • Plumbing backups: Cast iron pipes become increasingly rough inside, where corrosion breaks down the trough at the bottom of the pipe. The deterioration slows and catches solids in the wastewater, particularly paper, hair, food wastes, and grease. Roots invading failing pipes also trap waste, block pipes, and cause backups. Repeated backups instead of a one-time backup with an obvious cause indicate deteriorating pipes.
  • Slow drains: Deteriorating cast iron pipes may merely slow drains without completely clogging them. Watch for the lowest drain in your house—typically a tub or shower drain—to drain more slowly than it should. The backed-up water may appear rusty or even sandy if breaks in the pipes allow sand into the pipe.
  • Bubbling toilets: You may also hear or see your toilet bubbling when using another drain like your sink or shower. If cast iron pipes under your house do not drain quickly enough or back up, running water can fill the drains and push air back up the line and through the toilet.
  • Unpleasant odors: Slow or plugged drains can also force sewer gasses back into your home, leaving a noticeably unpleasant odor.
  • Damp foundation: When iron pipes fail in a concrete foundation, the water can seep into and through the foundation. Concrete slabs can absorb moisture. Look for damp spots, floor tiles, or wood flooring warping or lifting from the substrate. Moisture migration up through the slab may also explain unusually high humidity inside your home. Experts can measure the moisture in your slab with special sensors.
  • Mold: In Florida, any moisture left in the home can quickly lead to mold problems. Check for unexplained mold under sinks, carpets, and flooring. Act quickly to prevent mold from causing further damage or health problems.
  • Pests: Several types of pests flourish in Florida sewer lines. Leaks and breaks in cast iron pipes attract these pests. If your lines back up, you may see pests coming in through shower drains, under the sink, or from under the base of your toilet.
  • Lush vegetation: Leaking cast iron pipes give plants an extra dose of water, nitrogen, and other nutrients, often leaving a lush swath of suspiciously green vegetation.

What to Do if You Have Cast Iron Pipe Damage

Don’t Get Gassed

If you have cast iron pipe damage, the first step is to determine whether you can safely remain in your home. In some instances, cast iron pipe damage may leak dangerous gasses into your home that can harm your health. Contact an experienced Florida property damage attorney, like the ones at Dolman Law Group, who can put you in touch with professionals who will determine if your home is safe.

Pipe the Pipes: Trenchless Repairs Using Coatings or Liners

Once you’ve determined whether you can safely remain in your home, you may have several options for dealing with the failing cast iron pipes. Not all leaking cast iron pipes require ripping up all your floors, trenching your foundation, and laying entirely new drain lines. If your pipes have not collapsed or shifted significantly, lining or sealing your pipes may provide a better alternative.

Called trenchless repairs, crews use specialized machinery that essentially blows a coating or a new epoxy pipe inside the existing pipe. First, plumbers use rooters or snakes to cut debris and intrusions like roots out of the lines. Then crews use high-pressure spray heads to remove the debris and any remaining residue. Once clean, experts use specialized machinery to blast either a coating or an epoxy tube that adheres to the inside of the failing cast iron pipe, creating smooth, leak-free new pipes inside your old pipes.

Root Out Roots: Back in the Trenches

Liners can provide a better alternative to ripping up a concrete foundation. However, experts advise they may not provide the best solution outside, where existing roots can easily re-enter pipes. In particular, if tree roots repeatedly broke through your cast iron pipe in a particular location, the same tree will keep trying to get roots into your newly lined pipe. Replacing just the damaged sections or trenching and replacing the entire drain line may prove more resilient to established tree roots than an epoxy liner over time.

File a Cast Iron Pipe Damage Claim

If you have cast iron pipe damage, repairs can easily cost tens of thousands or more, depending on the size of your home and the location of the pipes. You will want to recover your repair costs. Your homeowners’ insurance policy may cover the repairs, but many carriers resist paying cast iron pipe claims.

Don’t try to fight your insurance carrier alone. An attorney experienced with iron pipe damage claims can guide you through the process and help you pursue the compensation you will need to fix the damage to your home. If you have cast iron pipe damage in Florida, contact the attorneys at Dolman Law Group for help before you file your claim.

Why Insurance Companies Deny Cast Iron Pipe Damage Claims

Insurance companies tend to deny claims for cast iron pipe damage. With cast iron pipes potentially failing in millions of homes across the country, insurers face a high volume of claims, with potential liability exposure mounting every day. These insurers attempt to limit payouts to ensure funds remain available to pay valid, future claims—and to pay their shareholders dividends.

Common reasons insurers give for either denying or lowballing iron pipe damage claims include:

  • Excluded Peril: An insurer may argue your policy covers damage from an accident or sudden occurrence, like pipes freezing and bursting, but not damage that occurred gradually over a prolonged period.
  • Plumbing Exclusions: Sometimes carriers will argue a policy excludes any plumbing repairs despite covering damage to other parts of the home from a plumbing system failure.
  • Excluded Location: A carrier could also claim your policy covers damage from broken pipes inside your home, like water damage to floors and drywall, but not damage outside or under your home.
  • Failure to Mitigate: An insurer might claim you or a prior owner knew about your failing cast iron pipes and did not properly maintain the system or that you could have prevented or limited the damage.

Why An Attorney Is Essential to Recovering for Cast Iron Pipe Damage

Insurance carriers use teams of attorneys and adjusters who find ways to deny or minimize the claims they receive. You should have attorneys on your side as well. Without an attorney, you give your insurer the advantage in an extremely competitive arena where the insurer is the only expert. An experienced Florida property damage can protect your rights, interpret your coverage, present and document a strong claim, and fight for the compensation you deserve.

Having an attorney from Dolman Law Group protects you by:

  • Interpreting your coverage: Without an attorney, your insurer will likely tell you your policy doesn’t cover all or part of your cast iron pipe damage. Use an attorney to carefully interpret your policy. Insurers write deliberately vague and confusing terms with exclusions within exclusions. But an attorney can use that same vague, confusing, contradictory, and sometimes even unfair language against the carrier to argue your policy should cover your claim. Don’t let your insurer tell you your policy says something else.
  • Preventing you from waiving rights: Importantly, if you take on your insurer without an attorney, you may inadvertently waive important rights or make concessions that are not in your best interests. Once you file a claim, expect the insurer’s claims handlers and adjusters to contact you on recorded lines. Expect questions designed to get you to say something the insurer can use against you to deny or limit your claim. You could underestimate the amount of your damage or the cost of repairs, or you might not even know what costs to expect. You should have an attorney advise you before your insurer boxes you into making recorded statements they can use against you. Your attorneys can handle all communications with the insurance company for you.
  • Assessing the damage and the value of your claim: An attorney can also help you accurately assess the damage to your pipes, the cost of repairs, and ultimately the value of your claim. We can hire cast iron pipe damage experts who know exactly how to calculate the full cost of the repairs. We work with these experts to prepare reports as evidence of your claim to use against the insurance company.
  • Negotiating with your insurer: Your carrier may try to use their attorneys and adjusters to pressure or intimidate you into accepting less than just compensation for your claim. If you file a claim without an attorney, expect a denial or, at best, a lowball offer. Don’t accept it lying down. Our attorneys know how to negotiate with insurance companies and fight to help get you the full compensation you need to repair your home.
  • Filing a lawsuit- If the insurance company refuses to offer you a fair settlement agreement, we can bring a lawsuit seeking recovery on your behalf. Our property damage attorneys have decades of experience and will take an insurer to trial if necessary to recover just compensation for our clients.

Frequently Asked Questions About Cast Iron Pipe Damage

How Long Do I Have to File a Florida Cast Iron Pipe Damage Claim?

Most insurance policies impose a short deadline on homeowners to provide notice of a claim, sometimes as little as 48 or 72 hours. If you wait too long, your insurer will use it as a reason to deny your claim. If your insurer denies or refuses to cover all of your claims or fails to give you reasons explaining a denial, Florida law gives you five years to sue your insurer. Don’t confuse that statute of limitations with the deadline to file a claim. If you discover you have cast iron pipe damage, contact an attorney right away who can help you avoid missing important deadlines.

How Long Will It Take My Insurer to Pay My Claim?

Florida law requires insurers to settle claims or provide explanations for denials within 60 days. But if you filed a claim without a lawyer, you may find your insurer tries to extend that deadline, claiming they need more time to investigate and assess the damage. Meanwhile, you need a settlement to pay for repairs. Don’t let your insurer delay. If you have cast iron pipe damage, get an attorney who can get your claim paid on time.

Will I Invalidate My Claim If I Already Made Repairs?

Performing or paying for your own repair work will not invalidate your claim. In fact, your insurance policy probably imposes a duty on you to make repairs to prevent further damage. If you do perform maintenance on your cast iron pipes before filing an insurance claim, be sure to take photographs of the pipes and the repairs and keep any bills or invoices related to the work. You may need to hold off on more extensive repairs until after your insurer settles your claim, but you should do what you can to protect your right to compensation by preventing further damage to your covered property.

How Long Will It Take to Repair Broken Cast Iron Pipes?

The time it takes to repair your broken pipes will depend on the extent and location of the damage, as well as certain other factors. In many cases, the repairs can take as little as two weeks. Consult with plumber experienced in making such repairs for a more detailed assessment of your individual case.

Can I Remain in My Home while Plumbers Make Repairs?

Whether you can stay in your home during the repairs process depends on how extensive they are. If the damage is minimal, confined to an area outside the house, or affects only one area of the house, you might be able to stay in your home during repairs. However, if the damage is extensive or requires substantial demolition work to access the pipes, you might need to vacate your property until the plumbing company completes its work.

Why Our Florida Cast Iron Pipe Damage Lawyers?

Personal Injury Lawyer
Matt Dolman, Florida Cast Iron Pipe Damage Lawyer

If your Florida cast iron pipes failed, contact Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, at (727) 451-6900 to find out how we can protect your rights and demand compensation for repairing your home. Our team has handled property damage cases in Florida for decades. We offer free consultations and can review your policy and assess your case. We work on contingency, meaning you do not pay any legal fees unless we win your case.

Don’t let your insurance company deny your claim, and don’t accept a lowball settlement offer. An attorney with Dolman Law Group can fight for you to get the compensation you need to fix your home.


Matthew Dolman

Personal Injury Lawyer

This article was written and reviewed by Matthew Dolman. Matt has been a practicing civil trial, personal injury, products liability, and mass tort lawyer since 2004. He has represented over 11,000 injury victims and has served as lead counsel in over 1000 lawsuits. Matt is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum for resolving individual cases in excess of $1 million and $2 million, respectively. He has also been selected by his colleagues as a Florida Superlawyer and as a member of Florida’s Legal Elite on multiple occasions. Further, Matt has been quoted in the media numerous times and is a sought-after speaker on a variety of legal issues and topics.

Learn More