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Dublin: 22 °C Thursday 24 July, 2014

Explainer: The scheme that will fix pyrite victim’s crumbling homes

Applications open today for the €10 million scheme that allows remedial work to be carried out on qualifying homes.

Cracks in the walls of a house in Clongriffin, north Dublin. Remedial work has since been carried out on these houses to completely rectify the problem.
Cracks in the walls of a house in Clongriffin, north Dublin. Remedial work has since been carried out on these houses to completely rectify the problem.
Image: James Horan/Photocall Ireland

THE PYRITE RESOLUTION board will begin taking applications for remedial work from today.

Legislation to allow for this was enacted last year, and an initial allocation of €10 million in funding has been approved, with more expected over the next two years.

The scheme allows homeowners whose property has been affected by ‘pyrite heave’ – a situation where the sub-standard building material has caused structural damage – can apply for damage caused to be repaired and the material replaced.

Peter Lewis of Pyrite Action, one of the groups behind calls for a remediation scheme, told TheJournal.ie that the development is hugely welcome after years of campaigning.

“We’re delighted after a such a long battle,” he said, noting that homes developed pyrite issues as far back as the late nineties.

It’s fantastic, there’s light at the end of the tunnel.

Need a recap of what this is all about? Don’t worry, TheJournal.ie is ready to refresh your memory, and to explain this new scheme…

What is Pyrite?

Pyrite is a form of iron sulphide. It’s frequently referred to as “fool’s good”, because, as you can see below, it looks like it. It was used as a key element of early radio receivers, and currently has an application in solar panels.

image

Is that gold? No, it’s not, it’s pyrite you fool. (Image Credit: n8kowald via Flickr Creative Commons)

However, a form of the material, known as “framboidal pyrite”, can expand in the presence of oxygen and water.

Why is it a problem?

Framboidal pyrite isn’t a particularly desirable material, and so is cheap or unwanted.

This means it was sometimes turned to to be used as “backfill” or “infill”. This is used when constructing the foundations of a house.

Using backfill containing pyrite became a common practice in some regions during the property boom.

It can also be used a cheap material when manufacturing concrete, but this less common in Ireland.

In both these situations, the pyrite swells and causes structural damage.

To what extent has this happened?

Homes all over the country have been effected, mainly centred around the midlands region.

A report, put together by a independent panel established by Environment Minister Phil Hogan in 2012, identified 10,300 homes possibly contamination.

In 2008, 122 homes that were part of the Ballymun Regeneration were identified to have pyrite issues.

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An estate in Baldoyle, North Dublin. This is one estate that was involved in an action taken by Menolly Homes against The Lagan Group which they claim provided aggregate infill containing high levels of pyrite, which caused  damage to their homes. Work has since been carried out to completely rectify the problem. (Image Credit: James Horan/Photocall Ireland)

It is thought that currently 1,000 homeowners have contacted the Pyrite Resolution Board.

Peter Lewis of Pyrite Action said that the effects include walls cracking, floors bulging, or doors sticking. In his own home, work had to be carried out on walls to main the structural stability of his apartment.

In more extreme cases, there have been reports of it causing damage to sewage or gas pipes.

Finance Minister Michael Noonan made homes affected by pyrite exempt from the Property Tax.

Cases have been brought regarding pyrite damage. In the case of James Elliott Construction Limited v Irish Asphalt Limited, where it is claimed that a youth centre was built and later suffered pyrite damage due to materials used, a decision on a Supreme Court appeal is currently pending.

It follows a judgement that decided that the damage to the building came about as a result of pyrite. He further held that the hardcore material was not ‘it for the purpose for which it was bought’ and was not of merchantable quality. Irish Asphalt Limited disputed this.

But can you just fix it?

Well yes, you can, if you’re willing to splash out. The usual cost for the removal and replacement of affected material is thought to be €45,000.

Many home-owners also faced issues with home insurers not paying out sufficient sums to carry out repairs. HomeBond, who dominated the home insurance marker when these homes were built, withdrew cover for pyrite damage following legal advice.

This left a large number of homes without a remedy for damage.

The company later agreed to make available indirect funding through the provision of technical support services for the remediation scheme.

Are you now eyeing those cracks in the wall suspiciously?

A house must be assessed to ensure that that pyrite heave is causing damage before it is eligible for the fund..

A Building Condition Assessment Report must be carried out, where samples are taken for examination.

Badly damaged properties, classified as “Category 2″, will be looked at first, thought to number around 1,000. It is expected that houses with less significant damage may also be eligible for the scheme at a later date.

So who can apply to this?

There are very specific requirements.

Firstly, the scheme only applies to dwelling built between the 1 January 1997 and 12 December 2013 in counties Meath, Kildare of Offaly, or the administrative areas of Fingal County Council or Dublin City Council.

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A floor affected by pyrite heave. (Image: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland)

The home-owner must also prove that they don’t have the resources to carry out the repairs themselves.

You also can’t apply if you’re looking to repair a footpath, patio, or anything that isn’t used for human habitation.

If the damage has already been repaired, those costs will not be reimbursed. It only applies to work to remove the pyrite and prevent further damage.

How much will it cost?

The cost of the Building Condition Assessment Report, if re-mediation work is approved, can be reclaimed up to €500.

The cost of removal and storage of furniture from the dwelling can be recouped up to €2,500.

Rental of alternative accommodation while the works are being carried out is subject to a maximum limit of €3,000. If this isn’t possible, the cost outlined for the remove of furniture can be used towards rental accommodation.

The government pays for the repairs, with funding for this scheme coming from bank loans and a levy on certain building materials. Tenders will be offered to carry out repairs.

Serious about applying?

The Pyrite Resolution Board has detailed the scheme in extensive detail on their website. There are also guidelines on how to apply. You can visit the site at PyriteBoard.ie, or call 1890 252 842.

Column: ‘We’re watching our first house crumble before our eyes’ >

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