Help - Polybutylene Pipes

We just bought our first home. We hired a licensed home inspector refered to us by our realtor. The only thing he listed in the plumbing section of our report was ‘good condition, consistant with the age of the home’. The day after closing I found out from the neighbour the house had polybutylene pipes. $5000.00 later for a total re pipe and I am pissed. I relize that I cant do much now but I must know, was this inspector incompetent? Thanks.

If the piping was visible, you should have been informed.

I can not say with only seeing what you have said .
I would like to read the whole report.
I do know when I find polybutylene write it up as needing replacement by qualified person.
Here is a site that might give you some more ideas.
I expect most good home inspectors would also notice the PB and tell the purchaser and write it up.
In some cases it is not visible .

Roy Cooke

Check the piping for identification.

Look for PB2110 anywhere on the pipe…

If that is present, it should have been reported to you along with the proper recommendations with regard to PB Piping…

It was visable in the attic. All thoughout the attic. Florida home, built on a slab. I went up in the attic and could see it from the top of the stairs. Didnt even need to climb up there. Man I feel dupped.

As well you should.

If you do need to change the pipes can you not get compensation from the manufacture. How old is the home

I’d sue them both…](*,)

Here is what I present to my clients when I find PB pipe.
Polybutylene Pipe
Polybutylene pipe (sometimes called PB or Poly-B pipe) is a non-rigid, usually gray but at times silver or black, plastic pipe used in plumbing for drinking water supply. PB pipe is not PVC or CPVC, which is a rigid white or off-white plastic pipe. PB was introduced in the late 1970s and has been used in approximately six million mobile homes, apartments, houses and other structures in the U.S. Half of the mobile homes and about 5% of the single-family houses in the U.S. are thought to employ PB for plumbing. The product has been sold under the popular trade names Qest, Thermoguard and Flex-Temp. Polybutylene pipe is a plastic plumbing product manufactured from plastic resin supplied by Shell Oil Company.
By the late 1980s, a number of PB plumbing systems began to experience problems with leaky fittings. Today, there are a number of class action lawsuits against the manufacturers as well as the installers. One of the largest (Cox v. Shell Oil Co., et al) has been settled for $950 million – the deadline for filing a claim is August 20, 1999. As of April 1996, the Shell Chemical Co. no longer supplies polybutylene resin for pipe applications in the U.S. With other class action lawsuits (Qest, Vanguard), a claim must be made within 13 years [with acetal fittings] or 16 years [with metal fittings] after the date of installation or before the year 2009, whichever comes first.
When the product first came out, acetal plastic fittings, made of a hard gray (sometimes white) plastic, were inserted into the pipe and clamped in place with an aluminum (and later a copper) band connecting the joints. These fittings were prone to cracking and leaks due to the different expansion characteristics of the plastics. As a result, metal fittings made of copper or brass were introduced. Although the metal fittings are more reliable, they still may suffer failures. The tools used to crimp these connectors needed to be carefully calibrated. Recent installations of PB piping systems use compression fittings that often have a plastic or metal nut to secure the seal. So far, this has solved the problem of leaks at the pipe connections.
The are a number of other factors that contribute to the leaks associated with PB plumbing systems. Although 90% of the leaks are at the joints in the piping due to poor joint connections using plastic insert fittings, 30% of the problems at the leaking joints are due to installation errors. Another defect is the pipe itself. The pipe is usually manufactured to withstand 100 pounds per square inch and a temperature of 180º F (82º C).

· acetal insert fittings (they were taken off the market in 1993 in preference for metal fittings)
· over-crimping of aluminum bands that resulted in hairline cracks at the joints
· poor installation that created additional stress on the PB pipe
· exposure to high temperatures such as in attics of mobile homes and house trailers
· localities with relatively high levels of free chlorine
One of the largest manufacturers of PB pipe, Vanguard, also developed the “manabloc” system. This installation eliminates the use of T-joints. The PB pipe is run from one common source to each fixture. This system delivers water faster and balances demand on hot water to reduce the possibility of scalding due to temperature surges.
The company also has produced an alternative product, a cross-linked polyethylene (PEX), with many of the same qualities as PB pipe. One of the defects with PB pipe is the formation of stress cracks, brittle fractures due to the deformation of the tubing under stress and temperature. Stress cracks are greatly reduced with PEX pipes because of the cross-linked molecular structure. Unlike PB, PEX pipes cannot soften by heat once they are formed.
· **Do not use acetal insert fittings (use metal insert fittings or compression fittings) **
· **Do not use where water temperature can exceed 180º F (82ºC) **
· **Do not use in swimming pool piping systems or where water contains more than 2 ppm of free chlorine **
· **Keep pipe at least 6" (15 cm) from hot water tank, heating ducts or flue pipes **
· **Use a metal connector at least 18" (45 cm) long at the hot water tank **
· **Do not use in an application where the pipe is exposed to direct sunlight **
· Do not expose pipe to direct sunlight for more than 30 days during or before construction
For more information contact, Piping Industry Progress Education Trust 602-966-0377 or a licensed plumber. For class action information, call Spencer Class Facility, 1-800-490-6997 or Consumer Plumbing Recovery Center, 1-800-356-3496.

Leaks Plague Polybutylene Plumbing

A controversy regarding the use of polybutylene pipe (PB) raises concerns about its reliability and use. The problem is the pipes often sprout leaks, to the dismay of many Arizonans who have the pipes installed in their homes and now face unwelcome plumbing bills.
To many homeowners the onslaught of the problem is sudden and unexpected. A plumber described the situation: “First you hear a bang, then there’s a sudden drop in water pressure. Water then starts coming from pipes you didn’t know existed, causing soggy floors or holes in ceilings that are destructive and expensive to repair.”
Sufficient numbers of homeowners have shared this unnerving experience to provoke various lawsuits. Consumer complaints in Texas prompted the largest class action in U.S. history against the manufacturers of PB. This action resulted in a $750 million settlement.
In Arizona, two lawsuits are pending in Maricopa County Superior Court to recover damages from PB manufacturers for Arizona homeowners with PB failure. One of the cases is a class action suit similar to the one filed in Texas.
Average costs for PB-related home repairs are about $4,000, says Carl Triphahn of the Piping Industry Progress Education Trust, a contractor’s organization in Phoenix. In some cases, homeowners are finding that homeowners insurance companies will either cancel their coverage when extensive damage is caused by PB or refuse coverage to homes piped with PB.
PB is a flexible, easy-to-cut gray plastic that is put together with simple crimp connectors. Introduced in the late 1970s, PB has been used to pipe approximately six million homes in the U.S. While it is unclear how many homes in Arizona have PB, an estimated 80,000 Arizonans have had problems with PB. Homeowners often cannot determine what type of plumbing they have by inspection, as stubs to sinks and toilets generally use poly-to-copper connectors.
Despite the decidedly bad news associated with PB use, manufacturers and other defenders of PB piping insist the product on the market today doesn’t deserve its bad reputation. Manufacturers of raw PB, including Shell Oil, Hoeschst Celanese Corp., and Dupont De Nemours, blame the bulk of leaks and ruptures on improper installation.
PB manufacturer spokesperson Carrie Chassin says, “The main problem has been at the joints. Some plumbers just took old brass fittings and used them for plastic – that’s one piece of the puzzle.” Chassin says the makers of PB piping have corrected problems with leaks.
PB manufacturers sponsor the Plumbing Claims Group (PCB) to replace plumbing for homeowners with leaking PB pipes. Despite manufacturers’ assurances that PB is reliable, PCG uses only C-PVC, an indoor version of polyvinylchloride, a more rigid plastic piping with glued joints, in its repairs. Homeowners sign a binding agreement that releases the companies from further claims and requires repairs be done by plumbers chosen by PCG.
A contractor familiar with PB problems says ninety percent of all leaks are at joints in the piping. The contractor figures that about thirty percent of the problems at leaking joints are due to installation errors. Leaks occurring inside a line are almost always in hot water lines, sometimes in areas with no stress.
PB manufacturers have addressed joint problems with a new type of manifold design, which eliminates the use of T-joints and other traditional fittings used with copper and C-PVC pipes. Also known as the “manablock” system, the new design runs flexible 3/8 inch PB pipes from one common source to each fixture. Pipes are joined with a copper tube secured by two crimped copper bands to seal the connection.
Some contractors are not convinced that the copper bands are the solution to the problem. There have been complaints of leaking shutoff valves located at individual fixtures in the manifold system. Carl Triphahn says that the biggest failures in the new manifold design is that the PB tubing itself has been splitting.
Tom Sagau, Tucson City Council member and a plumbing contractor, disagrees. He claims the problems in the improved manifold system are the result of faulty fittings from improper installation. The new copper fittings are an improvement over the old PB joints, said Sagau, but “crimpers need constant calibration to make sure [copper bands] are not too tight.” If bands are crimped too snugly, excessive pressure on PB results and leaks are more likely to occur.
As debate continues about whether and to what extent faulty installation contributes to PB failure, another PB issue is getting attention – whether chlorine added to water supplies deteriorates PB causing weakness or holes in the pipes.
PB manufacturers contracted H.D.R. Engineering Inc., a Bellevue, Washington company, to study the effects of chlorine on PB joints. “There’s been some evidence,” says Steve Reiber of H.D.R., “that the acetal polymers that have been used to form some of the joint materials used with the plastic pipe, have a lack of resistance to some of the chlorine species common in distribution water systems.”
Reiber found that “some forms of oxidants [e.g., chlorine] are more adverse than others and cause exfoliation that weakens the structure. Because [the joints] are under tension, it causes a leak.” In other words, the pre-manifold PB joints, which were made from different plastics than the pipe itself, did deteriorate in the laboratory in the presence of chlorine.
Reiber says he has not looked at the susceptibility of the pipe to deterioration in the presence of chlorine. “To my knowledge, nobody has checked the pipe itself,” he said.
Meanwhile, PB piping remains popular among many home builders because it offers savings of $200 to $600 per home compared to C-PVC and copper piping. PB piping is almost the exclusive material used in plumbing inexpensive tract houses and mobile homes. The piping itself is about half the cost of copper, but somewhat more expensive than C-PVC. Major cost savings come from lower installation costs – PB can be installed quickly by semi-skilled labor.
Some plumbers were attracted to PB because customers cannot do their own repairs. The crimping tool required to seal joints is difficult to find in stores or rental shops.
Several Arizona municipalities have become sufficiently wary of PB to ban its use in new construction. Glendale and Goodyear left PB out of their new 1994 plumbing codes, and Chandler has banned the piping.
“We have not used PB in our city system,” said Tom Mundinger, a Tucson Water design supervisor, “because there were some settlements in California early on, and there have been other types of pipes we’ve been happy with.” Polybutylene however was approved for private use in Tucson, and the City Council added it to the uniform plumbing code in 1991.
Caution seems to be the final word with regard to PB use. “When the stuff first came out in the 1970s, we had our doubts about it,” said Wayne Bryant, a marketing representative for the Plumbers & Steamfitters Local 741 in Tucson. “It was a buyer beware type deal,” Bryant says and he believes buyers still need to beware.
The following organizations may be contacted for more information about the PB piping issue:
Plumbing Claims Group – 800-356-3496

Alberta Fact Sheet on Polybutylene Pipe.

Canadian Standard Association Alberta Data Sheet on Polybutylene Pipe

Canadian class action suit and settlement for Polybutylene pipe

I think that’s only if it leaks, or has leaked, and causes damage. Kind of a Catch-22 situation.

Didn’t you see it when you were looking over the house prior to purchasing it?

Did you mean to use some emoticons, Wendy?

Most buyers here don’t pull out a ladder and climb into the attic prior to purchasing the house.

Gee I buy new tires before they leak.
I know that if a tire goes it could cost me a lot of monet or at least much inconvience .
Same think for PB why wait for it to cost me time and money.
Roy Cooke …

I agree with you. But if you read all the rules for the class action settlement, there must be a leak and damages. I do know of at least one home owner who, rumor has it, created a controlled leak so that it wouldn’t cause too much damage and so he could get a settlement.

Some of these class action settlements are totally useless, I guess because all the money went into the pockets of the attorneys. I recently got a check for $00.71, yes, 71¢, as my share of a class action settlement for DoubleClick stock puchases back in the '90s. Yep, that really made my day. I was so excited that I invited Ms Margarita and Dr Cuervo to help me celebrate. :margarit:

I do. A good portion of homes have ladders to the attic. I always looked in the attic and crawlspace/basement/whatever before I rented or bought any home. BEFORE I was an inspector.

Seems like common sense.

Too sleepy for emoticons. You do it for me.

So why are you up at 3am? (I know why I’m up.)

I hadn’t looked at the settlements in a long time but knew that there had been an update. Apparently, along with the original Cox settlement, which can provide 100% reimbursement if there has been a leak, there also now is the Spencer settlement which provides 10% reimbursement if there has not been a leak.

Canada has a different class action settlement.

It does seem like common sense albeit an invasion of someone else’s property perhaps.
In five years of inspecting, I think I’ve seen maybe 5 ladders to the attic here in San Diego, all 5 of them homeowner improvements. I don’t trust homeowner improvements, sometimes including my own :slight_smile: , so I would never trust an improvement using a ladder, especially now that I am an inspector and see how shoddily people will install those ladders.
My body says, “No!”
My mind says, “No!”
My doctor says, “No!”
My insurance company says, “No!”

I’m almost always up at 3 am.

The typical Russel Ray day (7/365), give or take:

0000-0200 - sleep
0200-0500 - work
0500-0700 - sleep
0700-1100 - work
1100-1130 - sleep
1130-1500 - work
1500-1530 - sleep
1530-1800 - work
1800-1900 - sleep
1900-2200 - work
2200-2400 - sleep

Sometimes I also consult with Ms Margarita and Dr Cuervo. :margarit:

I climbed around but I had no idea what I was looking at. I had never heard of these pipes before that day the neighbour came over and told me.

I supose by your question that it is my fault? I thought that is why we (homeowners) put our trust in your proffession.