Between 1978 and 1994, builders used piping made of polybutylene (PB) plastic because of its apparent advantages in cold weather and flexibility in tight-fitting areas, not to mention the low cost of polybutylene pipe material. Unfortunately, polybutylene turned out to be unreliable. Polybutylene pipe failures in millions of homes in communities like Roswell have sparked a huge number of class-action lawsuits. If your home has PB pipes, you may want to consider immediate pipe replacement.
PB pipe failure is common
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, defective polybutylene piping is among the biggest warning signs for home shoppers.
A quick look at two of the class-action lawsuits against manufacturers of polybutylene material gives an eye-opening idea of the extent of PB piping failures. Somewhere between 6 and 10 million homes had PB pipes installed during the period it was in use, the Baltimore Sun reports.
PB pipe replacement may save you money
As with any home improvement, the cost of the project must be weighed against the potential damage if it's ignored. Pipes that burst or cause water to leak inside your home could end up costing you far more than the price of new piping, which is comparable to the cost of roofing improvements or new carpeting.
Pipe failure doesn't give warnings
Many homeowners who have PB piping report no problems, but it may just be a matter of time. PB plastic was manufactured for more than 15 years, which suggests that it may take a decade or more before trouble arises. Even if you don't see a problem, you may be rolling the dice by leaving these pipes installed.
If you are shopping for a new home, find out if the property has PB pipes. Home inspectors are not required to note the presence of polybutylene in reports, so take it upon yourself to ask. The presence of these plastic pipes would reduce a home's value.
Identifying PB pipes
If you are wondering whether you have PB pipes in your home, check around the basement and attic and near the water heater. The plastic piping is usually gray, but it may be blue or black, as well. The initials PB often precede serial numbers on the actual piping.
Homeowners who experience damage from these pipes may qualify for part of the lawsuit settlement funds. Otherwise, contact an experienced plumber to discuss your options for inspecting a home or beginning a repiping project.
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