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2017-03-21 08:01:53
Plumb Crazy - Plumbing and Foundations

Author: Mike Williams, P.E. - Owner, founder and president of Vortex Technologies, Inc and Vortex Plumbing Inc. 

 

History of the Plumbing-Foundation Relationship


No two issues are more likely to hinder the sale of Texas residences than apparent foundation damage
or leaks on underslab sanitary drain piping. At the same time, no two issues are more misunderstood by
the typical homeowner, home buyer, home seller, inspector, engineer, plumber, and real estate
professional. It is both disheartening and a source of pride that my opinions are contrary to the majority
opinion of the above groups.


In the mid 1990’s, underslab plumbing leaks became the number one blamed cause of differential
foundation movement in the State of Texas virtually overnight. How was this hidden threat to the
performance of residential foundations discovered? I’ll give you a hint; it wasn’t by anyone with
knowledge of soil mechanics, structural engineering, foundation repair or even plumbing. It was a jury of
our peers.


The insurance policy that most Texans purchased at that time to cover risks to their primary residences
contained wording that can be paraphrased as follows: foundation damage; cracking, settlement,
bulging and/or heaving is not covered. And on another page of the same policy, wording could be found
that can be paraphrased as follows: damage from the accidental discharge of water from a plumbing
system is covered. In a south Texas courtroom, a jury concluded that if foundation damage was caused
by a plumbing leak, then foundation repair should be covered by the homeowners’ insurance policy.


Within months, many foundation repair contractors started plumbing divisions and most began blaming
differential foundation movement on plumbing leaks, almost to the exception of all other previously
blamed causes. Insurance companies, which historically could deny foundation damage claims simply by
pointing to the wording in the policy, suddenly had to run extensive tests on the underslab plumbing,
and if it leaked, hire engineers to inspect the property and render opinions as to the contribution of the
leak to the condition of the foundation. Most homeowners received insurance settlements to help with
accessing and covering-up the leak, if not the actual repair, and some received help for foundation
repair. And then there was mold!


In the late 1990’s, a similar courtroom interpretation of the same homeowners’ insurance policy
instigated another primarily Texas phenomenon I call the “mold controversy.” Articles with titles such as
Mold is Gold began appearing in legal journals comparing the mold threat to the hazards of asbestos.
However, after a few years the gold tarnished as insurance carriers threatened to limit writing policies in
Texas due to heavy financial losses resulting from mold claims. The state allowed the carriers to change
the wording on the policy to limit mold losses, and many carriers either eliminated the
foundation/plumbing relationship with the same edit, or made such coverage available as an added
endorsement. Mold gold quickly turned to lead, but blaming foundation damage on underslab plumbing
leaks remains semi-precious to this day…. and dangerously misunderstood.

 

....Read full article here...

 
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