Help with a Polybutylene "Disclaimer"

Today we inspected a home that is plumbed with **[FONT=Verdana]Polybutylene but the home has always been on Well Water. **[/FONT]
Since "It is believed that chlorine and fluorine from City water plants react with PB, causing pipes to scale, flake, and become brittle … "

What exactly should I tell the customer as a “Disclaimer”? and Do any of you (Like the Realtor showing the home) think the pipes are “safe” since they have been used for well water only?

"It is believed that other factors may also contribute to the failure of polybutylene systems, such as improper installation, but it is virtually impossible to detect installation problems throughout an entire system.

Throughout the 1980’s lawsuits were filed complaining of allegedly defective manufacturing and defective installation causing hundreds of millions of dollars in damages."

Thanks Larry, For some reason I only had the first part of the Quote from]( .
Now I have it all in my standards.
I appreciate it.

I add this to the Interior Pipe Section of my Report if necessary.

This home has Polybutylene Plastic Pipe being utilized as the Main Water Supply Pipe throughout the home, connected to Copper Pipe where the Polybutylene would other wise be stubbed out of the walls to accommodate a water valve, the Polybutylene Pipe is inside the walls at valve locations so a Water Valve can be attached to Copper Pipe rather than Plastic Pipe, which makes the connection more reliable.

Many people have heard about Polybutylene piping.

But what is it? Why do we always hear about problems with it? And is it still a problem? Polybutylene piping has caused a lot of headaches, but still has come a long ways since it was initially introduced. Let’s take a closer look at it and see what the concerns are about the pipe.
What is it? Polybutylene piping is a gray or blue non-rigid water supply piping. Production and sale of this piping began in 1977. It was used because it is relatively inexpensive and easier to install than traditional copper or even CPVC water piping. The original joints utilized an acetal resin (an adhesive) with crimp rings to secure the pipes to the metal fitting.

The issues started surfacing in the early 1980’s in the form of leaks and major ruptures of the piping. The majority of these leaks occurred at the pipe joint fittings. The manufacturers of Polybutylene piping concluded that the majority of the leaks were the fault of improper installation. They believe that many plumbers used improper fittings to join the pipes and that the use of semi-skilled laborers has led to improper pipe joint installation. This may have contributed to the problem, but given the amount of problems seen, many feel strongly that there is more to it than shoddy workmanship. One current theory is that chemicals in the public water supply react with the piping and acetal resin in the fittings, weakening the pipes and joints.

Class action lawsuits against the Polybutylene piping manufacturers began in the 1980’s. The largest lawsuit to date was Cox vs. Shell Oil, in 1995, which resulted in a settlement fund near $1 billion. The manufacturers started a third-party administrator known as the Consumer Plumbing Recovery Center to handle the individual settlements. Additionally, the manufacturers sponsor the Plumbing Claims Group, which replaced the plumbing in homes with Polybutylene pipe leaks.

There were two major design differences created to correct the problems. First they changed the design of the pipe joint fittings. Now they are joined with a piece of copper tube with the pipe affixed to it by means of a crimped copper ring at each end. Also, the manufacturers changed the plumbing schematics to eliminate the majority of the “T” unions, since most problems occur at the joints. The new method utilizes a central manifold from which all the pipes originate. However, some in the industry are still leery about this product and suggest that these design alterations are not enough to solve the problem.

Unfortunately Polybutylene pipe makes the decision to purchase a house that has Polybutylene piping more complicated. It can not be overstated that the condition of a Polybutylene system cannot be determined in the course of a normal home inspection, since virtually all of the system is hidden behind walls and in the attic under insulation. Even if the home has this kind of plumbing there is no single course of action that is yet recommended for consumers with a Polybutylene system. Home buyers should be aware that problems might occur, and should arm themselves with as much information as possible about the Polybutylene system in the house.

My recommendation is for you to call at least three different Licensed Plumbers and ask them what they think of the pipe, is there a sincere need to replace the Pipe? Could the pipe begin to leak in the future? Would I be better off having the Pipe replaced with Copper, PEX Plastic, or CPVC Plastic Pipe?

I have my own personal opinion of the Pipe because I have witnessed failures in many homes and commercial buildings in the last twenty five years, I have never witnessed Copper, PEX, or CPVC Plastic Pipes fail because of the pipe in and of itself, therefore you should come to your own conclusion about the Pipe after talking to as many experts as possible before you close escrow. If you have concerns, I suggest having the Polybutylene Pipe replaced before you close escrow.

Nice Dale. :slight_smile:

Below is a slight variation of what NC “recommends” inspectors say when PB is present.

“Polybutylene plastic plumbing supply lines (PB) are installed in the house. Polybutylene has been used in this area for many years, but has had a higher than normal failure rate, and is no longer being widely used. Copper and brass fittings used in later years may have reduced the failure rate. 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. Heat may also cause the pipes to deteriorate and burst. For more information about PB, see and other Internet resources and/or rely on the evaluation and advice of a licensed plumbing contractor prior to the close of escrow.”

I use about the same verbage only I changed the link to this

Robert, you’re referring your clients to a commercial website. Why would you give another home inspector firm the glory anyway? I would recommend that you use a non-partisan reference.

I probably need to change the link but I was using the same one you have but am directed to a page that says the claim has expired, no real information.

Try this one.

What you need to know about Polybutylene Plumbing.

CBC Home Inspections

Great info thanks! In my area it seems HI don’t make an issue out of PB as much as they should. Most of the time when I bring it up, the Realtor starts rolling their eyes. Nobody ever heard of it before. Even recently inspected homes are uninformed of PB when I bring it to their attention.

I explain to them its all over the internet and has been before the Canadian courts but still nobody ever heard of it.

I try not to extremely alarm my clients and I recommend they get further product knowledge prior to escrow.

This thread has some great info and I plan on using it, thanks.

Could it be worse in the USA? I cant see how due to similar manufacturers etc. Maybe other factors involved plus more population in the US.

None the less, its a controversy. This website downplays the negative attention somewhat :

I was looking at the newspaper a while back (maybe a year) and I saw a good sized advertisement by a lawyer asking “Did you buy a house with Polybutele Pipping?”

Boy was I glad that I have always pointed out PB pipe (with a recomendation for consultation/evaluation with a plumbing contractor) in the inspection reports that I have done.

And look who wrote it;

Gil Strachan is a certified home inspector, representing Electrospec Home Inspection Services in eastern Ontario since 1994. He is the author and publisher of “All Around The House”, a favoured online source for home inspection and homeowner information. For more information about home inspections, buying and maintaining a home, and what to look out for, visit

That name sure rings a bell from back in 2004.:slight_smile:

Not familiar, please update me?

I think most of the stories are in the archives, just remember the name, used to be a member of Inachi. :slight_smile:

You have to be somewhat careful with this. On one hand, PB plumbing was never actually recalled. There were class action lawsuits which called for the company paying for re-pipes. If you say it was recalled, and kill a sale, you can be sued by the seller!!!

On the other hand, if you don’t tell your client, you will be paying for a re-pipe, or sued if there is a leak.

You need to inform buyers that PB plumbing was the subject of class action lawsuits, is known to be problematic and has a higher than normal failure rate. They should research the product, and talk to a local licensed plumber who’s opinion they trust. We recommend replacement.

I understand the problems with PB and the need for a disclaimer, but, shouldn’t we still be calling out the PEX installation also with a disclaimer? Or is that product just that much more superior? I haven’t had to deal with these types of piping yet and need a heads up.

PEX is fine. :smiley:

Brian, There are class action law suits against Kitec. Isn’t Kitec the same as PEX, or PEX is the plastic / polyethelene in the Kitec? Alot of the southwest is affected by the Kitec problem, especially Arizona, Texas and New Mexico. Also I believe California and Nevada and maybe Canada. I think the Nevada claim already has been settled.
I believe this (Kitec) is actually a recall not like (PB) in this post Phillipe said the polybutylene problem wasn’t actually a recall.
A local attorney (San Antonio) called me weeks ago to ask if I was aware of any homes with Kitec issues, that he was looking for witnesses for a national class action law suit that he was assisting in as the local go to guy. I’m sure he was also doing some ambulance chasing for additional clients. I told him that I had been around Kitec thru most of the past decade and was unaware of any issues. This was the first I had heard of problems with it.
So everyone here should also add a Kitec / Pex disclaimer not just a PB daisclaimer.
I’m waiting on a call back from the local attorney and will add any updates here.:slight_smile: