Ultimate Guide To Pyrite
Why is Pyrite a Problem?
Several quarries in Ireland unknowingly supplied large volumes of hardcore material contaminated with pyrite to builders. This hardcore material was in turn used as infill for foundations in the construction of new homes. The infill material sits under the concrete slab of the property. The problems emerge when the pyrite oxidises and forms gypsum which occupies more space than pyrite and so swells and pushes up against the slab. This causes severe issues with the property as outlined in more detail below.
How Do I Know if My Property Has a Pyrite Problem?
- Cracks in the Floor
Spiderweb shaped cracking in the concrete floor that gradually spread over time. Often the cracks will be accompanied by needle-like, white crystals that dissolve when touched.
- Doors starting to jam as the floor rises under them
- Worktops and floors starting to slope and no longer be level
- Bulging & cracking of walls
Images show walls shifting & bulging, cracks in floors as well as uneven floors, all traits of pyrite affected properties. Images courtesy of PRB (Pyrite Resolution Board https://www.pyriteboard.ie )
If a property is in an area known to have issues with pyrite and some of the issues mentioned above start to occur, obviously a homeowner will be concerned. It is worth pointing out that harmless, superficial cracks in floors and walls can also occur so the presence of a crack in a wall or floor of course doesn’t necessarily mean that pyrite is present. If neighbours in the estate have had pyrite issues, this would heighten concerns as the infill used on their property and that used on the property in question would likely have originated from the same quarry. Again however, just because some properties in a development have had issues with pyrite, this does not mean that pyrite is present in all properties in that estate.
The only way to be sure is to have the property formally tested. There are companies that provide this service but it is not an inexpensive process with a typical test costing in the region €2500. The test involves drilling a hole through the slab and extracting a sample which is in turn laboratory tested for the presence of pyrite and if present, in what quantities. It is worth noting that below certain thresholds, pyrite will not cause any issues.
What To Do If Your Property Has a Pyrite Problem
If you receive confirmation that pyrite is present in harmful levels in the infill material beneath the concrete slab of your property, there are a number of options.
- Contact the Builder
If the building company that sold you the property is still trading, they should be the first port of call. There is precedent for developers carrying out the necessary remedial works to put the properties to right that they built unknowingly using pyrite; reputable, solvent builders will be keen to preserve their good name and will be willing to remedy the issue.
- Review Your Insurance Policy
Unfortunately, the economic crash of 2008 and the subsequent collapse in property prices put many Celtic Tiger era builders out of business. If this is the case, it is worth reviewing your insurance policy to see if it covers the costs associated with remedying the property. Unfortunately, most policies typically will not cover such works. Furthermore, the Homebond scheme does not cover pyrite related issues.
- Apply For State Funded Remediation Grant
The Pyrite Resolution Board (https://www.pyriteboard.ie) was set up by the government to assist those seriously affected by pyrite. Qualifying properties can avail of government funding to cover the cost of remediating the property. Alas, some properties are deemed to not be sufficiently damaged to qualify for funding. This means that the property can’t be sold as it has a pyrite issue but isn’t damaged severely enough to qualify for funding.
What Is a Pyrite Green Certificate?
A green certificate is awarded to a property that has been formally tested and deemed pyrite free.