The type of water lines your home has makes much more of a difference than you may realize. This is especially true for homes that still have older polybutylene piping. In this article, we’ll explain why having polybutylene pipes in your home is such a major issue and also what to do if your home has this type of piping.
What Is Polybutylene Piping?
Polybutylene piping is made from a special plastic resin compound. It was commonly used in homes in Florida and throughout the southern US that were built between the late 1970s and mid-1990s. According to most estimates, polybutylene pipes were used in approximately one in four Sun Belt region homes built in these decades.
The reason that polybutylene piping was so popular is that it is much less expensive to manufacture compared to copper piping. Polybutylene pipes are also easier and take less time to install. As a result, many homeowners and builders saw polybutylene piping as a much more cost-effective option than copper when installing new plumbing systems. However, the use of polybutylene piping in plumbing systems has been banned in the US since 1995 for reasons we’ll now look at.
Issues With Polybutylene Piping
Polybutylene piping was outlawed because it is extremely prone to leaking and often fails in only 10 to 15 years. Polybutylene piping is so prone to leaking and caused so much water damage that it led to the manufacturers agreeing to settle a $950 million class-action lawsuit.
Polybutylene piping has such issues with leaking because it reacts with chlorine and chloramines, which are the primary chemicals used in most municipal water treatment plants. When exposed to chlorinated water, polybutylene can quickly start to break down and become much more brittle. Chemical residue can flake off the pipes and leach into the water as they degrade. This flaking can quickly weaken the pipes, especially at the various joints and anywhere that the pipes bend and/or have an elbow. Polybutylene pipes can also be damaged more easily than copper or other modern options like PVC and PEX piping.
If you have any polybutylene pipes in your home, you can be almost certain that it will only be a matter of time before they start leaking. If any of your pipes start leaking, you’ll have no choice but to have a plumber replace the entire pipe. Polybutylene pipes cannot ever be repaired since they are no longer manufactured. The connections and hardware required for installing or repairing polybutylene pipes are also no longer available.
Instead of just replacing the leaking pipe, you are always better off having your entire plumbing system repiped. Replacing only the leaking pipe is just putting a bandaid over a much bigger issue since every one of the polybutylene pipes in a home will fail and start leaking sooner or later.
Why Polybutylene Pipes Should Always Be Replaced
Repiping a home definitely isn’t cheap, but it is absolutely worth it if your home has polybutylene piping. A major leak can potentially cause thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars in water damage. In fact, there have been numerous situations where leaking polybutylene pipes ended up causing more than $100,000 in damage.
If there’s a major leak, you’ll almost certainly have to replace any water-damaged sheetrock, insulation, and flooring. A leak can also lead to water coming into contact with your electrical wiring and outlets, causing major damage to your electrical system and appliances. A leak that goes undetected can also cause wooden wall studs to rot or warp or quickly lead to major mold issues and force you to pay for professional mold remediation.
If you have a polybutylene main water line that starts leaking, it can also do severe damage to your home’s foundation and underlying structure. The fact that polybutylene piping is almost guaranteed to eventually start leaking means it is always worth the cost to repipe a home that has it.
Repiping your home is also an easy way to increase its value. This is because polybutylene pipes greatly decrease the value of a home. You can usually sell a home with polybutylene piping, but you’ll likely have a much harder time finding a willing buyer. If the home inspection reveals polybutylene piping, most buyers will either require you to repipe the house before closing or negotiate and cover at least some of the costs of replacing all of the pipes. By replacing your polybutylene pipes, you’ll have a much easier time should you ever decide to sell your house, and you can also be certain of getting much more out of it when it sells.
Another thing to consider is that polybutylene piping is such a huge liability that the majority of homeowner’s insurance providers will refuse to cover a home that uses it for the main water line or any interior cold and hot supply lines. In fact, many people have had their homeowner’s insurance coverage canceled in the last decade or so because they didn’t have all of their polybutylene pipes replaced. Some companies do still offer new policies for homes with this type of piping, but they will usually require you to pay an extremely expensive rider.
There are companies that have grandfather clauses and won’t cancel existing policies for failing to replace polybutylene pipes. However, you would still run into issues with this type of policy if you try to sell your house since the buyer would have a hard time being able to get insurance until they completely repiped the house.
Other Benefits of Repiping Your Home
Whether you have polybutylene piping or not, repiping your home can also provide other major benefits. Homes with older pipes often have many more plumbing issues. Repiping your home can help to overcome issues with low water pressure and also help lower your water bills. Replacing your pipes can also help to make appliances like dishwashers and washing machines work more effectively. If your appliances aren’t working as effectively as they should, they may also fail sooner. This means repiping your home can help you reduce the high cost of replacing your appliances.
If your home was built during the years when polybutylene piping was being used, and you are unsure of what type of pipes it has, Plumbing & Cooling Nerds can quickly inspect your plumbing and determine if your home needs to be repiped. We have been serving residents throughout Southwest Florida since 2007, and our team has years of experience in leak detection, repiping, and all other plumbing repairs.
We also offer professional water heater and water filtration services and can take care of any of your plumbing installation, drain, and sewer needs. Our certified, expert HVAC technicians specialize in all types of cooling and heating repairs, maintenance, and installation.
For a complimentary whole-home repipe quote and other plumbing solutions, contact us today!