Updated: Oct 20, 2022
During a house survey, the surveyor will check for signs of potential Pyrite damage. In the written report they will also flag any known risks of Pyrite based on the location of the property and the year of build.
However, a level 2 survey (pre-purchase survey, structural survey, house survey) is not a conclusive test for Pyrite and if there are any concerns, a full Pyrite test should be conducted.
Note: GetHouseSurvey.ie does not conduct full pyrite tests and so you should pre-consult with a company that specialises in this testing if you have any concerns.
Our co-founder, Noel, discussed this in a recent episode of The Get House Podcast, here is the clip!
What is Pyrite?
Pyrite is a naturally occurring mineral commonly found in sedimentary rock.
Pyrite itself has had many uses throughout history from jewellery making (aka. Fools Gold) to more recently being tested as a material to be used in solar panels.
Why is pyrite an issue when used in construction?
Trace amounts of pyrite are common in building materials and generally do not cause an issue, however when there is a large amount present in ground backfill (the material used to fill the area the concrete slab of the house is poured on), it can start to swell.
This swelling can cause the floors and foundation walls to push up and out causing cracks which can eventually cause the walls in a property to fail.
Depending on the construction of the property, pyrite damage can start to show up within 5 years or in some cases it can take much longer.
In Ireland, materials form certain suppliers over a number of years are known to contain these high levels of pyrite. Over the last 20 years, the damage caused by this has affected thousands of homes causing the government to create The Pyrite Resolutions Board
What does pyrite damage look like?
There are few different visible signs of pyrite damage. The most common is doors and windows starting to jam as the foundation swells forcing the floor and walls up and out.
The concret slab below the house will also start to crack as the backfill swells below it. This is not always visible within the house depending on the flooring, but if the property has a garage, this is usually the first place people notice it.
Then as the swelling continues, the weakest points of the wall around the windows and doors start to crack.
Finally, and most severely, larger walls will develop a grid like cracking as the blocks are pushed up and out by the swelling. This will first be visible on the render and then can eventually cause the blocks to separate or crack. Occasionally a bulge is visible in the entire wall before or with cracking.
How will the surveyor know if the property is at risk of pyrite?
As mentioned above, the only way to be 100% certain of dangerous levels of pyrite is via a pyrite test. This involves contacting specialist company who will visit the property to take samples of the foundation and send it off for lab tests.
However, when it comes to the risk of pyrite, there are a few things the surveyor can flag on their report. Firstly they will note any visible signs which could be related to pyrite, cracked driveway, paths, floors, raised floors, doors & window jamming, cracking around frames and the biggest visible sign, cracking in walls in a particular grid pattern, bulging walls etc.
Secondly, surveyors will have a good local knowledge of which areas and estates are affected by pyrite and if known, this risk will be flagged.
How is pyrite removed from a property?
Unfortunately there is no easy, or cheap way.
If the problem is identified before the is significant damage to the structural walls, the entire downstairs of the house needs to be cleared out, the concrete slab will be broken up and the backfill which contains the pyrite is removed.
Then new backfill is added, a new slab poured and all internal walls rebuilt.
If there has been damage to structural walls, then the walls either need to be reinforced or taken down and rebuilt.
The entire costs goes into the 10s of thousands of euros. In some cases even more.
Because of the ongoing issues of pyrite damage and lack of responsibility from builders and material suppliers and insurance companies, the Irish Government introduced the Pyrite Resolution Act in 2013 which established the Pyrite Resolutions Board in 2013.
Pyrite Resolution Board --> https://www.pyriteboard.ie/
Companies who conduct Pyrite Tests
Pyrite Solutions https://pyriteresolution.ie/
Ground Investigations Ireland https://www.gii.ie/services/site-services/pyrite-mica-testing/