Subterranean Termites and Cast Iron Pipes

19 Replies

We are currently under contract for a buy and hold property in Jacksonville, FL. It is a concrete block house on slab. We had two issues pop up during our inspection today and I would like your opinion on if we should renegotiate price or walk away.

The first issue is that we discovered active subterranean termites in two parts of the house.

The second issue is that only part of the house has been replumbed. Everything going into the slab looks to be cast iron.

The house was built in 1961.

I would really appreciate any and all advice on this. 

1) You should look to see if there is any termite damage. 

2) Depending on the size of the crawl space will help determine whether or not it will be easy to repipe the old plumbing. If water pressure is okay, it prolly is what it is.
It may be hard or most costly to get insurance if there is galvanized steel. 

If the house is financed, you likely want to check with an insurance agent to see what the cost to insure it would be.

Thanks. The sewer pipes are cast iron and they go into slab. So, there is no way to check them out without putting a camera down there. Unfortunately the termite damage looks to be extensive but without ripping open walls, there is no way to see how much there is. There were lots of active termites visible at the inspection. 

@Jessica Stevenson

I am a Realtor and investor here in Jacksonville and I would say concrete block homes are very sturdy and a great buy given age of home compared to the wood frames/stucco that are more prone to termites. I would get a GC out there and ask if it has created major damage or if it is all fixable. I had a home with similar issue where we just tented the home (2000 was my price), replaced subfloor that was damaged, slapped a termite bond on it and we are good to go. So many of those older homes are going to have termite issues but gives you great negotiation power. I would get a quote for tent to kill termites and GC quote on repair/make sure no foundation issues. Present that quote to seller or explain the situation and move the price down. And I have seen as many as 4 types of plumbing in one house before, a lot of people are lazy and I would address it, but if you bought it AS-IS most people combat and say hey it is a part of the territory but usually people do not take termites into consideration so that’s why I would lead that direction. I would focus mainly on the termite/repairs because the plumbing shouldn’t be as hard to fix up. Hope this helps

@Allen Williams that does help. Thank you! These are subterranean termites, which unfortunately you can not tent for. They are the ones that move fast and can destroy an entire house in just a few years. Dry Rot termites (the ones you tent for) move a lot slower and do not scare me as much. However, I still think I will get a GC out there to take a look, as I am not ready to walk away from what could be a great deal. 

And, I think you are right. I should just focus on the termites for renegotiation. The cast iron sewer pipes are much more par for the course.

Thanks again for your feedback. 

We have cast iron pipes in part of our house as well. It was built in 1924 (Tampa, FL) I had a hard time getting insurance (cancelled 2X) and this year my premium went up 30%. Just something to consider when moving forward.

As a side note we also found termites during our inspection and negotiated treatment. Ultimately we ended up tenting but the seller gave a credit for that initial treatment.

@Jessica Stevenson

I wouldn’t bother replacing the cast iron until it becomes an issue. As long as it flows it should be fine. Try turning on the kitchen and bath faucets, then flush a toilet or two while the faucets are running to test a worse case scenario. If everything works, then it’s probably fine for years to come.

I don’t see why cast iron would be an insurance issue? That is confusing for me.

@Dave E.

Correct it's not an insurance issue...a home being insured that's built in 1924 is the underlying issue.

Insurance only covers replacing the portion of broken cast iron in the event of a covered claim. That's even if they cover the claim to begin with.

@Jessica Stevenson

I've had issues with cast iron pipes on my 1955 SFH last year. I had to pay a guy 4k to tunnel under the whole slab and replace the sewer pipes to two bathrooms and a kitchen. They were all rusted out and had cracks in them. It's not cheap!

Jessica Stevenson, You need to do your due dilligence and get your Inspector over there and get every issue in writing. Then, go from there to back out or negotiate the price down for the repairs. You should do your own guesstimate with pen and paper and walk-thru the property noting every single item that needs fixing before you make any offer. There are Subterranian termites everywhere. You treat them with chemical pots in the ground for the longterm. If they have entered the structure, then, the Termite guy can tell you how much damage and what to do...The pipes in a slab thing is everywhere in Florida because of the salt in the soil and galvanic action from making the water pipes the electrical ground etc. Your Inspector will be able to give you advice and if you need a plumber, you pay for one to do another inspection. Step by step to not make an offer or buy a house that had problems that were not by the Seller to begin with. If you Buy As Is without doing all you need to do, you better have the funds to do all the repairs. 

@Jessica Stevenson Don’t walk away from it. Just negotiate the price if possible. Treat the termites and fix the damage and get a termite bond for it. As far as the drains go if it’s in your budget go ahead and replace them. A lot cheaper to do it now before you do a complete rehab. If you are holding it long term they will end up needing to be replaced at some point. I’m sure there are cracks and holes somewhere in the line right now.