Plastic Fantastic Lover!

Home Inspector with Charles Buell Inspections Inc.

     I know that you would rather be listening to the Jefferson Airplane than reading this----but oh well.

     Plastic piping in homes is becoming the norm.  It is pretty rare to find new construction with anything other than PEX type plastic pipe----or perhaps CPVC plastic pipe.  I don’t have any heartburn over the use of PEX in homes----in many ways it is a better choice than copper and is certainly cheaper.  As far as installation problems go---they have no more issues than metal types of pipes.  All systems are only as good as the installer doing the work.

     One problem that does occur though is when homes are changed to plastic or have plastic components added to the existing metal piping systems.
     Without getting involved in discussing all the rules/requirements of electrical “grounding & bonding,” suffice it to say that all metal piping systems in the home have to be bonded (connected) to the electrical service ground.

     People that do not understand these electrical bonding requirements sometimes break the continuity of these bonded metal piping systems by installing plastic components.  This frequently happens when metal drains or water supply lines are broken to add drains to new locations or supply water to new locations.

     In the following picture we can see where someone has spliced white PVC plastic into the main water line to install a lawn irrigation system.  This installation potentially leaves the house side of the plumbing system disconnected electrically from the grounded electrical system----and possibly even leaving the whole house disconnected from one of the means grounding the whole system.

Metal pipe no longer continous due to plastic components

     This repair can be as simple as jumping across the plastic component with a “jumper wire” or as complicated as having to run a new ground wire to the pipe on the street side of the plastic. In this next picture we can see where a “bonding jumper wire” has been installed around a plastic water filter.

Bonding wire installed around plastic filter

      Either way the system it will need to be evaluated and repaired as necessary by the Licensed Electrical Contractor.

Charles Buell


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Comments (23)

Michael Setunsky
Woodbridge, VA
Your Commercial Real Estate Link to Northern VA

Charles, good information to know. Thanks for the info and have a good weekend.

Jan 15, 2010 11:38 PM
Glen Fisher
National Property Inspections of Southern New Jersey, LLC - Oaklyn, NJ

Charles, very good topic.  I am sure that most homeowner's have no idea regarding electrical grounding and bonding.  I also suspect that sometimes licensed plumbers give very little thought if pipe repair/replacement disrupts the grounding/bonding.

Over the years, I have seen at least a dozen disconnected ground clamps at the water service entrance after a pipe repair or valve replacement.  While we are at it, how many times have we seen the exterior ground wire severed from the ground rod? 

In fact, maybe home inspectors should start the inspection by checking for acceptacle electrical grounding and bonding to determine if it is safe to proceed with the inspection.


Jan 15, 2010 11:42 PM
Toronto, ON

Charles - This is an extremely useful post especially for those of us who aren't familiar with the interplay of plumbing and grounding.

Jan 16, 2010 02:07 AM
Tony & Darcy Cannon
Aubrey and Associates Realty - Layton, UT
The C Team

Charles, this is a good post, it is something that I, honestly wouldn't have thought of!  Thanks for sharing it with us!

Jan 16, 2010 02:42 AM
Debi Boucher
Real Estate Showcase Photography - Woodland Park, CO
"Realtor Showcase" - Real Estate Photography/Virtual Tours

Great title, Charles! You are turning us into educated home owners, able to understanding the ins and outs of just about everything!


Jan 16, 2010 03:21 AM
Frank Kliewer
Woodinville, WA

Nice tutorial on a critical part of the home system. I doubt that the home improvement salesperson helping sell the plastic transition piece would even think of asking the questions that would lead to the instruction of bonding the copper back together. Thanks, Charles.

Jan 16, 2010 05:38 AM
Craig Rutman
Helping people in transition - Cary, NC
Raleigh, Cary, Apex area Realtor

Great post Charles. Your use of pictures to illustrate your points is excellent.

However, I got tired reading this post, so, I'm going to lay down on my surrealistic pillow!!!

Jan 16, 2010 06:16 AM
Steven L. Smith
King of the House Home Inspection, Inc. - Bellingham, WA
Bellingham WA Home Inspector

Mr Charles,

Of the Grace Slick music I prefer White Rabbit and Pink Squirrel. You are so old fashioned. Nutsy south of the border way. I am dressing as Mexican food

Jan 16, 2010 08:12 AM
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Gee, I thought a sprinkler system went to the ground...

Isn't that grounded?

Jan 16, 2010 10:13 AM
Charles Buell
Charles Buell Inspections Inc. - Seattle, WA
Seattle Home Inspector

Michael, thanks
Glen, what I love is when the hook the old grounds/bonds up to the plastic pipe
Marc, thanks----glad you found it useful
Debi, thanks glad you find my blog educational
Frank, you are right----highly unlikely
Craig---great idea----have a nice nap
Nutsy---try the "Gratefully Dead Squirrel"
Jay----just the wrong kind:)

Jan 16, 2010 02:22 PM
TeamCHI - Complete Home Inspections, Inc.
Complete Home Inspections, Inc. - Brentwood, TN
Home Inspectons - Nashville, TN area - 615.661.029

Charles, You mean to tell me that water is not conductive? Silly me...

Jan 16, 2010 08:57 PM
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Bond. Pipe Bond...

Shaken, not stirred.

Jan 16, 2010 11:35 PM
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

If there is a broken ground and some touches an electrified pipe, they would be propelled faster than 4/5 of a mile in 10 seconds. Certainly not an embryonic journey. :)

Jan 17, 2010 01:13 AM
Vince Santos
StepByStep Home Services LC - Canton, MI
Southeast Michigan Home Inspector

good information Charles. Just last week I inspected a home that utilized the supply lines for a ground source. The ground was clamped to a copper supply line just a foot of so from the panel. While inspecting the water main I noticed the line coming out of the concrete was actually plastic.

Jan 17, 2010 01:42 AM
Charles Buell
Charles Buell Inspections Inc. - Seattle, WA
Seattle Home Inspector

Michael---most people think so:)

Jay, how about bondage?


Vince, this is getting more and more common as the old galvy water supplies get replaced

Jan 17, 2010 04:38 AM
Reuben Saltzman
Structure Tech Home Inspections - Minneapolis, MN
Delivering the Unbiased Truth.

Good stuff Charles. Today I wrote a rough draft of a blog about Minneapolis's requirement for a jumper at the water meter.  I'll be sure to include a link to this blog on the final draft (I'll post it on 1/26).

Jan 17, 2010 12:58 PM
Charles Buell
Charles Buell Inspections Inc. - Seattle, WA
Seattle Home Inspector

Reuben, thanks----I will watch for it. (Thanks for subscribing by the way:)

Jan 17, 2010 01:46 PM
Diane Williams
Pell City, AL

Charles this is very interesting.  Makes you want to make sure who is doing the work at our homes.

Jan 23, 2010 01:51 AM
Charles Buell
Charles Buell Inspections Inc. - Seattle, WA
Seattle Home Inspector

Diane, thanks---this particular defect is difficult because even licensed plumbers will do it not being aware of how they are compromising the electrical system.

Jan 23, 2010 01:54 AM
Robert L. Brown - Grand Rapids, MI
Grand Rapids Real Estate Bellabay Realty, West Mic

Didn't know this would be a problem. There agin i'm a realtor and not an inspector. Leave the professional to do what they do best. Nuff said!!

Jan 23, 2010 03:14 AM