The short answer is NO – it’s not recommended unless the price of the house is so low that the cost of replacing those pipes is not a factor for you.

If you are considering purchasing a house that was built between the late 1970’s and the mid 1990’s, polybutylene pipes may have been used in the home’s plumbing system and they may still be there.

Why are polybutylene pipes a problem?

They are a financial risk and a health risk. They have a life span of 10 to 15 years (the shortest of all plumbing pipes today) after which they begin to deteriorate. It becomes costly to replace your pipes in that short of a length of time. And because they are made of resin (a plastic) they pose a health risk to seniors, babies, children and adults with immune system disorders.

For these reasons, we recommend caution when purchasing a house with polybutylene pipes.

Having issued this warning – you can of course – replace those older pipes with something that is newer and better. So, that cost should be considered when purchasing this type of house.

Do All Polybutylene Pipes Fail?

Yes, unforunately they do. In fact, the number of failures grew so large that a lawsuit was brought against the Shell Oil Company whch resulted in a class action settlement in 1995.

About The Polybutylene Pipe Lawsuit

From 1977 to 1996, the Shell Oil Company was the only company producing polybutylene resin which, as I said earlier, is the product used to create polybutylene pipes.

Problems with leaking from these pipes began surfacing in the 1980’s and as a result, litigations began in California and Texas. This resulted in a 1995 Class Action settlement, Cox v Shell Oil, of $1 billion dollars. As a result, U.S. building codes deemed polybutylene pipes an unacceptable product.

There have been several other lawsuits issued afterwards in what seems to be an ongoing and very complicated case concerning Polybutylene pipes.

How Much Does It Cost To Replace Polybutylene Pipes?

The cost will depend on how much of the plumbing system is made up of Polybutylene pipe material and other factors as well. But essentially, you could be looking at repiping the entire home or just parts of it.

There are many factors that contribute to the cost of repiping a house’s plumbing system.

  • The number of fixtures in the home. This includes sinks, toilets, showers, bathtubs, dishwasher, washing machine, etc.
  • Location of the existing pipes and the degree of difficulty it will take to access them. So, pipes that are located behind walls will cost more to repipe than those that are exposed. And pipes in crawlspaces or under concrete will cost more than repiping the ones behind walls.
  • The type of new pipe that we are replacing the old ones with is a cost factor as well.
  • The square footage of the home contributes to the overall cost.

According to – the national average to repipe a home is about $4100.00. The cost can be lower or higher, depending on the factors listed above.

Can You Get Homeowner’s Insurance For A House With Polybutylene Pipes?

Although it may be difficult, there are insurance companies that will cover houses with polubutylene pipes. We recommend that you speak with your insurance agent for more information on this issue.

How To Identify Polybutylene Pipes

The 4 ways to identify polybutylene pipes are…

  1. Color
  2. Stamp with the letters PB
  3. Check your main water shut-off valve
  4. Expose the pipes in your home

1) Color – Polybutylene pipes are normally Blue, Silvery Gray or Black in color. Generally, the blue pipes were used outdoors, and the other two colors were used for indoor plumbing.

2) Stamp With The Letters PB – Most of the polybutylene pipes that were manufactured were stamped with the letter “PB” followed by a string of numbers. If you can see your pipes, check for this stamp.

3) Check The Main Water Shut-Off Valve – Outdoor polybutylene pipes were often installed near the main water shut-off valve – investigate that area for the blue pipes. Indoors – if you have a drop down ceiling in your basement you can then see if the pipes there are Silvery Gray or Black. You may also find polybutylene pipes near water heaters.

4) Expose The Pipes In Your Home – If you are in the midst of a re-construction and have the opportunity to remove drywall or panels around sinks, showers, tubs and toilets then you will have a great opportunity to see if your home is plumbed with polybutylene.

Note: also check the fittings joining your pipes to ensure that they are not made of Polybutylene material.

If you have any questions about polybutylene pipes or are having some problems with it, call Atlantis Plumbing today at 770-505-8570. We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.