Trusted South Florida Licensed Plumbing, Air Conditioning & Electrical Experts Since 1983!
EMERGENCY HOTLINE 1-800-475-1504
Hours of Operation: Monday – Saturday 8am – 7pm

Cast Iron Sewer Systems – The Hidden Danger

Reading Time: 3 minutes

When was the last time you gave any thought to the sewer system in your home? Other than the occasional backed up toilet, I’m going to bet my last five bucks that you have never given it a second thought.

Much like the duct work in our homes, out of sight out of mind is the standard when it comes to the sewer system. The good news is that if your home was built after 1974 you very likely have a sewer system that is made up of PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) piping. PVC is a heavy plastic type of piping that is extremely durable and can be very easily cleaned even after years of build-up. If your home was built pre-1974 you may have problems as the sewer system is likely to be cast iron piping.

If you go back before cast iron, plumbers used terra cotta (clay) piping and if you go back even further you will find of type of piping called Orangeburg that was made of up wood fibers pressed together with tar pitch. Orangeburg first came on the scene around 1860 and was actually used up until the mid-1960’s. Here in the Sunshine State, cast iron was the popular go to from about 1900 until 1974.

The expected life of cast iron piping is between 35-50 years and there are many things that can impact the life of the piping. Cast iron will eventually rust from the inside out and the failure process will begin. At first you may get a simple backup of sewage into a water closet or shower. This is your first warning sign. After the stoppage is cleared I strongly recommend a video inspection of your sewer system, especially in those pre-1974 homes. The video is basically a colonoscopy of your home’s sewer pipe systems and can tell our resident expert how bad the piping is. If you’re lucky, we may be able to perform a hydro scrubbing of the system to get a few more years out of the sewer system.

Things like detergents, caustic drain cleaners, other soap products and grease will all impact how quickly the cast iron system will break down. Grease is probably the worst on cast iron as it enhances the rusting process and causes channeling in the bottom of the pipes. Tree and other organic roots can also cause premature failure in cast iron systems. Those roots are seeking out water and if the piping is weak to begin with stronger tree roots will break through the pipe walls and start to grow inside the sewer system. Wow! I am just full of good news today, aren’t I? Hold onto your hat it is about to get worse…

In the event of a sewer system failure that is catastrophic to the point the system needs to be replaced, you are looking at one of two options. Option one is we come in the home, saw cut all the floors and we perform sewer replacement that way. The second less invasive and more cost-effective option is to tunnel under the home following the path of the old sewer system. Engineers are required in the case of a tunnel to ensure we do not cause any structural damage.

If you think either of these options sound expensive you would be correct. In the typical four-bedroom, three bath home you are looking north of $20,000 for the full sewer replacement. Just to keep the bad news rolling along, many insurance companies are now starting to exclude sewer replacements claiming it is caused by maintenance issues. There are even a couple of class action law suits starting to float around for people who are stuck in the position of owning a home with cast iron piping. Again, if your home was built before 1974 I strongly suggest you give us a ring to inspect your homes waste removal system so you can be prepared for the inevitable.

Until we meet again friends, I was talking to my wife the other night and she said you never listen to me, or at least that’s what I think she said.

House Whisperer out!!


art plumbing, ac and electric

Schedule a Service Call

For Immediate Emergency Assistance Call 1-800-475-1504

Schedule Service