Polybutelene: A Brief Overview
This blog was researched and written by Thom Culpepper, Owner of TLC
Professional Inspections, Inc., a Tucson based Home Inspection Company
serving Tucson and the surrounding areas. Thom Culpepper has done more
than 3,000 home inspections since 2003, and has observed countless
houses with Polybutylene, and feels the need to educate as many people
An overview of what home owners and Real Estate Professionals should know about that “dreaded” grey pipe called Polybutylene!
Polybutylene or PB, is a light grey, semi rigid plastic pipe when
used in the house, and either blue or black when used as a main service
line from the street to the house.
It was first discovered in the mid 1960’s, however it wasn’t used as a
plumbing pipe until the mid to late 1970’s. The pipes began as water
service pipes bringing potable water from the meter to the house. From
the early 1980’s, to 1995 (or so) PB was used throughout the country,
though more were used in the southwest. Estimates suggest that six to
ten million homes were plumbed in PB during the course of it’s use.
In 1991, the companies that produced PB formed the ” Consumer
Plumbing Recovery Center” to trouble shoot PB concerns as leaks ( and
complaints ) began to escalate, and later evolved into a claims
processing center. ( It is still in place for repair and or replacement
of PB, however there are strict guidelines and time limits, so anyone
with concerns or questions can contact the recovery center at the web
In 1995 a settlement in a class action lawsuit against Shell Oil Co. for PB claims is estimated to be about 950 million dollars.
The majority of leaks occur at the plastic fittings, (connections
where the pipe is split off to run to different fixtures). These
original fittings were of the same material as the pipe, however thinner
and became brittle faster. The PB material was found to react to
chlorine and other chemicals in the household water supply. In 1991,
the fittings were banned and either brass or copper was used in it’s
stead, and there was a decrease in the amount of leaks after this change
In 1995, PB was banned from being used in residential building,
however plumbing companies were allowed to use up their supply of PB,
and we still see it in some 1996 homes here in Tucson.
The cost of replacement varies quite a bit from plumbing company to
company, and with the quantity of water fixtures the house has. Some
companies will replace the pipe, but leave the drywall repair, texturing
and painting to you, and other companies do it all. If you are looking
for bids on replacing polybutylene, be sure to ask what the bid covers.
For more information, you can contact the recovery center at www.pbpipe.com,
or call 1-800-392-7591. As it stands now, the class action law suit
recovery center is closed to taking any new claims, although if leaks
occurred prior to the end and they were repaired and had documentation,
there may still be a slim chance of a claim.
TLC Professional Inspections, Inc has put together a powerpoint
presentation for Southern Arizona Realty Companies interested in
furthering education for realtors, so we are on the same page for our
clients. Please call Thom Culpepper at (520) 991-1717 for more
information on education.
Please send this link to any others that you may think will benefit from the info! Thanks!