Leaky pipes

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Buying a House with Polybutylene Pipes
When purchasing a home that was built between 1978 and 1995, pay special attention to the plumbing system. Disclosures from the previous homeowner or realtor are not required when it comes to polybutylene pipes.
If a house is fitted with PB pipes, an inspector can do a thorough inspection and visually, the pipes could pass. Pressure tests are not recommended and inspectors are not even required to note or mention the material used in the plumbing system in some states. 

What’s worse, there could be microscopic leaks or tears inside the flexible polybutylene pipes, which could burst or leak at any time. And leaking pipes can go unchecked for a while if they are hidden behind sheetrock and/or furniture.

A sudden burst might be found quickly, but can still do extensive damage to a home, causing tens of thousands of dollars in repairs.
Even if the home was not built during these years, there is still a chance that it contains polybutylene pipes. This type of piping is no longer sold in the United States but is still being used in other countries, mainly Europe and Asia.
Not sure what to look for? The next section discusses ways to identify polybutylene in plumbing systems.

How to Identify Polybutylene Pipes
As stated above, polybutylene pipes are flexible, plastic resin pipes that could have been used on the interior or exterior of the home.

Here are the characteristics of polybutylene pipes:
• Usually has a stamp reading “PB2110”
• The most popular color is gray, but can also be found in silver, blue, white, and black
• One half to one inch in diameter
• Will be used only for water, not waste, vent, or drain piping
Places to look for PB pipes on the interior of the home:
• Protruding from sinks or toilets into the walls
• In the ceilings of unfinished basements
• By the water heater
• In the washing machine utility box
Places to look for polybutylene pipes on the exterior of the home:
• At the water meter
• Main water shut-off valve (in the basement or lowest level of the home)
Polybutylene is sometimes confused with PEX tubing. PEX is usually used in radiant heating systems and is either white, blue, or red. The colors are noticeably brighter than PB and the tubes are much more flexible and able to coil.

What’s worse, there could be microscopic leaks or tears inside the flexible polybutylene pipes, which could burst or leak at any time. And leaking pipes can go unchecked for a while if they are hidden behind sheetrock and/or furniture.

The Cost to Replace Polybutylene Pipes

If the home you are living in or looking to purchase has polybutylene pipes, it’s recommended that the entire plumbing system be replaced immediately. As stated above, a leak can happen at any time and without warning.
Costs to replace a polybutylene plumbing system varies.
Things to consider:
• How much needs to be replaced
• Is it interior and exterior or just interior
• What type of material will be replacing the polybutylene
The average cost to replace polybutylene with PEX or PVC plastic can cost up to $10,000. If copper piping is used, then the cost could be higher, as much as $15,000 or more. Contractors will also have to cut holes in the walls of the home to access the piping and switch it out. Call around for a few quotes as the same contractor should be able to do the entire job. 
If damage has been caused by leaking pipes, stop all work and make sure all materials are saved and not discarded. Call your homeowner’s insurance company to file a claim for any damage. They likely won’t cover the cost of the plumbing system replacement, but insurance policy coverage varies.

Summary
Polybutylene pipes were used extensively in new home construction during the 1970s until the 1990s. Though not banned, polybutylene pipes are no longer sold in the United States market.
Most homes built after 1995 should not have polybutylene pipes, but there may still have been piping available and some plumbers may have still been using them. 

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