Do you put polybutylene in the Summary?

Last week, a deal fell through because the house had PB plumbing. The listing agent was livid at me because I put the item about PB pipes in the Summary.

My reasoning for putting it in the Summary is because NC requires the following to be in the Summary: “systems or components do not function as intended, adversely affects the habitability of the dwelling, requires repair or subsequent observation, or warrants further investigation by a qualified specialist.” I thought PB fell into that category since I referred it to a plumber.

Questions for fellow inspectors:

1) Do you put a PB pipe discovery in the Summary?

**2) Would you share your verbage? **Here’s mine:

“The water supply pipes are Polybutylene plastic (PB). This system of plumbing has experienced a higher than normal rate of problems associated with leaks where the pipes are joined together. There is also a current theory that chemicals in municipal water systems react with the piping and resins in the fittings, weakening the pipes and joints. The manufacturers have been involved with and settled class action lawsuits alleging manufacturing defects with this plumbing system containing plastic or metal insert fittings (including copper and brass). For more information about PB, see, and We recommend that you do your own research on this type of plumbing system and rely on the evaluation and advice of a licensed plumbing contractor prior to the close of escrow.”

Yes, I do, without hesitation.

Ticked off the listing agent, huh? Good! I consider it a badge of honor when I tick off a Realtor that does not look out for their clients…:twisted:

As far as the narrative, your is very close to mine… 8)

Sadly, realtors do not always have their clients in their best interest. I’ve had to deal with my share of very unethical realtors (and ethical) over the years as a plumber.

Polybutylene piping:

“This type of piping has a history of problems and should be examined by a qualifed plumber and repaired or replaced as necessary.”

Here is what I use:

The plumbing systems can include polybutylene water pipes, commonly referred to as PB, that have been alleged to be defective, and could be replaced at no cost to the consumer. They were installed in homes between 1978 and 1995.

***How to identify: ***
Polybutylene (PB) plumbing, when used for the potable water supply system in the house, is a gray, (possibly silver or black) plastic pipe.
Since the pipe is used with copper stab-outs for fixtures with exposed plumbing (such as in the bathroom), it is necessary to look in an area where the main water supply plumbing is exposed, such as in an unfinished basement, crawlspace or under the kitchen sink. Note: PB for underground service from the water company to a structure or “Yard Service Line” is blue (possibly gray or black). Yard Service is not readily visible. PB pipe is not used for drains, waste or vent piping
The condition of the PB pipe and fitting cannot be determined by any inspection method since there are no visible signs of deterioration until failure occurs.

What to do?
There is no single course of action that is recommended for consumers with a PB system. Many recommend replacing the entire system, even if there have not been any problems. This course of action should be considered on an individual basis, taking into account a person’s level of risk aversion, the types of materials used and the age of the system, as well as past performance. For information on the Cox v Shell settlement contact the Consumer Plumbing Recovery Center at (800) 356-3496 or visiting their web site at

Problems With Polybutylene:
Although some poly piping problems stem from improper installation, most complaints are with the integrity of the piping itself. Polybutylene pipe is known to deteriorate due to contact with oxidants normally found in public water supplies. The failure can occur in the plastic fittings or in the pipe itself. A main concern regarding poly pipe is that, since the oxidants are carried in the water, the pipe deteriorates from the inside. This makes it very difficult to determine if the pipe is truly in good condition. Most home inspectors cannot give a reliable assessment on the condition of poly piping unless there is a visible problem with the exterior of the pipe or its installation. In addition, when a leak occurs, it may be extremely severe because the deterioration occurs from within.
Poly pipe leaks are unpredictable and there are no symptoms to warn of an impending leak. Some factors that affect polybutylene piping adversely can include:
o Poor installation
o Water quality
o Pipe age
o Chlorine levels
o Deterioration of fittings (both metal and plastic)
When polybutylene pipe reacts with the oxidants in normal tap water, it becomes brittle, sometimes scaling or flaking. This results in a fracturing of the interior surface of the pipe, which allows for more deterioration. Eventually the pipe will begin to leak, causing damage throughout a home. Poly pipe with plastic fittings or with metal fittings will eventually incur damage; poly piping is not a reliable piping under any circumstances. If a pipe has been leaking for some time without the knowledge of a homeowner, severe structural damage to the home can result, making repairs extremely difficult.

Damage from polybutylene pipe leaks can be expensive, in some cases more than the original cost of the house. Insurance companies sometimes cancel or refuse policies for homes with known poly piping problems, and it is difficult to market a home that has such an unreliable plumbing system.

Poly piping can be used anywhere in the home’s plumbing system - usually its presence can be ascertained by checking the attachments under household sinks, near hot water heaters, or leading into toilets. Following is a list of common places you may inspect for the presence of poly piping:

o Entering the water heater
o Crossing basement ceilings
o Feeding sinks, toilets, and bathtubs

o Entering the home through basement walls, etc
o Attached to your home’s main water shutoff valve
o Attached to your home’s water meter (often a copper pipe at a water meter will be attached to poly pipe somewhere underground, so it is wise to check both ends of the pipe)

Note: Not all polybutylene piping systems use polybutylene fittings; some use copper. Therefore, if you see copper fittings on a pipe, it does not indicate that you do not have poly piping.

Another important area where poly piping may have been installed is the incoming water supply line to your house. If this incoming pipe is a light blue plastic pipe, it is likely that you have a type of poly pipe informally called “Big Blue”. This pipe is extremely prone to failure and unexpected bursting. If you have this type of pipe as an incoming water supply line, it is recommended that you have it inspected by a licensed plumber for replacement as soon as possible.

The only way to eliminate the possibility of problems that can come from deteriorating polybutylene piping is to replace the pipe itself. Fortunately, this procedure is relatively inexpensive and can usually be performed by a certified plumber or re-pipe specialist. The process of re-piping (both interior and exterior) can involve some of the following procedures:


o Slight excavation with a trencher
o Pipe-splitting (whereby the pipe is purposefully cut in half and a new, stable pipe is run through it)
o Deep trench excavation (in areas with an exceptionally deep-buried pipe system)

o The possible cutting of several holes in walls and floors

Poly piping runs behind the walls and under the floors of a home, but while the re-piping of a house will require that holes be cut in the walls and floors, a professional can perform it with a minimum of damage to walls and other structures. If there has already been damage to your home from a poly pipe leak, then the cost of re-piping and repairing your home will be increased considerably.

Property Values, Ownership, and Buyer Notification:
When a home containing poly piping is placed on the market, buyers will often discount the price (due to the material defect) - even if the poly has not yet shown any leaks - because it is known that poly piping will leak eventually. If a seller is aware, it is wise to replace any poly piping before putting a house on the market.
We are not aware of any current laws specifically regarding the disclosure of poly piping on a property, but some property brokers have been sued for not disclosing the presence of polybutylene piping in buildings they sell. Real Estate brokers selling homes containing poly piping should be prepared to be held liable if buyers have a non-disclosure complaint. At the very least, both sellers buyers should be provided with some sort of information regarding poly piping and its dangers, and sellers should be given the opportunity to replace their piping before putting their home on the market.

There has been a ***$950 million ***class action suit that may provide financial aid for homeowners who have suffered damage from polybutylene piping installed under certain conditions. The deadline is expected to occur in 2007.

Polybutylene vs. PEX

Polybutylene pipe is typically gray or black, but is sometimes blue. There is another type of piping - PEX piping - that is more reliable than poly piping but is also known to be colored blue. It should not be confused with poly piping

Got this email from the listing agent today:


…In addition the web site that you refer to in your report ( is not an informational site for PB but appears to be an ad for a company that will replace piping. I am also going to contact the home inspectors association for clarification on other items in your report that are listing as components and conditions needing service such as 1.8 guardrails; 3.1; 3.2; 5.5; 9.2; 13.3; 14.1.

I realize you have to protect yourself but you have gone above and beyond on your summary page. Many of those items should have been notes included in the narrative such as “a tree that is adjacent to the foundation should be monitored” especially since the tree has been there for 15 years. The guard rail balusters on the deck are performing the function for which they are intended and do not need to be brought into compliance - this should be a note note and not on the summary page. Both items under crawl space ventilation are notes - handrails on the entry door to the house - this was code when the house was built - this is a recommenation from you and not a summary page item - the PB pipes should be noted and a check with a plumber notation -citing a current theory is totally out of line.

Needless to say I am not happy and neither is my homeowner - I am discussing with my broker-in-charge today. The sale has fallen through and your alarmist report is responsible. "

Here was my reply to the nice lady:

"**[FONT=Times New Roman]**About the reference in my report to a particular website, here’s the definition of informational: “Knowledge communicated or received concerning a particular fact or circumstance.”

[/FONT] ****Please note this fact about PB in NC: “The North Carolina Home Inspector Licensure Board officially recommends that within the Summary Section (emphasis added) of the home inspection report, the home inspector identify the potential problem with Polybutylene plumbing pipe, (emphasis added) …and the home inspector recommends further investigation, even though the Polybutylene, … may not currently affect the habitability of the dwelling.” ****

Source: and

You continue to insist that the Summary Section is solely for listing items that need service or repair. You are incorrect. The exact definition in NC is: “the Summary Section indicate(s) that these systems or components do not function as intended, adversely affects the habitability of the dwelling, requires repair or subsequent observation, or warrants further investigation by a qualified specialist.”

[FONT=Wingdings]Ø[/FONT]The tree needs monitoring. That meets the NC definition and I would be at risk of disciplinary action if I did not put it in the Summary.
[FONT=Wingdings]Ø[/FONT]The guardrail baluster spacing is debatable. But I described my logic to you for putting it in the Summary when I was looking at your face and you didn’t have a problem then.
[FONT=Wingdings]Ø[/FONT]The vents should be open. That meets the definition of “needs service”.
[FONT=Wingdings]Ø[/FONT]The crawl space ventilation is restricted by the giant shrubs and they should be trimmed. That meets the definition of “needs service”.
[FONT=Wingdings]Ø[/FONT]Guardrails are needed on the stairs at the garage entry into the house. That meets the definition of “needs service”. Since you say you know what the building code from 1991 was when this house was built, please cite it for me because I do not and I am interested in that information.
[FONT=Wingdings]Ø[/FONT]The AC coil needs to be elevated. That meets the definition of “needs service”.
[FONT=Wingdings]Ø[/FONT]The toilet was loose and “needs service” so that meets the definition of “needs service”.
[FONT=Wingdings]Ø[/FONT]****Home inspectors address GFCI in different ways. You now know mine. ****

**[FONT=Times New Roman]**You said, “I am also going to contact the home inspectors association for clarification on other items in your report that are listing as components and conditions needing service…” [/FONT]
[FONT=Times New Roman]Here is the contact information: NC Home Inspector Licensure Board, (name and phone number left out of this post).[/FONT]

[FONT=Times New Roman]Professionally speaking, I do not care one way or the other about whether the deal fell through. And your happiness or that of the seller’s is not a consideration for me. I make no representation to my clients (the buyers) as to whether or not they should purchase a home. That is totally their decision and they did so in this case without contacting me to ask any questions. It is not my duty to ensure the deal doesn’t fall through or even to look out for the best interests of the buyer. It is my duty to report accurately about the condition of the home at the time of the inspection. Unfortunately, this sometimes causes buyers to back out of the deal. I have no control over the condition of a home or over the thought processes of my clients.[/FONT]

[FONT=Times New Roman]Please consider the attached coupon as my attempt to make amends for your displeasure…[/FONT]

(photo of a $50.00 off coupon went here) :smiley:


Your reply is good except I would not have offered the realtor a coupon.

I have had my share of realtors crying because I blew the deal!!

One was trying to sell a home that basically needed every component repaired or replaced to a single lady.

One was about a odor that had the buyers agent, buyer & me running for the door.

There have been others. Dont let it bother you!! It is part of the profession.

Keep up the good work!!


It wasn’t so much the email that got me riled. It was the phone call earlier where she unloaded on me and then hung up on me during my calm explanation of the inspection. Her email was the clincher and I haven’t heard back since I shot her down.

I don’t have a summary in my report, at all, since their main purpose is to provide a real estate salesman with a “checklist” and my reports are not written for real estate salesmen.

Just as my client will, the salesman will have to read through the entire report and will not be able to infer from a “summary” that any area of concern omitted was not intended to be addressed.

If any state law (as a result of the real estate salesmen’s lobby) actually required a summary, then my summary would list every concern noted in my report.

Why are you following NC standards in SC or do you inspect in both?

Your reply was very good.

Blaine, I live on the border of SC/NC and am licensed in both states.

NC requires the summary and also places limitations on what goes in it as Joe and I have posted before.

Some issues are borderline and NC recently recommended placing
PB issues in the summary. Any inspector that does not follow NC’s rules and recommendations better have a backup plan in place for income. They have thinned the herd in recent years by finding inspectors that have never followed the SOP’s. SC SOP’s are much more involved than they appear on the first few readings.

I like what you wrote on PB, thanks for sharing it.

The software I purchased has Inspection Support information for the client at the back of every report. It’s information about re-inspection policies, etc. but also includes a helpful way to avoid obnoxious agents. If a seller or seller’s agent calls with questions, they must first set up a three way call with my client before I will talk with them. Perhaps the listing agent in your case would have restrained themselves a little knowing that the buyer was listening in on the complaints. I politely decline any conversation with a seller or a listing agent unless they have set up a three way call with my client.

There isn’t anything that states they can’t contact me through emails in the Inspection Support though, so I’m going to add a comment stating that if a seller or their listing agent wants to communicate to me through emails, they will have to send it to my client first who can then forward it onto me or delete it as my client wishes.

What about forewarding the Realtors email and your response to the buyer to let them know about the Realtor.
Since they did not buy the home and will be looking for another. That way they will know who is watching out for them.


I still have trouble identifying PB. I ran into piping labeled QUEST it had copper crimp rings at connections, anyone heard of this, I was told this is not PB? How best to be sure what I’m looking at is PB???

Have you read the site that describes the $1,000,000,000 PB settlement?

Try typing “quest polybutylene” at Google.

Look for the identification # PB 2110 that is on the piping.

I believe QUEST also produces PEX.

If its grey, its poly.