Is Polybutylene Plumbing Bad? Yes.
Knowing The Difference
Whether you’re buying a house, selling it, or replacing pipes, you should know the differences between all of the materials. One of the most popular materials used for about three decades was polybutylene plumbing. Polybutylene is a type of plastic resin. This type of plastic resin was commonly used in the manufacture of water piping, from about 1978 through the end of 1995, and is known to flake off and deteriorate after several years of use.
Polybutylene plumbing is bad because it breaks off into the water supply. The flakes can be toxic, causing sickness upon ingestion. Furthermore, naturally occurring substances in tap water cause the deterioration process to become accelerated. If you have polybutylene piping in your home, it’s best to remove it as soon as possible.
Throughout this article, you’ll also learn the following information:
- Several reasons that polybutylene plumbing is bad
- Suggestions for buying and selling houses with polybutylene plumbing
- Answers to common plumbing questions and concerns
What’s So Bad About Polybutylene Plumbing?
Polybutylene used to be one of the most common piping materials around, but it’s not as popular these days. In fact, it was only used from 1978 to 1995, according to Polybutylene.com. Once people started to realize all of the issues associated with it, they immediately tried to remove the substance from homes.
Here are five reasons that polybutylene isn’t used anymore:
- As mentioned above, it starts to flake and crumble apart. The remnants can be toxic, but they also have the possibility of causing choking hazards. Regardless of the method, polybutylene is dangerous from the deterioration that happens when it comes in contact with most types of tap water.
- Polybutylene can cause serious leaks. The deterioration that you’ve read about can cause the pipes to become quite porous. You’ll end up spending more money on lost water and pipe repairs if you don’t replace them completely. Not only that, but they can start to break and slow water pressure.
- Long-term leaks can eventually lead to structural damage. When water continues to drip or pour from cracked polybutylene pipes, it starts to cause a pool underneath your home. The process weakens the foundation of your home, causing it to shift and become unstable. You’ll end up having to spend tens of thousands of dollars in repairs.
- Some insurance companies refuse to provide policies for houses with polybutylene pipes. The unreliability is so bad with the material that companies don’t want to be responsible for the inevitable damage that they’ll cause. Even if you manage to secure a policy, they’re typically much more expensive than traditional offers.
- Finally, polybutylene pipes can have a negative effect on a house’s value. If potential buyers are made away of the material’s presence, they’re much more likely to look elsewhere. Much like insurance policies, possible buyers won’t want to deal with the certain destruction caused by polybutylene.
As you can see, there are all sorts of reasons that polybutylene is terrible for modern plumbing. If your home has it, you probably will notice leaks within the near future. Best Plumbers points out that polybutylene starts to show signs of flaking and deterioration within 12 years of installation.
Should You Buy or Sell a House With It?
If you’re looking to buy a new home, it’s important to pay attention to the small details. Everything might look perfect on the outside, but never forget to ask about the plumbing. Even a tiny leak can lead to disastrous results.
Upon finding out that the plumbing is made with polybutylene, you should immediately request that they repair it beforehand. Buying a house that has this type of plumbing is a surefire way to cost tremendous amounts of money and stress. If they’re unwilling, then there needs to be a financial compromise.
You’ve read all of the negative effects of having polybutylene pipes, so don’t settle for the asking price. Another way to get around it is to get an inspector to deliver a price estimate. If they tell you a certain amount, you can request to shave it off of the total price after negotiations. For example, a $10,000 repair quote should mean that you pay that much less for the house.
On the other hand, if you’re selling a house with polybutylene plumbing, always disclose it to potential buyers. If they find out later, you might be in deep water. Many states require that sellers inform all potential buyers of the presence of polybutylene since it’s such a bad substance to have around.
If you want to work around the potential red flag, have them replaced before the house is ever put on the market. Get a quote and have plumbers come out to replace the polybutylene plumbing with new-age, modernized plumbing. This route means you’ll never have to tell anyone that there was a possible hazard.
Buyers and sellers should both take caution when dealing with and discussing polybutylene plumbing. The substance is toxic, unreliable, and costly to replace. Unfortunately, a clean sale isn’t very likely without simply replacing the plumbing beforehand.
If you’re still curious about the issues surrounding this material, proceed to the next section.
There’s no longer any doubt that polybutylene needs to be removed from all plumbing around the world. However, you might still have a few questions about why it was used, what you can do, and so on.
Here are the most common questions about polybutylene paired with their respective answers:
- Does homeowner’s insurance cover polybutylene plumbing? Most policies no longer cover these types of pipes because they’re bound to break soon enough. Since policies are designed for “what if’s” rather than “when’s,” it’s easy to see why so many companies are shifting away from coverage.
- How much does it cost to replace polybutylene plumbing? According to Home Advisor, these pipes cost about $2,500 to $15,000, depending on how many pipes need to be replaced. Leaks, corners, and straightaway lengths can all affect the overall price estimate.
- How do you replace polybutylene piping? Replacing the pipes around your house can depend on where they are, how much water flows through, and what types of materials are available in your area. Check out this good demonstration on replacing polybutylene plumbing with PEX.
- How do you identify polybutylene plumbing in a house? The best way to know if your pipes are made out of polybutylene is to look for the ‘PB’ marker somewhere along the pipes. They’ll likely be followed by several other letters and numbers, but PB at the start of the code is a clear indicator.
- Are polybutylene pipes illegal to install or own? While there currently aren’t any laws banning the use of polybutylene plumbing, they’re not sold anywhere. Even if you want to start installing them around your house or on a side project, you’d only be able to buy them off of someone who’s replacing them.
Polybutylene is an undoubtedly nasty material to have sitting in your house. It can leak, ruin the value of your home, and cause numerous structural issues.
If you’re about to move into a house with polybutylene plumbing, or yours already has it, then it’s time for a change. Get quotes and do whatever you have to do to remove the pipes from your home. The longer you wait, the more damage you’ll have to pay for in the long run. Polybutylene plumbing is clearly 99% bad and likely closer to 100% bad, but I was generous and gave that 1% in recognition of this type of pipe being capable of carrying water, at least for some period of time.
Here’s a quick recap of the post:
- Polybutylene can crack, leak, crumble, and deteriorate.
- Ingesting the substance can cause sickness and/or choking.
- Most insurance companies won’t cover polybutylene plumbing.
- You should always request to know about the plumbing of a home before buying it.
- Policy Genius – Does Homeowner’s Insurance Cover Plumbing?
- Polybutylene – What is Polybutylene?
- Best Plumbers – Dangers of Polybutylene Pipe
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