Polybutylene (also known as PB or Poly B) was a plastic piping manufactured between 1978 and mid-1995 for use in home plumbing systems. Polybutylene was popular because it was inexpensive and offered lots of advantages such as ease of installation, flexibility, and resistance to freezing. Pipes made from polybutylene were installed in up to 10 million homes in the United States. Despite the advantages, production of Poly B ceased in mid-1996 after numerous allegations surfaced claiming that polybutylene piping had ruptured and caused property damage. Homeowners who have polybutylene piping in their homes are faced with the choice to replace the pipes or risk a potentially expensive plumbing issue. Polybutylene piping may also make obtaining insurance coverage more difficult or make selling the home more of a challenge.
Here are some tips to identify polybutylene piping: (1) usually stamped with the code “PB2110.” (2) is flexible and sometimes curved (3) most commonly gray but can also be white, silver, black or blue (4) 1/2” to 1” in diameter. Some of the locations where you may see PB piping are at the main water shut-off valve, near the water heater, or protruding from walls to feed sinks and toilets. Look carefully as Poly B is sometimes confused with PEX plastic piping or other similar plumbing material. The photograph at the top of the post shows some gray PB piping that we located during a recent home inspection.
In Virginia, home inspectors are not required to note the presence of polybutylene piping, but we do so as an added service to our clients. We note the condition of the piping and recommend that the client have the piping evaluated by a qualified licensed plumber. We do not test or dismantle the PB piping as this is far beyond the scope of the home inspection and could damage the plumbing system.
Planning to put your home on the market? Want to know if your home contains polybutylene piping? Call us – we’ll check it out and help you have peace of mind!