Buying a House with Polybutylene Pipes in Atlanta, GA; How to Identify, Cost of Replacing & More

Home inspectors frequently come across different elements of a home, that though may seem insignificant to the homeowner, the inspector understands the dynamics of the potential issue and catastrophes that can potentially happen. Today, we at Lifeline Home Inspections would like to relate the problems polybutylene piping are having in Georgia homes.

Polybutylene Pipe Lawsuit

Frequently used in residential water supply piping applications, polybutylene piping, more commonly referred to as PB, was used from the late-70s to the mid-90s. At the time, it was easily installed, an inexpensive option, and what people thought was a superior alternative to traditional copper water piping. However, claims of defective manufacturing and poor installation quickly escalated in the thousands as ruptured pipes cost hundreds of millions of dollars of water damage, resulting in lawsuits piling up in the 1980s. Eventually, manufacturers agreed to fund a class action settlement for just under a billion dollars to settle homeowner claims despite never acknowledging that PB pipe is defective. By 2007, the period for filing claim ended.

Why is Home Polybutylene Piping Bad?

It is believed, although the exact cause remains a mystery, that the chlorine or other oxidants in public water systems negatively reacted with the plastic, leading to it to flake, become brittle and accelerate decay rapidly. Once the pipe was compromised, tiny fractures developed and over time which then expanded, causing the pipe to suddenly fail and in most cases cause severe water damage.

How to Identify Polybutylene Pipes

Because of this issue, Lifeline Home Inspections expert home inspectors check for any signs of PB piping during a home inspection service. Should we find the application of PB in your water system, we promptly advise you. If you are currently living in your home and want to check for yourself, look for copper-color band connections and flexible gray pipes. Particularly easy to spot in a mobile home, the piping extends into the cabinetry. Keep in mind that polybutylene pipes are more commonly found gray, but are also available in blue or black and are stamped with a “PB2110” marking. The pipe itself is ½” to 1” in diameter. In a site-built home, the best place to look for it is where the pipe feeds coming out of the wall to the water heater. A defining characteristic for identifying PB pipes is the copper rings crimped around connections. Keep in mind, layers of dust can conceal the stamped marking, so you may have to dust it off to find it. The PB can also be found under sinks and toilets, showing behind the shut-off valve and perhaps a small length of pipe sticks out of the wall at these locations and is often covered up by a chrome escutcheon ring. Drain piping is rarely ever used with PB.

Cost of Replacing Polybutylene Piping

Should home inspectors find PB in a home, the only remedy is replacing the water supply piping, which varies depending on the size of the home and other factors. A home’s value in the marketplace can be easily reduced due to the public awareness and risks involved with PB. Homeowners insurance can also be impacted with higher denial of coverage or an extremely high deductible.

Home Inspections & More in Fulton, Spalding, Coweta, Douglas, Pike, Upson & Fayette County, GA

Other types of common brand pex style pipes are being found to have similar issues. With the training, experience, and keen eye, whether you are selling or buying, or simply own and need to know the structural integrity of your home, including the water system piping, call Lifeline Home Inspections today and let our specialists perform a comprehensive inspection of your home.