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Home Inspection for Polybutylene Piping

Polybutylene Piping



What is it?
How does it effect homeowners insurance
when buying or selling a home?


When offering a home for sale, the seller needs to get top dollar and sell it as fast as possible. At the point when purchasing a home, the future buyer needs to get their money's worth from the property with minimal redesign cost. Tragically, with the presence of Polybutylene plumbing that can become difficult for both buyer and seller.


What Is Polybutylene?


Manufactured and utilized from 1978 until 1995, Polybutylene piping is a water supply piping that was less costly, more adaptable, and simpler to install than copper piping. It is mostly found in the "Sun Belt" because of the substantial housing development from the 1980s through the mid-1990s. On the other hand it has been found to some degree in homes constructed as late as the mid 2000's. It likewise has been found in homes constructed much before the 1980's. For instance, homes manufactured in the 50's and 60's have been found to be re-piped in the mid-80's with Polybutylene. It is believed to have been installed in 6 to 10 million homes all through the United States and utilized as a part of re-piping some more.



Not just was Polybutylene piping (photo at right), (photograph acquired from nachi.org) utilized inside the homes for water supply systems, but, additionally for outside underground water mains. It commonly is 1/2 to 1-inch in diameter and can be in different colors. The most widely recognized colors are Gray, White, Black. Gray being the most common. The lines for the most part are stamped with the code "PB2110" however may likewise say "QEST", "QUEST", or "VANGUARD". The best places to check for it are the water supplies for the sinks and toilets. At the water meter, main water valve and water heater and where the water supply enters the home. Note that occasionally Polybutylene piping was utilized with copper piping at some points; so, just because you can not see Polybutylene piping in the open does not mean it is not still in the walls.

Also, many times it is mistaken for other types of piping, for example:



PEX(photo borrowed from nachi.org)


The Problems with Polybutylene


It has never been scientifically proven, but it is believed that oxidants in the water supply systems, such as chlorine, react with the Polybutylene piping material, causing it to flake apart on the inside of the piping. Eventually, small fractures deepen, cracking through the pipe, and it begins failing. Manufacturers contend that most of this occurs at the connection points; for this reason the manufacturers believe the problem is caused by improper installation. Whatever the real cause, it weakens the water supply system, which can fail without any warning causing both personal property and building damage. The older the pipe, the more likely a problem can occur. Another issue that has recently surfaced is most insurance companies will not write coverage on a home that contains this type of plumbing system. When buying or selling a home, changing insurance companies, or if a 4 Point inspection is asked for by an insurance company, the type of plumbing system is noted making obtaining insurance very difficult.

However, not every PB system fails, but the material is susceptible to corrosion when it comes into contact with chlorinated water, resulting in breakage and splitting of PB piping. Throughout the 1980s, lawsuits for alleged defective manufacturing and defective installation for hundreds of millions of dollars in damages were filed. Some homeowners had (and many still have) problems with their insurance companies.

In some cases, homeowners are finding that homeowners insurance companies will either cancel their coverage when extensive damage is caused by [Polybutylene] or refuse coverage to homes piped with Polybutylene.


What Should Realtors, Sellers, and Buyers Do?



Before the majority of the Polybutylene piping lawsuits that happened in the 1980's, you could tell buyers that a house is being sold "as is". Raynor v. Shrewd Realty Co., 504 So. 2d at 1364 and Johnson v. Davis, 480 So. 2d at 628, on the other hand, demonstrated that the courts are moving toward taking out the feeling that all is well with the world where sellers and real estate agents felt comfortable, deciding in favor of new buyers over sellers and their agents. Different jurisdictions have different laws concerning real estate agent disclosure, however it appears that judges across the nation are taking a closer look at "what is the correct thing to do" for every situation. So as a Realtor you have to protect yourself. When you speak to a buyer, you need to protect their interests (and yours) by inquiring as to whether the home has Polybutylene pipes and strongly recommend they get a home inspection (Note that a home inspection can just let you know whether there are Polybutylene pipes present in a home, not if and when they may fail.) Also, as you show the home, do some checking yourself under the sinks and at the water heater.

In the event that it has Polybutylene plumbing, inquire as to whether the seller is going to replace the plumbing or give a comparable reduction in the cost of the home. On the off chance that a reduction in value is given, you then need to talk with your client about the need to do a replacement of the piping in the near future. Understand that this may only work sometimes. On the off chance that the house is being sold and will require a 4 Point inspection, insurance agencies may not insure the home until the pipes has been replaced. This means that without insurance the purchasers may not be able to get a home loan to continue with the purchase of the home. When Polybutylene pipes are found to be in the home, protect yourself with a written disclosure of the presence of Polybutylene to your buyer, keeping a duplicate for your records with the client initialing. Incorporate in the written disclosure that a large number of Polybutylene pipes have failed. You also should have the client consent to a waiver agreement, expressing you uncovered Polybutylene and releasing you of any liability. At that point, on the off chance that they don't replace the piping and it fails, they can't say you didn't caution them and take you to court.

If it does have polybutylene pipes, ask if the seller is going to replace the piping or give an equivalent reduction in the price of the home. If a reduction in price, you then need to discuss with your client the need to do a replacement of the piping. Understand that this may only work sometimes. If the home is being sold and will need a 4 Point inspection, insurance companies may not write a policy until the plumbing has been replaced. This means that without insurance the buyers will not be able to receive a mortgage to proceed with the purchase of the home. When polybutylene pipes are present, always protect yourself with a written disclosure of the situation to your client, keeping a copy for your records with the client initialing. Include in the written disclosure that hundreds of thousands of polybutylene pipes have leaked and a single leak can cause catastrophic damage. You also should have the client sign a waiver agreement, stating you disclosed this information and freeing you of any liability. Then, if they don’t replace the piping and it leaks, they cannot say you didn’t warn them and take you to court.

When you speak to a seller, check for Polybutylene pipes, requesting a home inspection or pre-listing consultation for them. In the event that they have Polybutylene pipes, recommend they replace them with copper, PEX, or CPVC plumbing. It takes around a week for re plumbing for the normal home, The expense is about the same as recarpeting the home, You will have the new plumbing system to use when marketing the home stating new supply piping has been installed. They have a greater shot of getting their asking price or more, and hopefully the home sells faster too. In the event that the owner does not to replace the Polybutylene pipes, give them a release agreement to sign that shields you from all potential liability.

All in all, Polybutylene pipes are substandard and present real estate agents, sellers, and buyers with issues while trying to buy or sell a home. Remember, the pipes are similar to ticking water bombs. Make sure to get a home inspection.


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