Bad inspection results?

Why are polybutylene pipes such a problem and what can you do about it?

 

It was supposed to be a routine 4-point inspection, but you’re faced with some bad news. Your insurance carrier won’t issue you a policy—all because of your home plumbing system.

If this has happened to you, you already know what’s to blame: polybutylene pipes. But why is this material so controversial and—most importantly—what can you do about it?

The Problem With Polybutylene Plumbing

Back in the 1970’s, polybutylene (or PB) pipes were considered the “pipe of the future”. Made from a plastic resin that was flexible, affordable, freeze-resistant, and easy to install, PB plumbing was used in roughly 1 in every 5 homes throughout the United States between 1978 and 1995.

So what went wrong?

plastic pipe under sink leaking

The presence of certain chemicals—such as chlorine—in the water supply causes polybutylene to become brittle. Suddenly, the flexibility that made PB pipes such a great option were now causing leaks 10-15 years after installation.

While the manufacturers never admitted to product weakness, they did settle for $950 million in a class action lawsuit in 1995 (Cox vs. Shell Oil Co.) This put an end to the use of polybutylene piping in homes.

Unfortunately, this ruling did nothing to remove the material from homes, and major plumbing leaks (not to mention expensive water damage) continued. As a result, many insurance companies will refuse to insure homes with polybutylene plumbing.

 

“But My Polybutylene Pipes Have Never Leaked!”

That may be true, but in the eyes of the insurance company, it’s not a matter of if you will experience a leak, but when.

After paying out millions of dollars to cover property damage throughout the 1980’s, most insurance carriers are no longer willing to take on that level of risk. If a certain piping material fails in 80% of homes, that’s the number they pay attention to.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that your PB pipes are guaranteed to fail. In fact, most people don’t even know they have polybutylene plumbing until they get an inspection.

Yet once your home plumbing system has been discovered, you will have to play by the rules in order to get good insurance coverage.

closeup of plumber's hands assembling pipes

“What Are My Options?”

If an inspection identifies polybutylene piping, there are a few things you can do.

Your first option is the one the insurance company will recommend: a polybutylene pipe replacement by a licensed plumber. Replacing your polybutylene pipes with copper, PVC, or PEX pipes is the best way to safeguard against leaks and water damage.

Your second option is to find another insurance carrier.

Each insurance company uses a different set of data. Company A may find one feature uninsurable, while Company B does not.

Ultimately, most experts recommend re-plumbing your home, not just to prevent leaks, but to improve your resale value.

 

Looking For Great Coverage?

Polybutylene plumbing may cause a significant hiccup in your homeownership journey, but it doesn’t have to spell disaster.

If you’ve recently discovered that you have polybutylene pipes, re-plumbing your home and/or finding a new insurance carrier can help set you on the right track.

And the best way to find an insurance company that’s right for you? Working with an independent insurance agent. Because they are not tied to a specific carrier, independent agents are able to shop the market to find a policy that fits your exact needs.

At Harry Levine Insurance, we’ve been one of Orlando’s top independent insurance agencies for more than 30 years, and we pride ourselves on guiding our clients to the carriers and policies that minimize risk.

While we recommend replacing polybutylene pipes, we also have relationships with plenty of great insurance companies who are happy to issue you a policy. Call today or visit our website for a free quote.
Save

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *