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Should I Buy a House with Polybutylene Pipe?

Polybutylene pipes, once considered revolutionary, aren’t desirable among many home buyers today. And rightfully so!

Studies have concluded the incompetency of these pipes, and the personal experiences of the homeowners, as well as multiple lawsuits against the polybutylene manufacturing company, speak volumes about if or not these pipes are suitable for your house.

But the answer to the question ‘Should I Buy a House with Polybutyle Pipe’ is not as simple as a direct ‘No’. This post will dive deep into the history of polybutylene pipes, when or why you should buy it, their identification, cost of replacement, and many more. Let’s begin!

What are Polybutylene Pipes?

Polybutylene is a plastic polymer that was used for water supply and distribution piping from 1978 to mid-1995. It was a ‘revolutionary’ plumbing pipe at the time – cheaper than copper, high tolerance to expansion and contraction, and freeze resistance.

Especially in Florida and the surrounding areas, the use of these pipes was widespread over the years. While many homeowners have replaced the 20-40 years old system, plenty of homes with polybutylene pipes still remain.

With this, many home buyers are left with one major question – ‘Should I Buy a House with Polybutylene Pipe?’

Why do Polybutylene Pipes have gotten a Bad Press?

Polybutylene pipe manufacture was ceased from 1995 onwards, given multiple plumbing issues and property damage, followed by consequent lawsuits against the manufacturing company. There is one concrete reason behind the ban on polybutylene pipes by U.S building codes.

Polybutylene is found to interact with certain chemicals in water, majorly dissolved chlorine. The polybutylene pipes weaken and result in cracks and fitting problems due to the reaction over time.

Moreover, a recent study has found that even the water pressure also plays a role in a faster rate of deterioration in polybutylene pipes. Consequently, buyers, these days don’t prefer investing in a property with polybutylene pipe.

Should You Buy a House with Polybutylene Pipes?

If you’ve got the option and luxury to reject a house with polybutylene, then we’d say, don’t invest in such a house. Now, if the seller is offering the property at a much more affordable price and you’d still end up with a good deal even after replacing the pipes, well, go for it!

As we’ve already discussed in the earlier section, the damage and deterioration rate is faster in polybutylene pipes. If you’re lucky, you might not face such a problem. Else, it is not worth taking the deal unless it’s an amazing deal that you cannot say no to.

Moreover, it is also imperative that you discuss with the home owner’s insurance company before making the decision. Some companies don’t insure your home against polybutylene pipes-related damage.

However, having said that, there are a few reasons why you should buy a house with polybutylene pipes, which we will discuss later on.

How to Tell if the House has Polybutylene Pipes?

A house inspector was sued when he failed to inform the buyer regarding the polybutylene pipes in a house he inspected. The context is that if you’ve hired a licensed professional to inspect your potential new home, rest assured you’ll be informed if or not the house has polybutylene pipes.

Nevertheless, one can never be too careful! If you witness a cast iron, galvanized steel, or copper pipes, problem solved. If the plumbing pipes aren’t plastic, there’s no way the house features polybutylene pipes.

However, if the pipes seem plastic, below are some of the telltale signs that reveal that the house you’re eyeing has polybutylene pipes.

  1. The ‘PB’ lettering, followed by numbers, guarantees that the pipes are polybutylene.
  2. Also, these pipes are often blue. But that being said, polybutylene pipes are also black or grey in color. However, if you notice blue plastic pipes and are afraid that it could be polybutylene, have a professional inspect the house.

Okay, now you know what signs to look for in a pipe. But where can you find the pipes in the house you’re interested in? We’d say,  look at the connection in the main shut-off valve. Another smart idea is to look for the marking in the sinks and toilets connections.

Moreover, if you have access to the basement, look for signs of polybutylene pipes near the water heater and the ceiling.

Does a Seller Have to Disclose Polybutylene Pipes?

In many states, sellers are mandated to disclose polybutylene pipes. Almost all real estate listing agents require the seller to disclose the use of polybutylene pipes in the property.

They suggest the sellers either bring the market price of the house down such that the buyer could make the necessary replacement or replace the system on their own with copper pipes.

There have been instances where buyers have sued agents and firms for not disclosing the use of polybutylene pipes in the property.

That being said, it is always better to be safe than sorry. So, always inspect the pipes by yourself or have a plumbing company or an inspection company inspect the pipes to avoid future issues.

When should you Buy a House with Polybutylene Pipes?

Well, it is an incontestable fact that, sooner or later, every piping system will deteriorate and demand a replacement.

While polybutylene pipes have gotten the bad press of being weak and brittle over time, there are still a few reasons why a house with polybutylene pipes might still be worth the investment.

1.   What’s the Location of the House Like?

Firstly, determine if the location of the house is worth it. You can replace the polybutylene pipes with a better option, but it is not always you find a property that is located in your desired area and locality.

Moreover, it is not a guaranteed fact that the polybutylene pipes will fail. However, having said that, these pipes are best replaced, given how the plumbing issues can also be a contributing factor to foundational issues.

2.   Plenty of Room for Negotiation!

Secondly, if you negotiate with prudence, you might buy the property for much less than other houses.

Let the seller know that you’re aware of the polybutylene pipes and the plumbing as well as the financial issues that come with it. The issue will definitely play as huge leverage during the negotiation.

The seller might even offer to split the cost with you for plumbing system replacement or take the entire responsibility of the replacement on their own shoulders.

3.   How Much Do you Like the House?

Do you absolutely adore the property? Do you have the financial means to replace the polybutylene pipes? If yes, simply a plumbing system dissatisfaction should never be why you steer away from your dream house.

You can contact plumbing experts to have the plumbing system in your new home replaced, and within 10-15 days, you will get to move into your dream house. How great is that!

How Much Does it Cost to Replace Polybutylene Pipes?

As of 2022, depending on the number of fixtures, the estimated cost of replacing polybutylene pipes with PEX (Cross-linked Polyethylene) pipes or PVC pipes ranges from $1,500 to $8,000.

On the other hand, the price range slightly increases if you want to replace the pipes with copper pipes. It is estimated to cost you around $2,500 to $15,000, depending upon the number of fixtures and the state.

Note: The estimation price is retrieved from an internet home cost estimator. The contractor cost and the permit cost are not included in the pricing.

What should you Replace the Polybutylene Pipes with?

Many experts suggest replacing your current polybutylene pipes with either copper pipes or PEX pipes. If you’d ask us, we’d probably lean more towards PEX due to their superiority over copper in multiple aspects.

Firstly, PEX pipes are cheaper than copper pipes and are quicker and more cost-effective to install. The durability of PEX pipes is over 100 years. On the other hand, while still impressive, copper pipes are only durable for 70-80 years.

While copper pipes will burst when frozen, PEX pipes maintain structural integrity even after extreme expansions and contractions.

Moreover, PEX pipes also have a relatively lower thermal conductivity. It ensures that the heat loss from this pipe to the surrounding is minimal in comparison to copper pipes.

Nevertheless, copper is still the premium plumbing material in most states. And to add, the comparison doesn’t in any way mean that copper pipes are not worth it.

Regardless of the pros and cons, these materials are still two of the most-favored plumbing materials. The final decision comes down to your personal preference.

Summary

We hope this post answered all your queries regarding houses with polybutylene pipes and if or not you should take it. We believe you can now make an informed decision that you won’t regret later.

This post also suggests you bombard the insurance company, listing agent, or the seller with all your plumbing system-related queries before hurrying your decision.

If you like the house and its plumbing system is the only reason for your dissatisfaction, the best way to move forward is to reach a proper negotiation with a seller. Polybutylene pipe house sellers are often willing to do so!

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