Gray polybutylene water service line - considered a no no.
Can you see it there?
Peaking out, looking pretty.
Well, it isn't pretty.
Polybutylene was/is a gray plastic supply plumbing that came out in the 80s and did not survive long. Early on it had problems with breaking and leaking, particularly at joints and unions. So they tweaked it and added copper corners and crimps (which you see here). Still, it had leaks that came without warning and could be catastrophic.
A very large class-action suit followed, which was on and off a few times. But that is long done. Money is no longer available to help homeowners victimized by this plumbing.
Further, over time chemicals in water causes it to become more brittle and vulnerable to leaking.
BUT HERE IS THE GLARING RUB -
IT WAS NEVER APPROVED TO BE USED FOR WATER SERVICE LINES.
Why not? Because at most it was rated to handle only up to 100psi. Service lines should be able to handle 150psi. Blue PB was service approved, gray was not. But many builders used gray PB in this area for service tubing, and we home inspectors have to understand that.
Consequently, when PB has been used for service lines it is not only vulnerable to leaking due to eventual brittleness, but very vulnerable to heaving and moving rocks underground. Leaks are serious because they require digging up the yard and plumbing a new service line from the street to the house!
THIS CAN BE A HUGE EXPENSE.
Home inspectors have to be very wary of this as a PB service line is sometimes difficult to find. Less than 1" was exposed in this house. And I had to move belongings to see it.
My recommendation: a gray polybutylene service line is a VERY IMPORTANT find. It is crucial information for a new buyer to know as it is inherited with the purchase. Due to homeowner history and risk statistics, some insurance companies will not cover a house with this plumbing or service line! Sellers very often have no idea they have such a service line. These sellers do now.
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC
Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.
Office (703) 330-6388 Cell (703) 585-7560