Polybutylene piping, also known as PB or Poly B, is a plastic material used for water service and distribution piping. PB piping was used in houses from the late 1970s to the mid-1990s. PB service pipe is often blue but may also be black. Distribution pipe is usually blue-gray in color but cream color is possible, especially in early installations. PB piping can sometimes be identified by the marking “PB 2110.” The PB piping in the photograph was distribution piping in the crawl space of a house we inspected.
Reported problems: Some PB piping from the 1980s was prone to leakage at the fittings, with the blame placed on design / manufacturing defects or faulty installation. A class action lawsuit regarding PB was settled in the 1990s and settlement funds have been exhausted. PB piping is known to degrade when exposed to sunlight and chlorine in the water will weaken the tubing walls. Later versions of PB are usually less problematic.
Are Virginia home inspectors required to look for polybutylene piping? Not according to Standards of Practice from the Commonwealth of Virginia, InterNACHI (International Association of Certified Home Inspectors) and ASHI (American Society of Home Inspectors). The InterNACHI SOP specifically lists PB piping as an item the inspector is not required to look for and the other two SOPs do not mention PB at all. All three SOPs require the inspector to inspect the plumbing system so hopefully the presence of PB piping will be noted.
Will my inspector look for and report on polybutylene piping? It depends on the inspector you hire. Nothing in the SOPs prohibits the inspector from looking for or reporting on PB piping. This is one of the questions you can ask your prospective home inspector when you interview them. At Premier Inspections LLC we search for PB piping on every inspection. We’ve done inspections where PB piping had been replaced but the PB fittings left in place. We had to look a little harder, but we found the PB fittings and alerted our client.
What will my inspector say if they find polybutylene piping? Again, it depends on the individual inspector. First of all, the inspector needs to be able to recognize PB piping and confirm that it is indeed PB before they call it out as such. If the inspector is not careful (or is inexperienced) they could confuse polybutylene piping with blue PEX plastic water piping. Inspection report comments for PB piping vary widely from inspector to inspector. Here are our comments when we find PB piping during an inspection: (1) ATTENTION - MONITOR: Monitor closely for change in condition and need of repair by qualified licensed plumber. Polybutylene piping or fittings. Some early versions of polybutylene piping developed leaks because of defects with the pipe material. No evidence of leaking at time of inspection. In addition to close monitoring, recommend evaluation by a qualified licensed plumber. (2) ACTION - REPAIR: Recommend repair by a qualified licensed plumber. Polybutylene piping or fittings with active leak at time of inspection. PB piping and fittings from some manufacturers developed leaks because of defects with the pipe material and fittings. Determining if this particular piping and fittings was materially defective is beyond the scope of this inspection.
In all instances the inspector should be seeking to educate the client, not alarm them.
Conclusion: Having PB piping in your home is not the end of the world. It just needs to be closely monitored or repaired, whichever is appropriate.
The home inspector did a great inspection and you were happy. But as time passed, you began to notice things in the house that the inspection report didn’t mention. So you call your inspector and after telling them what is going on, ask “why didn’t you see that?”
Our last blogpost, “What Did You Expect,” talked about the importance of managing expectations. But sometimes despite the best efforts of all concerned, issues are discovered after the inspection that may make it seem as if the home inspector didn’t do a good job. Here are some things to consider when those “why didn’t you see that?” issues come up:
Conclusion: When issues are discovered post-inspection, the inspector and client should be willing to listen to each other and discuss the issues calmly and reasonably. The objective is to do the right thing for everyone involved.
Call us – We love to talk about home inspections!
Managing expectations is one of the most important parts of a home inspection. Failing to help clients set and manage their expectations can cause problems for both client and home inspector.
What a home inspection is – A limited, visual, non-invasive examination of the condition of a home as it was on the date of inspection. Let’s break this down:
What a home inspection is not:
How the home inspector can help the client manage their expectations. (1) Have a clear understanding of what the client’s expectations are. Ask questions to clarify and confirm details. (2) Discuss the client’s expectations and clarify what will happen during the home inspection. The home inspector needs to be patient, diplomatic and a good listener. Ensure that the client understands what will and what will not be done as part of the inspection. Document any conversations for the protection of all parties. (3) The inspection agreement should clearly set out what is and what is not covered in the inspection. For example, the client may think that the home inspection will automatically include mold, termite, and radon testing. The savvy inspector should make every reasonable effort to ensure the client reads and understands the inspection agreement. (4) The inspector’s website should have a link to the applicable Standards of Practice the inspector works under. Some inspectors also have a link to SOP in their reports.
Conclusion: Helping clients to manage their expectations will help them have a better inspection experience and reduce the likelihood of complaints for the home inspector.
Call us – We’d be happy to help you have a great home inspection experience!