Should I Buy A Florida House With Polybutylene Pipes?

November 21, 2017

No, you shouldn’t buy a home with polybutylene pipes.

Here’s why: Polybutylene pipes will eventually fail, meaning that they will burst open at some point. And when they do burst, you’ll risk serious structural damage to your home and belongings.

Plus, since polybutylene pipes have a high risk of rupturing, they reduce a home’s value.

In this article, we’ll give a little more background on the history of polybutylene pipes and why they’re so bad.

Why polybutylene pipes are bad news for your home

A brief history of polybutylene pipes

Polybutylene (often abbreviated as PB) is a form of plastic that was used in residential plumbing systems from 1978 to 1995. Some experts believe as many as 10 million homes were built with these pipes.

Many plumbing professionals at the time whole-heartedly recommended these pipes, often proclaiming they were the pipes of the future.

Unfortunately, time told a different story. Many homeowners started complaining that these pipes would rupture and cause property damage. Finally, after a $1 billion lawsuit in 1995 (Cox vs. Shell Oil), polybutylene pipes were no longer accepted by U.S. building codes, and manufacturers stopped producing these pipes altogether.

Why polybutylene pipes will eventually rupture

Research suggests that polybutylene pipes are too fragile to withstand common disinfectants found in the public water supply and will quickly become brittle and crack from the inside out.

Over time, once enough mini-fractures have formed in the pipe, it will wear out completely and rupture, causing a water leak. 

Leaks in polybutylene pipes that are located underneath your home can cause severe structural damage to a home or building. And the worst part? These leaks are incredibly hard to detect immediately because they’re not underground and not visible.

How to tell the home has polybutylene pipes

If you’re looking at buying a new home, your inspector should let you know what type of pipes the home has.

But, if you want to see for yourself, you can also look at the pipe directly. Two features indicate that you have polybutylene pipes:

  1. The color of the pipe: Polybutylene pipes are usually blue, but may also be black or gray. 
  2. The letters “PB”: For example, in this image look for the letters “PB” next to the numbers 2110.

The easiest places to see polybutylene pipes in your home are...

  • Near the water heater
  • Connecting to sinks and toilets
  • Running across the ceiling in an unfinished basement
  • At the main shut-off valve or water meter

Stuck with polybutylene pipes? Or interested in a home with PB pipes?

Well, if you already have polybutylene pipes, you basically have 2 options:

  1. Replace the pipes with PEX (a more reliable type of plastic pipe)
  2. Wait until they rupture and pay for expensive water repair AND a home repipe

Obviously, we recommend option #1—replace your polybutylene pipes with PEX pipes ASAP. That way you don’t have to pay more money in the long run and you can avoid water damage to your belongings and valuables.

If you’re interested in a home with PB pipes, negotiate with the seller to replace the pipes before the deal closes, or else you’ll be stuck with them. 

Why repipe with PEX?

PEX pipes are inexpensive, durable and easy to install. They’re not affected by any of the disinfectants in your drinking water, so they won’t corrode or scale. Plus, PEX pipes don’t get pinhole leaks, unlike copper pipes. 

Need a price estimate on replacing your polybutylene pipes?

Give us a call or contact us online. We’ll give you an estimate on the cost to remove polybutylene pipes in your home and repipe your home with PEX.

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