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Gray Polybutylene Water Service Line - Considered A No No

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

www.jaymarinspect.com


Comment balloon 14 commentsJay Markanich • December 06 2015 02:07AM

Comments

Oh wow.  That can be extremely costly.  Good find.  Glad the buyers had you on their side.  Most people wouldn't catch that or realize the issue.

Posted by Women of Westchester Working Together, Women helping Women get ahead (Women of Westchester Working Together) about 5 years ago

And I found it without Mighty Mo, Debbie!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 5 years ago

Good morning Jay. Another example of why it pays to get a home inspection. Nice catch! Enjoy your day!

Posted by Wayne Martin, Real Estate Broker - Retired (Wayne M Martin) about 5 years ago

Thanks Wayne.  Home inspections pay the client more than they pay the inspector...

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 5 years ago

I had a little run of finding PB piping earlier this year, which is why you should look for it every time, unless it's a newer home.

Posted by Fred Hernden, CMI, Albuquerque area Master Inspector (Superior Home Inspections - Greater Albuquerque Area) about 5 years ago

Unlikely it would be in a newer home Fred, but who knows what lurks in builder warehouses out there!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 5 years ago

Jay, it looks like that the PB was installed before the foundation was poured.  That will be a fun fix!

Posted by Stephen Weakley (Nationwide Mortgage Services) about 5 years ago

It was and it will be, Stephen!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 5 years ago

Thanks, Jay, for sharing your experience and your photographs. More good reasons to always opt for a professional home inspection.

Posted by Roy Kelley (Realty Group Referrals) about 5 years ago

This particular plumbing is a problem, Roy.  And many don't know.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 5 years ago

Wow Jay Markanich .   I try to stay away from "Gray" areas and here's a good reason why.

Posted by DEANNA C. SMITH CERTIFIED MOBILE NOTARY, Highest Ranked Certified Mobile Notary in Virginia (Certified Mobile Notary Signing Agent) about 5 years ago

This pipe will be a big problem sooner or later, Deanna.  And gray!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 5 years ago

I bought a home at an auction back in the mid 90's with this stuff, when i turned on the electricity and the well started pumping it was like a sprinkler system in the basement.

Apparently the squirrels and other rodents thought this stuff tasted good too.

Posted by Bob Crane, Forestland Experts! 715-204-9671 (Woodland Management Service / Woodland Real Estate, Keller Williams Fox Cities) about 5 years ago

Rodents seem to love plastic wrapping and tubes Bob.  We had squirrels in our attic and they went after the electrical wiring.  I've never heard they would go after PB, but why wouldn't they?

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 5 years ago

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