I’ve decided to start a new series of updates to the site, pointing out home inspection items to be on the lookout for, whether you’re a first-time prospective home buyer or a seasoned veteran of home ownership, these tips may prove very helpful…
For this first episode, I’m going to explain polybutylene pipes, since I’ve spotted them here recently on a few home inspections. Polybutylene pipes (sometimes referred to as ‘quest pipes) were introduced around 1978 as a cheap and easy to install alternative to copper. Installed in millions of homes until as recently as 1996, it was discovered that polybutylene pipes experience much higher failure rates than other materials, and in fact a class action suit was awarded a very large sum of money to compensate homeowners for damages, and the cost of replacement. Unfortunately, all funds have long ago been disbursed.
Polybutylene can usually be identified by its grey color, however some polybutylene is also white, or silver. Usually imprinted with the letters ‘pb’ and the numbers ‘2110’ polybutylene can still be found in many homes of that period of construction. It is theorized that polybutylene is susceptible to minerals found in some municipal water supplies. When noted during a home inspection, it is fairly common for inspectors to recommend having licensed plumbers provide quotes for the complete removal and replacement of all polybutylene pipes, because even if they do not show any signs of trouble, they can fail at any time, as the damage happens from the inside out.
So keep this in mind if the home you’re thinking about buying was constructed between 1978 and 1996. Be on the lookout for polybutylene pipes!