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Old 06-02-2007, 04:17 PM
 
492 posts, read 2,102,383 times
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What's the story about polybutylene pipes?

Our realtor says that if we buy a house with "poly pipes" we should replace them right away. And she was very excited every time we looked at a house that had already had the pipes replaced.

So, what's the story. She simply said "they break." And is it a costly thing to do (for example, in a 1600 sq ft, 2 story, 3 bed/2.5 ba house.)
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Old 06-02-2007, 04:43 PM
 
Location: Cary, NC
43,016 posts, read 76,519,527 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NC_newcomer View Post
What's the story about polybutylene pipes?

Our realtor says that if we buy a house with "poly pipes" we should replace them right away. And she was very excited every time we looked at a house that had already had the pipes replaced.

So, what's the story. She simply said "they break." And is it a costly thing to do (for example, in a 1600 sq ft, 2 story, 3 bed/2.5 ba house.)
I would suspect you would pay about $7500 for a turnkey plumbing replacement on a home like that.

Polybutylene pipe was the subject of a class action lawsuit, actually TWO lawsuits.

http://www.spencerclass.com/english.htm

CPRC, Inc. (home page) (broken link)

There is an issue with the pipe that original Celcon (plastic composite) fittings deteriorated within a brief period of time and the joints would separate. Or the aluminum crimp rings on the joints would corrode due to electrolysis, particularly in alkaline water, and the joint would separate. And the alkaline water was also rough on the pipe, which could burst due to accelerated deterioration.
Those fittings and rings were eliminated as the system went to copper crimp rings and brass fittings.
Further, FWIW, alkaline water is more of a southwestern USA issue. Our water is not alkaline.

To complicate things, the installation required a great level of diligence on the part of the installer. The crimp tools must be regularly calibrated to be effective and to make durable connections. The fittings and pipe require precise assembly to make a durable connection.
Many homes here were built with a poor recognition of the correct assembly of polybutylene pipe, and ergo, many failures are the result of poor workmanship.

All that said, if you can't get comfortable with the system, rule out homes with polybutylene and buy something else. If the plumbing system is functioning as intended, the mere existence of polybutylene is not a recognized material defect in the home. Do not expect a homeowner to offer to replumb or cut the price the amount of a replumb if the system shows no defects.

I have poly in my home, built 1993, and I am satisfied it is functional. brass fittings, and copper crimp rings. What I could see of the workmanship in the crawlspace looked like a textbook job. We passed on one that looked like it was plumbed by the Three Stooges. Whoever did it had no clue, and I couldn't get comfortable with it.
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Old 06-02-2007, 05:39 PM
 
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Mike is completely right. It was a class action lawsuit. Poly pipes were very common in the 80s and early 90s. It was the plastic fittings that were the cause of the problem. If the house has poly pipes, I would check the fittings. If the fittings were copper/brass and installed properly like Mike stated in his house, then I feel comfortable with my clients purchasing the home but I still make them all aware since it is a material fact that must be disclosed.

Most homes that have poly pipes have not had the actual pipes replaced but just the fittings. I just sold a home to my clients that had poly pipes and the fittings were replaced. I also just showed another two that have the pipes. One home replaced the fittings as well but the other did not and still has the plastic ones.

The home inspector that I use says he has poly pipes with the original plastic fittings and has never replaced them. He says he has never had a problem. That makes me nervous since you never know what can happen. In the end, it is up to the buyer. I always make everyone aware when we see a home that is built within that time frame that it could have the pipes.
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Old 06-02-2007, 06:56 PM
 
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Thanks for all the information!

But I'm a bit confused: if the problem was the fittings, which failed in a relatively short period of time, then a 1994 house with poly pipes and no history of failure should be OK?

We've got inspection scheduled for Thursday; I'll definitely disuss the pipes and fittings with the inspector.

If the entire systems is original, and the fittings are NOT brass with copper crimp rings, would replacing the fittings be enough to ensure peace of mind, and significantly reduce the probability of a problem (yes, I know this would be on our nickle, not the sellers!)

And would that be significantly less expensive? We really like the house, now we're trying to develop realistic bugets for the "must do" things!

Thanks!
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Old 06-02-2007, 07:06 PM
 
Location: Cary, NC
43,016 posts, read 76,519,527 times
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Your inspector will identify the fittings as brass or plastic.
I would consider getting quotes for both fitting replacement and full plumbing replacement just to compare them.

I would bet that a 1994 house would have the brass fittings, since they were introduced several years earlier.
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Old 06-02-2007, 08:46 PM
 
492 posts, read 2,102,383 times
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Thanks, Mike!

So if we have brass fittings, we should feel <relatively> safe with polybutylene pipes?

(My realtor--second generation Raleigh, with her 3rd (in their 20s) and 4th (6 months old) generations following her -- really knows neighborhoods, schools, values, etc but freely admits that she bows to her inspector for "technnical stuff." Hats off to her for saying/admitting that! She can recognize poly pipes, but won't make further diagnosis about what to do -- she relies on her inspectors.)

To anyone out there sitting on the "cheap, FSBO fence": WORK WITH A REALTOR! A good realtor is worth his/her weight in gold...and certainly more than 2.4% of your purchase price!
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Old 06-02-2007, 08:48 PM
 
Location: Raleigh, NC
12,475 posts, read 32,134,244 times
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There are class action suits for poly pipes and masonite siding, which were both used quite a bit in our area.

I have both!

Masonite is fine as long as you maintain it.

If the poly pipes haven't caused any problem by now, they are probably fine. However, isn't that what homeowner's insuance is for?

There are websites that you can go online and read all about it.

I wouldn't NOT buy a home due to either of these situations but I WOULD educate myself and make my own decision.

Vicki
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Old 06-21-2008, 08:45 PM
 
Location: Apple Valley Calif
7,474 posts, read 22,810,796 times
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Plastic pipes may have been a problem in the past, but today they are the latest, greatest thing. Copper is yesterday, plastic is today. Perhaps if you are looking at an older home, you may want to investigate whether or not you are getting the 80's, 90's plastic, or the ones used today that are state of the art.
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Old 06-21-2008, 09:48 PM
 
Location: Knoxville
4,705 posts, read 25,186,006 times
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Polybutylene pipes CAN be a problem, even if you have not had a problem yet. The fittings were the main problem, however, there was also an issue with the chlorine levels in the water and the poly pipe not liking it too much. You can go to Polybutylene Pipe Settlement Fund > Home and get info. The class action lawsuit is still in effect.

Masonite/hardboard siding on the other hand had problems, but the class action lawsuit has long expired and run out of money. It was not only Masonite brand, but many others. I have to disagree with VickiR a bit. While most hardboard siding will be fine if kept painted and it doesn't have overdriven nails - there was some that was just plain BAD and delaminated on it''s own, painted well or not.

Newer plastic pipes used in homes today would include CPVC and PEX. CPVC can be used for hot and cold, where the regular PVC can not be used for hot water. PEX also had some problems with the fittings, and there was a lawsuit over those. Those atty's get around don't they?
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Old 06-22-2008, 02:12 PM
f_m
 
2,289 posts, read 8,344,143 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Barking Spider View Post
Newer plastic pipes used in homes today would include CPVC and PEX. CPVC can be used for hot and cold, where the regular PVC can not be used for hot water. PEX also had some problems with the fittings, and there was a lawsuit over those. Those atty's get around don't they?
I've been wondering about this myself. I usually run the cold water when pouring out the boiling water from making pasta. I noticed that PVC is only suitable for 140 deg F and PEX is only up to 200 deg F, both are lower than boiling temperature. So I would assume in either case I would still have to add cold water to the drain.
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