Effects of Pyrrhotite on Home Concrete Foundations

By
Real Estate Agent with RE/MAX Professional Associates
Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Division of Professional Licensure
Office of Public Safety & Inspections 
 
This information is forwarded to provide guidance to home owners, building officials, engineers, architects and other interested parties who may be affected by or have experience in the reference subject. Please review contents of the message below. If questions remain after reviewing, please forward a message requesting further assistance to:
 
 
BACKGROUND
Pyrrhotite is an iron sulfide mineral that has been found in at least one quarry in northeastern Connecticut. Over the years, materials extracted from this quarry have been used in concrete mixtures and the concrete has been used in varied construction projects in\around Connecticut and central Massachusetts regions. Pyrrhotite that is exposed to oxygen and water may react and cause severe swelling and cracking. As the concrete continues to deteriorate, concrete foundations may become structurally unsound.
 
The cracking is not normal settling or shrinkage and it may take 15 - 20 years for the pyrrhotite damage to appear. Cracks are typically horizontal, on a 45° angle, or appear in a spider pattern. A white powdery substance may be noticeable in\around the cracks, brown stains or drips that resemble rust may also be evident.  (See Image 1 below.)

  
Image 1
 
Many Connecticut residents have experienced the effects of pyrrhotite damage to foundations.  (See Image 2 below.) Some Massachusetts residents are seeing or suspecting damage due to pyrrhotite as well. Concrete mix originating from a batching plant located in Stafford Connecticut used in structures circa 1983 through 2015 are of greatest concern. Concrete trucks may only travel about 20 miles beyond the plant location before the concrete begins to harden. Therefore, structures located in cities and towns identified below are where difficulties are likely to occur.  (See Image 3 below.)
 
Image 2
 
Damage caused by pyrrhotite is irreversible. The most effective repair is to replace the existing foundation with a new one that does not contain pyrrhotite. The cost to replace a foundation can vary greatly based on multiple factors, but estimates range between $150,000 and $250,000 per home.
 
What can be done?
The first thing to do is determine whether or not there is reason to be concerned. Concrete may and does crack for a number of reasons, settling, excess moisture content, so just because there are cracks in a foundations does not necessarily mean it is due to the presence of pyrrhotite. A few things should be considered:
  • Is the structure located in the region identified in Image 3?
  • Was the structure built between 1983 and 2015?
  • Is there visible cracking beyond the norm?
If the answer is yes to one or more of these questions, there may be reason for concern and further investigation should be done.
 Image 3
 
Visual Inspection and Core Sampling.
First, a visual inspection should be done by a qualified person and findings should be memorialized in a report. If the inspection concludes that there is no evidence of pyrrhotite damage, nothing further is required.  Continued cracking should be monitored since, as mentioned earlier, pyrrhotite damage may take years to become evident.
 
Next, if a visual inspection is inconclusive or the inspection reports evidence of pyyrhotite damage, a core sample should be taken and tested for more definite results.
 
Who is considered qualified to perform visual inspection
and report finding?          
A Massachusetts licensed:
  • Engineer;
  • Architect;
  • Construction Supervisor; or
  • Certified Building Code Enforcement Official are all considered qualified for such work.
Are engineers, architects, construction supervisor, or building officials licensed in Connecticut considered qualified
to perform inspections?
Certainly each of these individuals, by education and\or experience, may be consider qualified. However, Massachusetts law requires such individuals to be licensed in the Commonwealth.
  
Many engineers and\or architects (collectively referred to as Registered Design Professionals or RDPs) are licensed in multiple states. If you are interested in using an out-of-state RDP to perform an inspection, please be sure that they are appropriately licensed in the Commonwealth. Licenses may be checked @
 
Are reciprocal\comity or temporary licenses available through the Commonwealth to out-of-state RDPs?
Yes. Recognizing the unique situation related to the effects of pyrrhotite, the Commonwealth's Division of Professional Licensure (DPL) has established an expedited approval process for applicants. 

Out-of-state RDPs who wish to apply to the Commonwealth should start by emailing the Licensing Board directly at engineerboard@mass.gov or by calling the Board at (617) 727-9957.

Additionally, an applicant who submits a complete application to the Board will be granted a temporary permit.  This permit, which is valid as long as a complete application is pending before the Board, allows an applicant to legally work in Massachusetts using the seal of his/her home state of licensure. Please ask the Board for more information.

If preferred, an out of state RDP can also qualify by working under the license of a Massachusetts licensee without having to obtain a temporary permit. 
Is assistance available for homeowners affected by this issue? 
Yes.  The Massachusetts legislature has established a reimbursement fund to help assist with visual inspection and\or core sampling costs.
 
How can I apply for assistance?
Download an application @
 
 
All applications must be accompanied by:
  • Proof of Home Ownership (For Condos: proof of foundation ownership - usually the association declaration - Examples of homeownership include mortgage statements, tax bills, copies of deeds, etc.).
  • Testing and\or Visual Inspection Report and Results.
  • Pictures of Foundation Damage (If not in Report).
  • Invoice or other Documentation of Costs (Such as a cancelled check).
  • Dated Records of House Addition (If applicable).
  • List of Other Units that Share Foundation (For Condos) .
Completed applications and support material shall be returned to:
Office of Public Safety & Inspections, Crumbling Foundations
1000 Washington Street, Suite 710, Boston, MA 02118
Questions directed to Cesar.Lastra@Mass.gov or call 617-826-5202.
Are there other eligibility requirements to be considered?
Yes. 
  • The home must have been constructed on or after 1983 up to 2015.If the home was built before 1983, but there is an addition that was built after 1983, the addition is eligible for consideration under the program. The homeowner must supply proof that the addition was built after 1983 (building permit, CO or other similar documentation).
  • The home must be located within a 20-mile radius of the 10 Meadow Lane in Stafford Springs, Connecticut.
How are applications approved and what benefits may I expect?
Applications are reviewed for completeness and eligibility.  If approved, applicants will be reimbursed at a rate of:
  • 100% for visual testing conducted by a licensed professional engineer up to $400 maximum; and
  • 75% for the testing of two core samples up to $5000 maximum.
Please remember, this is a reimbursement program, so monies have to be expended first and evidence of expenditures must be submitted with the applications. Applicants cannot prospectively request reimbursement for costs.
 
Who is considered eligible to draw core samples?
No specific license is required to draw concrete core samples from home foundations, but specialized tools and knowledge are essential. The best way to find qualified companies is to perform a web search of concrete core sampling in Massachusetts; numerous results will appear. Caution should be exercised to be sure that the company and its personnel are reputable and reliable.
  
Where can core samples be tested?  
Testing for the presence of pyrrhotite is specialized. Again, a web search for concrete testing laboratories in Massachusetts will reveal several results, but Massachusetts laboratories may not be equipped to perform necessary tests. Since no special license is required for pyrrhotite testing in Massachusetts, you may wish to consult a list of available vendors in Connecticut @ 
 
What about business owners who suspect that pyyrhotite may be causing damage to their commercial business buildings?
Are they eligible to apply for expended testing costs?  
No, not at this time. 
  
What if I find out that there is significant damage to my foundation requiring replacement, is there additional monetary assistance available?
  
At this time, the answer is no. However, pyyrhotite damage to home foundations is a relatively new issue in Massachusetts. Depending on the extent of damage and number of homes involved, further assistance may be available in the future.
 
Robert Anderson
Division of Professional Licensure
Office of Public Safety and Inspections 
Chief of Inspections - Building & Engineering
1000 Washington Street, Suite 710
Boston, MA   02118
 
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