The number of homes affected by faulty building blocks in Limerick could be far higher than in Clare where more than 1,000 properties are estimated to have been affected, a leading expert has warned.
Aidan O’Connell, a chartered civil engineer with extensive knowledge of pyrite, said the situation in Limerick is “much worse” than in nearby Clare.
The Clare Pyrite Action Group said the number of homes affected in Clare is over 1,000, and potentially several thousand.
However, Mr O’Connell, who is one of the leading authorities on the issue, said: ‘In Clare it’s quite isolated, or the houses affected can be found in small pockets. Whereas in Limerick you have a big civic center there. There are plenty of them in Limerick.”
The structural expert said there is strong evidence that the materials concerned have been widely used across Limerick, particularly in and around the city.
‘If you look at the soaring houses built in 2003, 2004 and 2005, there’s absolutely no doubt about it, they have it,’ Mr O’Connell said.
Limerick City and County Council sampled five homes, chosen at random, as part of a report for pyrite, mica and other faulty materials.
A council spokesperson confirmed that defects were found in all five houses sampled, and the report was subsequently submitted to the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage.
“There is no precise figure on the number of people affected by pyrite in Limerick, only an extrapolation/estimate,” the spokesperson added.
According to Mr O’Connell, it is too early to put a figure on the number of homes likely to be affected in Limerick, as the problem will not become evident for some time.
A builder, whose own home is plagued by pyrite, says he has helped build hundreds of homes in Limerick and even more across the Midwest, using the same blocks as his home.
The builder, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said construction workers were unaware the blocks they were using were faulty.
“I had never encountered it before, not in my 20 years of building,” the builder said after experts informed him of the presence of pyrite in his family home.
“I put everything I had into building my house, and knowing now that my house could fall in the next few years is heartbreaking,” he added.
He said even people with years of experience in the industry were completely unaware of what was in the blocks.
“When I was building my house I was expecting a really good layer of blocks. I got one of the best guys in Limerick City to build my house,” he said.
However, he must now face the reality that his house will have to be demolished, less than 25 years after it was built.
“People won’t even have paid off their mortgage during this period. The houses might not last 20 or 30 years,” he said.
“If I had known it was something like that that was in them when I was building, I wouldn’t have touched the cinder blocks. We didn’t know,” he added.
For those in Limerick who have already discovered pyrite in their homes, the battle for answers is on.
Ann Ryan, of Askeaton, County Limerick, said her and her brother’s houses, built within sight of each other, are full of detective blocks, leaving both houses ‘clean for demolition’ .
“I had the blocks tested there a few years ago now. Some of them just crumbled, as they call them, Weetabix blocks, and some are like wet mud or cement. You can leave your fingerprint on it,” Ms Ryan said.
She said the damage to her home was initially attributed to water seeping under the foundation.
“So the insurance paid €25,000 to detach the foundations and replaster the walls,” Ms Ryan said.
“About a year and a half later the cracks on the exterior were back. The engineer attributed it to stand cracks. I wasn’t happy about that, but I didn’t know what it was. was,” she added.
However, even after an engineer’s report and connection with the Pyrite Action Group in Clare, Mrs. Ryan and her brother are waiting to see what action, if any, will be taken to help them.
“It’s just going on and on and on, I don’t see an end to it,” she added.