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Polybutylene Plumbing

From the mid-1970s to the mid-1990s, builders began incorporating polybutylene (PB) plumbing–plastic pipes linked with copper or aluminum fittings–into mobile and single-family homes. The polybutylene pipes were used both inside homes, to transfer water to sinks and showers, and outside in the form of a polybutylene “yard service line” that conveys water from outside sources into a house or mobile home. However, the PB pipes began leaking due to corrosion from chlorine and chemicals commonly found in tap water, leading to a 1995 class-action lawsuit against manufacturers of the piping.

Polybutylene plumbing is common in the Southeast “sun belt” states as well as mid-Atlantic and the Pacific Northwest, and is estimated to be present in 20 to 25% of all homes built between 1978 and 1995. To determine if a home has this sort of piping, check to see if exterior pipes to water mains are blue or if interior pipes near the home’s water heater are blue, gray or black. Polybutylene plumbing failure is believed to result from the pipe system’s reactions to common ingredients found in public water systems, such as chlorine, which cause the plastic pipes to become brittle and spring leaks.

Homeowners who determine that their pipes are made of polybutylene and that the PB plumbing was installed between January 1, 1978, and July 31, 1995 may qualify for free repiping or money to help fund a repiping, which averages about $5,000, depending on the size and layout of your home. However, homeowners need to contact the Consumer Plumbing Recovery Center to determine their eligibility.

Those who are purchasing or considering purchasing a property with polybutylene plumbing need to be aware that they aren’t eligible for subsidized repiping until they own the property outright – meaning that buyers whose inspection reveals PB piping may want to negotiate with sellers over the cost of repiping or ask sellers to perform a repiping in advance of the sale. Repiping often involves converting PB pipes to copper or other less leak-prone materials.

Curious about polybutylene plumbing?