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Polybutylene - 20 Years Later

Polybutylene - 20 Years Later

Polybutylene or “poly” for short was a plastic resin used in domestic water pipes and fittings between 1978-1995.  This gray plastic pipe was installed in up to 10 million garden style apartments, condominiums and single-family homes throughout North America.  

Unfortunately, common municipal water additives like chlorine attack poly pipes and fittings, leading to stress fractures and catastrophic failure, suddenly and without warning. In 1995, polybutylene manufacturers paid out a billion dollar settlement, but the timeline for making a claim has expired. For owners and property managers, only a small percentage of polybutylene properties were repiped during the settlement period, leaving millions of feet of defective piping unaddressed.  As a result, the prevalence of poly is still considerably high across the country.

The longer polybutylene is in use, the greater the risk of serious complications.  Left unaddressed, polybutylene cracks can result in severe property damage from flooding, mold infestation from undetected leaks, higher insurance premiums or even cancelled coverage, and not to mention – unhappy residents.

In recent years, the presence of polybutylene has impacted real estate transactions, both from the buyer side (unable to secure financing or insurance) and the seller side (decreased valuation and increased risk).  Currently, if you buy, sell or refinance a property, most insurers require polybutylene pipe replacement as a condition of the transaction.

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