The Problems With Polybutylene
Polybutylene was popular in construction between 1978 and 1996. In 1995, the Cox vs Shell Class action polybutylene lawsuit was settled – with over $1 Billion committed from Shell Oil Company.
Polybutylene is found in homes, hotels, multi-family housing, and mobile homes constructed between 1978 and 1996. Polybutylene was an inexpensive, easier to install alternative to copper. Builders welcomed the pipe as efforts to maintain profits in a slumping economy increased in the late 70’s and early 80’s. There were approximately 10 million installations of Polybutylene pipe across the United States. Installations include interior potable (consumable) distribution, and hydronic (radiant) heating.
Polybutylene is alleged to fail and cause damage to the home and/or property. The pipe is extremely susceptible to degradation from chlorinated water. The plastic shrinks and become brittle, causing the crimp ring to lose calibration over the pipe and the fitting. Because Polybutylene corrodes from the inside out, failures occur without warning and often go undetected for some time. Below are original pictures from the Shell Oil Company class action suit.
Conduct an inspection of your home to see if your property has Polybutylene piping. Look for dull gray (or in rare cases black) piping near the water heater area, running to the fixtures (toilets, sinks, etc.). You will also find acetel (grey plastic) or copper fittings, with aluminum or copper crimp rings.
Don’t be fooled by copper “stub outs” which may appear under sinks and toilets, quite often they have been transitioned to Polybutylene via crimp behind the wall.
Buying A House With Polybutylene Piping?
We recommend negotiating the polybutylene replacement with the seller during the home inspection. This mitigates risk of water damage and increases the value of the home. Your real estate agent should be able to walk you through the necessary steps.
How We can help you replace your
Family owned, the Team at Replumb Specialties Inc. has replaced Polybutylene, Kitec, Copper, Galvanized, Entran, and other failing plumbing systems across our service area Since 1992. We are the original pipe replacement contractor for the Polybutylene Class Action Settlement. We’ve successfully replaced systems in 20,000+ homes, condominiums, apartments, and hotels – including over 2,000 hydronic heating applications.