Home Buying in Durham>Question Details

Stephen Han, Home Buyer in Chapel Hill, NC

How much of a problem is polybutylene piping?

Asked by Stephen Han, Chapel Hill, NC Tue Aug 28, 2012

We are thinking of buying a house in the area that has PB pipes. Is it worth trying to find another property? How much of a hazard are PB pipes? How many houses in the area have them? Thanks!

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There's never been anything wrong with the piping itself it's always been the connectors. Your home inspector can certainly give you more information on which generation of connectors the home your buying has. Generally speaking it's not a big deal, the vast majority of homes never have any problems. though if your home has a problem it's going to seem like a big deal.

You should contact your insurance agent and ask them to look up and see if there's been any claims against the property for plumbing issues and if so find out what. If not I don't think it's something that would necessarily prevent me from buying a home. I've attached a link below to a site that will give you everything there there is to know about Polybutylene Plumbing. I reccomend this site to any of my clients who have questions about it.
2 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Aug 28, 2012
This is totally incorrect information. Polybutylene plumbing lines deteriorate from the inside due to oxidant degradation from chemicals in water - particularly Chlorine. Fittings are susceptible to the same deterioration, and the use of metal fittings reduces the risk of failure simply because of fewer potential failure components. Shell Oil, the primary manufacturer of polybutylene plumbing lines (not fittings) settled a class action lawsuit in 1995 (Cox vs Shell et al.) for $950 million because of the failure rates of the plumbing lines - not the fittings.
Flag Sat Mar 8, 2014
Hi Stephen. You are wise to ask questions and pursue all the information you can. You have received some good websites too. Here is another good one http://www.dontbuyituntiliinspectit.com. Brent Willett is a great inspector and is a wonderful source.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Fri Sep 7, 2012
As long as it's not leaking there aren't any problems with use. The older plastic clamps were the big problem but later installations with metal clamps or crimp rings are pretty safe. The problems may come if you have to modify anything. Replacement compression connectors are hard to find. The best bet is to use pex piping for repairs, additions, modifications. There are special pex to pb connectors for this. You can also use Sharkbite connectors. There are a few available pex to pb Sharkbite connectors but the regular ones seem to work fine too since the external dimensions of the two types of pipe are the same.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Tue Aug 28, 2012
Hey Stephen,

I'll weigh in for what its worth and agree with whats been said! I have a home on the market in Wood lake that has PB piping, but was built in 94' after the recall and has metal fittings. We called in several plumbers and an inspector. All said it was absolutely fine! One plumber even certified that it was some of the best plumbing he'd seen and said there had never been a leak in that house. We asked him to quote re-piping and he refused an exact quote, saying that it simply didnt need to be done.

PB pipes with metal fittings are still acceptable for code in VA I believe, and there are a TON of homes in Durham that have them! All of Woodlake and Woodcroft just for starters...

1 vote Thank Flag Link Tue Aug 28, 2012
My rental house has poly butyl pipes and I sleep ok at night. If the 90 deg fittings are copper and there is a metal crimp ring these are the better pipes. The first generation with plastic elbows and crimp rings were more of the problems designs.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Tue Aug 28, 2012
Hi Stephen
Many many homes in the area still have polybutylene pipes, I would not be terribly concerned about them if they are not currently leaking. Like everything else the possibility of them failing exsist, however they have also been performing their job for 20+ years. I sold a home in Woodcroft very recently that still has them and they were fine.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Tue Aug 28, 2012
I have never seen such a rash of money grabbing plumbing companies and lawyers...
Flag Tue Oct 28, 2014
It is true that as long as they are doing their job there is really no need to worry. If you are concerned, then replacing is usually an option. You could look into the different options and see what would best fit your situation.
Flag Wed Oct 22, 2014
The Fort Lauderdale, Florida home I am buying "As Is" does have mold from what may be polybutylene piping. How can I be certain, other than getting a home inspection? Will there be building records listing material use? Where can I obtain those records? And how can I file for settlement from Cox v. Shell to recover expense?
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Apr 13, 2015
I am currently re-plumbing my Phoenix, AZ home from PB to Pex. I've owned the home for about two years, and I've had three leaks during that time, one of them a catastrophic failure, which resulted in an insurance claim. The other two were slow, pinhole leaks that just damaged local areas of drywall. There have also been numerous patches and repairs in the past.

My PB is apparently the earlier version, installed with plastic style connectors. I keep hearing that the connectors are the problem, but that has not been my experience. I keep finding these pinhole leaks (and one large split) in the PB tube, not in the connectors.

My advice is to stay away from this plumbing, or plan to replace it very soon.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Nov 10, 2014
I am now researching the polybutylene piping issue from top to bottom for my home in Tucson. I really dislike when people "jump conclusions" and make bold statements that could cost me over $6,000. My plumbing is now all exposed for a remodel. I can see great car was taken to make sure all interconnects were done professionally. My home was built in 1991 and has not had a polybutylene leak in 23 years. I have removed a section of pipe and am testing it and also took the numbers off the pipe and contacted the manufacturer VANGUARD. "If it is not broke don't fix it." Look I am sure than some of this pipe was installed incorrectly... and I am sure people are overly paranoid by nature... I have yet to see any hard evidence that the pipe itself is "chemically" or "structurally" poor enough to cause a concern... Most of the "problems" I am reading are by plumbing companies and lawyers looking for thousands of my dollars... Please contact me if you have any real "Hard Facts" about the chemistry and structure of Polybutylene failures... Thank you! Mark
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Oct 28, 2014
I am not a plumber but a home owner who purchased a home in the 80's with polybutylene pipes. All of my leaks were in the pipes itself, NOT the fittings. To qualify for the class action lawsuit you had to have at least 3 repairs before a set time limit. Unfortunately, we had only had 2. We were advised to just cause a 3rd break so that we could be reimbursed but did not do that. I wish that we had because once the breaks started occuring they continued to occur regularly. We did not have the money to pay a plumber to replaced the pipe so we became very proficient in repairing it until we could afford to replace it. The problems with this pipe are real and I don't want anyone misled to think they are not.
Flag Thu Dec 11, 2014
This is an excellent site for information about PB plumbing, in layman's language, including replacement costs.


Basically, the issue with PB plumbing is not IF it will fail - it definitely WILL fail. The issue is WHEN will it fail and what are your options. If you are considering purchasing a home with PB plumbing, make sure you talk to your insurance company first - most insurance companies treat this issue differently. Most have some limitations on the coverage they will provide, and some will even exclude plumbing.

And do not be mis-led by conversations of the issue being connectors and not piping. All PB components fail. Metal connectors reduce the number of potential failure components - but not the risk of eventual system failure.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Apr 3, 2014
This is a plumbing company ad... :-(
Flag Tue Oct 28, 2014
Polybutylene plumbing was discontinued nationwide in 1995 after the $950 million settlement of a class action law suit (Cox vs Shell et al.) over the failure rates of PB plumbing. The PB lines react with oxidants in the water - particularly chlorine - and cause a degradation of the lines from the inside out. So they cannot be visually inspected for failure, until they simply leak or burst. It takes generally about 15 years before the deterioration begins to occur.

Buying ANY home with PB plumbing should include an expectation to replace the plumbing - before failures cause much more expensive repairs to the home.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat Mar 8, 2014
Who received payment ie the insurance companies?
Flag Sun Mar 23, 2014
Hello, Stephen:

Here is a good web site that should answer a lot of your questions about polybutylene piping. http://www.polybutylene.com/

I specialize in older homes and work closely with several very good home inspectors, including Dennis McCulloch at Home Safe Inspections. His web site at: http://homesafeinspectionservices.com/useful.html has a lot of good information.

Do not hesitate to let me know if you have any other questions.

Lisa Dye Janes
Cell/VM- (919) 423-3463
WEICHERT, REALTORS® – Mark Thomas Properties
3901 University Drive
Durham, NC 27707
Office- (919) 403-5315
Fax- 919-287-2349


"Your Older House Specialist"
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Aug 28, 2012
That is a plumbing company ad!!! :-(
Flag Tue Oct 28, 2014
Hi Stephen, didn't we already discuss this? :-)
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Aug 28, 2012
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