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Polybutylene Pipes


Building Specs home inspections include inspecting the pipes in your home to ensure that they are not faulty or made from problem materials. Polybutylene pipes are a plastic developed for use as a plumbing product by Shell Oil Company. There are a few problems associated with polybutylene. These problems are associated with homes built from 1/1/78 to 7/31/95. Most areas have banned the use of polybutylene. There are some class action law suits against the manufacturers as well as the installers and are trying to settle the damages. One has been settled for 950 million dollars and the fund will remain open until the year 2009 or 16 years after date of installation, which ever is soonest. For information on claims call; 800-356-3496, they will send you a form and if you qualify an Inspector will be sent to evaluate the conditions. to make a claim there does have to be a leak of failure of the product. For commercial claims or multi unit dwellings contact 800-876-4698.  

Exterior Polybutylene Pipe:

Big Blue, Vanguard Claim must be within 11 years of installation The supply line from the outside is sometimes referred to as "Big Blue, and may be identified by its light blue color. This type of polybutylene is susceptible to shearing at the foundation wall due to ground settlement outside. One recommendation is to sleeve the the pipe through the wall for additional reinforcement. Another recommendation is to simply replace it. The plastic is also reported to break down due to elevated levels of chlorine, there has not been any established time frame for this to occur.  

Interior Polybutylene Pipe:

Qest, Vanguard Claim must be within 13 years (acetal fittings), 16 years (metal fittings) of installation Interior polybutylene is identified by its gray color. When this product first came out the ends were connected by metal barbed connectors, that were held in place with a copper crimped band. The metal fittings were overall adequate. Later plastic barbed fittings were introduced. These fittings were prone to cracking off and failing, due to crimping of the copper or aluminum bands, and could allow water to free flow. The plastic fittings may develop hairline cracks from the pressure of the crimping and should be replaced with approved metal fittings.   In some areas highly acid water can deteriorate copper pipe in a relatively short time, or burst due to freezing. Polybutylene is virtually unaffected by these conditions. Why don,t they pull copper off the market as well? Polybutylene has a good flow rate, is more impervious to freeze, and has fewer connections. We should be aware of its problems but know its strengths as well. *Note: Some information has been taken from Cox vs. Shell Oil, et al.

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