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.