The Problem with Polybutylene Piping

By February 23, 2020February 27th, 2020Home Insurance, Plumbing
Polybutylene with copper stub outs

Most Realtors will know of the dreaded phrase: “this house has polybutylene”. If you do not know about this type of plumbing, listen up!

Polybutylene was installed generally around the mid 90’s. However, it can date back to 1978. The piping, which is just a plastic, can begin to crack/wear overtime to chemicals in our water like chlorines. This can lead to leaks and a need of replacement.

Polybutylene and Homeowner’s Insurance

Due to the potential for leaks, almost all home insurance companies will require replacement of polybutylene if discovered. The funny thing is, polybutylene is discovered during the home sale process. This is because homes built in the mid 90’s are required to have a four-point inspection, which asks for the type of plumbing installed.

Therefore, when a home buyer finds a home and orders the inspections they need to receive insurance, poly is discovered! At this time, it can be negotiated in the deal for someone to pay to replace it.

Cost of replacement can range in the few thousand dollar range.

Several lawsuits against the manufacturers of poly and the high probability of failure, has caused this epidemic.

How to find Polybutylene

If your home was built in the mid 90’s then there is high likelihood of having poly. There are several areas you can check to find polybutylene. But first, you need to know what you are looking for.

What to look for

Polybutylene in most cases is a smaller grey pipe and is labeled with “PB2110”. In rarer cases, poly can be different colors like black, white, or cream. Some experts claim suggest looking for the grey pipe mixed with copper rings as fittings, but this is simply not true.

You can have poly that has many different types of connections, not just copper fittings. The 100% sure way to know if it is polybutylene, is through the lettering mentioned above.

Where to look for Poly

Poly can be found in all these places:

  • In walls
  • Near your water heater
  • At your laundry connections
  • Toilet supply valves
  • Under sinks or sink supply valves
  • In the attic
  • Under your house/slab

The best way to find it as a homeowner, is checking at the water heater, supply valves (or stub outs), or in the attic.

In some cases, Polybutylene is only located in the walls or under the house. This is because the builders were going for a more “rich” look by using copper only stub outs. A trained professional or expert can sometimes “jiggle” the copper stub out slightly to feel if there is flex inside the wall. A flex inside the wall is an indicator of poly inside the wall.

Polybutylene with copper stub outs
Polybutylene with copper stub outs pictured above

Super rare comment ahead… but… As a home inspection company, we have found polybutylene that has been painted or hidden other ways.

My house has Polybutylene, what next?

If your home, or the house you are buying, has poly, ultimately, someone needs to replace it. If an insurance company asks for a four-point inspection, it will be found and lead you to replace it.

The Future of Plumbing

Poly was known as the future of plumbing due it cost and ease of installation. Now, we have what is called PEX, which is almost the same as Polybutylene. Some people mention that PEX might just be the new Polybutylene disaster.

Want to read more about polybutylene? Here is a great resource. Also, here’s like a thousand pictures of polybutylene.

Have questions about poly? Contact us or comment below.

Aaron Shishilla

Author Aaron Shishilla

Aaron Shishilla is the youngest registered professional inspector in Florida. Coming from a family-owned home inspection company and now the marketing manager at Waypoint.

More posts by Aaron Shishilla