Utah 4-Plex, inspector says polybutylene plumbing is a nightmare

7 Replies

We are under contract to purchase a 4-Plex in Utah.  I set up an appointment with an inspector and told him the structure was built in 1996.  He told me that it probably has polybutylene plumbing and per his opinion, this type of plumbing is a "nightmare" waiting to happen.  He said some investors won't even purchase a property with polybutylene.  I mentioned what he said to the owner and the owner said there has never been an issue, etc.   I'm curious what kind of experience other investors have had with this type of plumbing?  

I don’t know much about it but have heard negatives. I found this site after reading your post because I wanted to know more. Hopefully this can at least give you some insight. http://www.polybutylene.com/realtor.html

You might want to take everything that an inspector says with a little grain of salt.
I’ve had plenty of this stuff in my deals. Of course I’ve had problems with the stuff, but no more or less than pex, cast, or copper.

Home inspectors must have terrible sleep habits. Everything is a nightmare to them.

If you shy away from every deal that comes back with a couple things on an inspection you’ll probably never end up closing a deal.

Blair Poelman, Broker in Utah (#9299425)

apologies, I just re-read my comment above and i'm afraid it sounds a little bit curt.  

My point is - you pay an inspector to tell what's the bad, what's the ugly, and what's the good - but mostly the bad.  

In my experience, an inspector doesn't pay much attention to the good because that stuff has less of a chance to become an issue - and usually good is super obvious.  They mention the ugly because, well, it's ugly but also usually obvious but not necessarily bad, and they focus primarily on the BAD because that's the stuff they want you to pay attention too and those items are more likely to become problems, and they really want you to understand what you're getting in to.  They could also carry some liability if they fail to point out some of the bad which then turns into problems later on - and just like the rest of us, they're playing the CYA game too.

Sorry again - I'm really not trying to bag on home inspectors.

Blair Poelman, Broker in Utah (#9299425)

My current home has plenty of it, we'll be replacing it with pex soon. It isn't great and builders stopped using it sometime in the mid/late 90s. The chlorine in water supplies weakens it and makes it prone to cracking. There was a large lawsuit at some point (google it). I don't think it meets building codes any more. From experience: if it hasn't yet started springing leaks, it will.

This stuff works but can fail at anytime. I have seen it in some houses and has lasted for 25 years. Its a gamble but most things in homes are. 

Eric Gardiner, Real Estate Agent in UT (#10168425-SA00)

I had a older manufactured home with some polybutylene  and ended up needing to replace with pex for some of the connections. Repair options for poly are limited, but it should work fine until........it doesn't. Pex is better. I would replace the poly as you can afford to. For most of it a plumber is not even needed.  Pex is very user friendly.

I'm a home inspector and an investor. I can tell you that PB can actually be a nightmare and has been for many people in the past, which is why builders don't use it any longer. I can also tell you that many home inspectors make things way worse than what they are, because of the liability or the fact that they don't actually do their homework. Home inspections are meant to inform the buyer, not scare them. The inspection should give them leverage to re-negotiate and get a better deal if need be, or simply walk away if it's too much for that client.  Home inspections came about as a consumer protection method, and we are supposed to be objective and informative. PB was used for decades because of the cost, and like with many things, you pay for what you get. PB has been found to have its structural integrity reduced compared to other materials because of the way many chemicals in public water supplies react to it, breaking it down and causing small cracks over a long period of time. This means that at any given time, pipes can fail and sometimes several can all at the same time which is where this inspector was probably getting at. It's pretty tough to tell exactly when a failing pipe will happen with PB. If it were me, I would just budget to replace them eventually with PEX. Try to get yourself a better deal because of it though. 

Just my two cents...

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