Polybutylene piping is a form of plastic resin and was commonly used for plumbing in Tampa Bay homes built between 1978 and 1995. From the years 1978 to 1995 Tampa bay went through a massive contraction boom. Due to its inexpensive production cost and ability to withstand high water pressure, it was widely seen as a better, cheaper alternative to copper plumbing. Unfortunately, it was later discovered that this type of plastic reacts negatively to water-soluble oxidants (like chlorine) and over time will deteriorate, flake and become damaged.
What is polybutylene piping?
Shell Oil Company was, from 1977 to 1996, the sole producer of polybutylene resin, which was the raw material for the piping. It is a saturated polymer that, in resin form, can be molded into a number of shapes and forms. It does not crack under stress or pressure; it is flexible and generally resists chemicals like oils, acids, alcohol and fats. It doesn’t corrode, doesn’t calcify and transmits a low noise. It was viewed as an excellent alternative to traditional water pipes, for both the transfer of hot and cold liquids. The creation of the polybutylene piping was a popular choice for the Tampa Bay housing boom of the 80’s & early to mid 90’s. Please note: polybutylene piping should not be confused with PVC (PolyVinyl Chloride) piping. They are completely different.
Where you’ll find polybutylene piping in the home
Polybutylene piping is used to supply water from the main city water line into a home. According to Propex, polybutylene piping is typically found in the following locations:
Interior places polybutylene piping is found
Exterior places polybutylene piping is found
- Entering the home through basement walls, etc.
- Attached to the home’s main water shutoff valve
- Attached to the home’s water meter
During the home inspection process, your certified home inspector or a master plumber may bring to your attention the use of polybutylene in the home. Often, polybutylene pipes are stamped with the code “PB2110,” are flexible and not rigid, not used for waste, drain or vent piping. Polybutylene pipes are blue, black or grey in color and are usually ½” to 1” in diameter. NAHI notes, “Home inspectors are not required to note the presence of polybutylene, and no tests for weaknesses should be performed. Any deterioration of polybutylene pipes happens from within and cannot be detected without turning off the water and dismantling the pipe, which is far beyond the standards of practice of home inspection.” Be aware that polybutylene piping systems may use copper fittings. Meaning that just because you see copper, the piping system may not be entirely made from copper. If you are in doubt, a master plumber from Cass Plumbing can determine if your the home you are thinking about buying or your current home’s plumbing system is made from polybutylene piping.
Why polybutylene piping should be replaced
In the 1980’s litigations over leaking plumbing due to polybutylene pipes began in California and Texas. The eventual Class Action settlement of $1 billion (Cox v. Shell Oil) in 1995 was enough to ensure that polybutylene water pipes were no longer acceptable by U.S. building codes. It takes about 10-15 years for polybutylene piping to deteriorate. Because it deteriorates from the inside out, it’s difficult to assess the extent of the damage. A licensed plumber can fully assess the water pipes outside and inside the home to determine the material and age of the pipes. Studies have shown that polybutylene pipes, over time, will leak and it is highly recommended that they be replaced.
Plumbing is like most things in life, if you address problems early you can often mitigate the damage and lesson the cost. There have been thousands of home and businesses throughout the Tampa Bay region that waited too long. Thousands of property owners have come home from work, or even worse a long vacation, only to find their home with massive water damage. This is much more common than most people realize. The main reason it happens is because with polybutylene pipes everything looks fine on the outside because the damage occurs from the inside of the pipe out. The last area that damage is visible is the outside of the pipe. If you see damage on the outside it is usually too late. The important thing to know is if you have polybutylene pipes. If so, address the issue. If you are in doubt, error on the side of caution and call Cass Plumbing before it’s too late.
Replacing polybutylene piping in the home
Unfortunately, if there are polybutylene pipes within the home, or leading into the home, the best course of action is to replace the pipes entirely by hiring a Tampa Bay re-pipe specialist from Cass Plumbing check out the post right here. The experts at Cass Plumbing can assess the current plumbing, replace the pipes and expertly patch up any holes. There are currently no Florida laws stating that the seller is required to disclose polybutylene pipes. It is up to the potential buyer to perform due diligence on the plumbing in question.
If you have any questions about polybutylene pipes or would like an estimate to have your home or office repiped, call the experts at Cass Plumbing today.