Is Your Home Safe from Pyrite?

pyrite-damage

Pyrite in your property has the potential to break your heart and cause you catastrophic loss.

What is pyrite?

I’m not an engineer but my research has discovered that it is a common mineral that occurs in rocks.

In particular circumstances a chemical reaction, which creates expanding crystals within the material, can occur which causes the pyrite to swell causing the construction material in which the pyrite is present to expand, heave, crack and eventually crumble.

This problem occurs mostly in the floors of houses causing huge problems for the property owner rendering the home virtually unsalable until the problem is resolved.

Indications of Pyrite Damage

Some tell tale signs include:

  • Lifting of the floor slab resulting in cracking
  • Cracking of floor finishes and tiles
  • Doors catching on floors
  • Horizontal cracking externally at damp proof course level
  • Cracking on internal walls over doors
  • Cracking of ground floor stud partitions and cracking of plasterboards.

Most, but by no means all, of the houses in Ireland where you will find problems with pyrite are located in North Leinster and the Greater Dublin area including Meath, Offaly and Kildare.  The reason for this is the use of stone from quarries in this area which contain framboidal pyrite.

IS 398 published by the NSAI in 2013 aims to set new standards in relation to pyrite by providing protocols for testing and categorisation and setting out a methodology for remediation works.

IS 398 provides for 3 certificates in relation to the presence or absence of pyrite in the underfloor hardcore of a house:

  1. Green means it is pyrite free
  2. Amber means the hardcore is susceptible to limited or significant expansion and monitoring of the damage is required
  3. Red means you have a pyrite problem and the stone infill in the floor of the house will have to be removed and replaced. This involves the removal of the floor slab, insulation and damp proof membrane. The replacement stone and remedial works should also be certified in accordance with IS 398.

Buying Your New Home

When buying  a house you should make sure to have a structural survey carried out first. Then, your engineer should be able to advise you whether further investigation is necessary to ascertain the position in relation to pyrite.

You may have to insist that you are provided with a report from an accredited laboratory confirming that the property is pyrite free before proceeding with your purchase, especially if the house is in one of the areas where pyrite is a problem.

This will involve the taking of core samples from the floor of the house and a delay of about 3 or 4 weeks as much of the testing is carried out in laboratories in the UK. But it is strongly advisable if your engineer tells you that further investigation is necessary.

If in any doubt, discuss this with both your engineer and solicitor because the consequences of buying a property with a pyrite problem are very serious.

The Pyrite Remediation Scheme

The aim of the Pyrite Remediation Scheme is to procure the remediation of certain dwellings with damage caused by pyritic heave of hardcore under floor slabs.

The Housing Agency is responsible for the testing of dwellings and the implementation of the remediation process. They will engage all necessary construction professionals, advisors and contractors to carry out the remediation of dwellings which are included in the Scheme.

 Conditions for eligibility to the pyrite remediation scheme

  1. Dwellings must be located within the administrative areas of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, Fingal, Kildare, Meath, Offaly or South Dublin County Councils; or Dublin City Council.
  2. Dwellings must have been constructed and completed between 1st January 1997 and 12th December 2013;
  3. Dwellings must have been assessed, tested and certified as having a damage condition rating of 2 and it must be verified that damage is attributable to pyrite heave;
  4. An application can only be made in respect of one dwelling and the dwelling must have been purchased before 12th December 2013;
  5. The applicant must be able to show, to the satisfaction of the PRB, that he/she does not have available to him or her any practicable option, other than under the Scheme or the use of his or her own resources, to remediate or secure the remediation of the dwelling.

What costs does the Scheme cover?

  • The sampling, testing and damage verification;
  • The preparation of the specification of remediation works in accordance with I.S. 398-2: 2013;
  • The management of the tender process and implementation of the remediation works;
  • The remediation of the dwelling as per specification and schedule to the required standard;
  • The monitoring and inspection of works, snagging and final certification.

In addition, the following costs incurred by the applicant may be recovered under the Scheme:

  1. The vouched cost (including VAT) of procuring the initial Building Condition Assessment from a competent person, subject to an overall maximum limit of €500, provided the dwelling is approved for inclusion in the Scheme following the Verification Process;
  2. The vouched costs for the temporary removal, storage and return of furniture, household appliances and effects in order to facilitate the remediation, subject to an upper limit of €2,500 (including VAT);
  3. The vouched costs for alternative accommodation of the household in order to facilitate the remediation, subject to an upper limit of €3,000 (including VAT);
  4. Where a scheme participant satisfies the Housing Agency in advance that suitable rental accommodation cannot be obtained for €3,000 or less, the storage and accommodation expenses may be combined, but is subject to an overall limit of €5,500 (including VAT).

Operation of the Pyrite Remediation Scheme

The Pyrite  Remediation Scheme will operate as follows:

  1. The property owner makes an online application to the Pyrite Resolution Board, provided the property meets the criteria.  The PRB has prepared a guide to help homeowners to form a reliable opinion as to whether their dwelling has the relevant damage in accordance with the Irish Standard: Information Leaflet for Home Owners.
  1. The Assessment, Verification and Recommendation Process, which is undertaken by the Housing Agency, will establish that the damage recorded in the Building Condition Assessment is attributable to pyritic heave. This may involve inspection of the dwelling and the testing of the hardcore material in accordance with I.S 398:2013 Part 1.
  1. The PRB will consider this recommendation and will notify the applicant of the decision to:
  1. include the dwelling in the Scheme, or
  2. exclude the dwelling from the Scheme.

A decision to exclude a dwelling from the Scheme may be appealed.

  1. The Scheme Participant is issued a copy of the “Guide for Scheme Participants”, which explains what is involved in the remediation process and what is required of Scheme Participants during the process. The guide also provides information to the Scheme Participant on other aspects of the Scheme, such as the programming of Remedial Works, the Homeowner’s Agreement, the process for recouping expenses, etc. In addition, there is a section answering Frequently Asked Questions from Scheme Participants.
  1. The Housing Agency assigns a Project Manager to each project.
  1. Following a tendering process, the Housing Agency will appoint an Engineer from a Framework Panel to prepare a remedial works plan and specification for the remediation of the dwelling.
  1. On completion, the works will be certified in accordance with I.S. 398-2: 2013. The Project Manager or Engineer will inform the Scheme Participant of completion of the work and that the dwelling can be reoccupied. Claims for the payment of vouched costs (storage/accommodation) incurred by the Scheme Participant, which satisfy the conditions of the Scheme, will be approved for payment when the works are completed and certified.

The relevant legislation is the Pyrite Resolution Act, 2013.

The Pyrite Resolution Board only accepts online applications.

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