Poly what a lien?
My home inspector found polybutylene (poly BUTE a leen). Should I be worried?
Polybutylene pipes were common from 1978 to 1995 in the Sun Belt, Mid-Atlantic and Pacific Northwest. They were first installed as they were less expensive than the traditional copper pipes. Polybutylene is a kind of plastic used for water lines, but the problem lies with the fact that chlorine in the water tends to make the pipes deteriorate to the point where they start leaking, causing catastrophic results in a house. Often the only polybutylene pipe is from the main to the street where the city hookup is. Rarely, an entire home has the polybutylene pipes.
How would I know if I had them? A good home inspector should be able to find it, and let you know. There are telltale signs, the color of the pipe is usually blue, though sometimes grey or black. Often you will only see a sliver of the blue (see photo below), as they are where the water main is connected to the source .
Does it need to be replaced? Yes. It isn’t a matter of IF the polybutylene will fail, but WHEN.
Is it dependent on how good the installation was? No.
Most homeowners insurance won’t cover you if they know you have polybutylene.
Can I ask the seller to replace this as part of my request for repairs? What if he says it’s working fine now and he won’t? Hopefully your buyers agent is tough and can negotiate well on your behalf. I have run into this 4 times in the past few years and was successful every time in getting the seller to replace the polybutylene.
I love it when the seller says “my neighbors don’t have polybutylene”, even when it is a development that was build at the same time. My reply is “I bet they do!”.
Is the fix difficult? No. You use to have to dig a trench in your yard to replace the pipe, but recently the fix has been simplified by threading a new pipe over the old one and pulling the polybutylene pipe out. The cost can range from around $3000 to $6000 depending on how far it is to the street.
Before you hire a plumber to do this work, ask if they have done it before. Better to find a plumber who has experience doing this type of work rather than it being their first one.