Do I have Polybutylene Plumbing in My Home?

Polybutylene Plumbing – Be aware Home Owners and Home Buyers.

Polybutylene piping was a low-cost piping formed of plastic resin and is a very common negotiation strategy for home buyers looking for home in my part of Colorado.  It is commonly gray, white, blue, black and ivory  in color and is flexible as the photos show. Poly piping was used as a substitute for copper piping in both underground water mains and interior plumbing.  One of the easiest ways to identify this pipe is to locate the “PB” lettering on the printed label.  Because of the ease of installing poly piping, it was used in the construction of millions of homes throughout the U.S. between 1978 and 1995.  Not all polybutylene piping systems use polybutylene fittings; some use copper. Therefore, if you see copper fittings on a pipe, it does not mean that you do not have poly piping.  The following photos have been taken in my Home Inspections and are of Polybutylene piping.

Example of Polybutylene connection taken during home inspection in 80920 zip codePolybutylene in basement

Home Inspection Polybutylene discovered in basement during inspectionPolybutylene photo from home inspectionpolybutylene-piping example photos from inspection

It was discovered that as poly pipe ages and reacts with the oxidants in normal tapwater, it becomes brittle, sometimes scaling or flaking. This results in a fracturing of the interior surface of the pipe, which allows for more deterioration. Eventually the pipe will begin to leak, causing damage throughout a home. Poly pipe with plastic fittings or with metal fittings will eventually incur damage; poly piping is not a reliable piping under any circumstances. If a pipe has been leaking for some time without the knowledge of a homeowner, severe structural damage or Mold growth can result, making repairs extremely difficult.

Polybutylene piping was the subject of much attention because of the settlement of a multi-million dollar lawsuit.  Manufacturers of PB pipe have never admitted that it’s defective, but they have agreed to fund the class-action settlement.  Polybutylene pipe is no longer be manufactured and is no longer be available .   For more information visit The Polybutylene Pipe Settlement Fund     http://www.pbpipe.com/.      The Cox v. Shell settlement was one of the largest consumer settlements in United States history.

The only way to eliminate the possibility of problems that can come from deteriorating polybutylene piping is to replace the pipe itself.  Fortunately, this procedure is relatively inexpensive and can usually be performed by a certified plumber or  re-pipe specialist.
A reputable plumbing company can install water supply piping professionally, but can they do the whole job for a fair price and at the least inconvenience to me?   A few general plumbing companies will do the whole job by subcontracting the drywall and paint, but a re-pipe specialist is your best. They have the personnel to give you a quality job, and they will do it more efficiently, with less damage and inconvenience, and most importantly, for less cost.
In general, real estate agents tell us that homes with polybutylene piping sell for less and take longer to sell. Generally, a home inspector flags the problem, and the pipes are replaced before closing.  But we do not know how many prospective buyers simply ignore homes with poly because they recognize it as a potential problem from the start.
So if you discover your home has Polybutylene piping have it replaced, the possibility of a leak or rupture occurring will only increase with time. Make sure your home inspector is aware.  Contact me if you have any questions.

 

      Inspections Done Right

Instructions for Home Occupants Prior to Radon Test

Radon Testing Checklist

 Testing for radon is not complicated.  Improper testing may yield inaccurate results and require another test.  Disturbing or interfering with the test device, or with closed-house conditions, may invalidate the test results and is illegal in some states.  If the seller or qualified tester cannot confirm that all items have been completed, take another test.

Before Conducting a Radon Test

•    Notify the occupants of the importance of proper testing conditions. Give the occupants written instructions or a copy of this Guide and explain    the directions carefully.

•    Conduct the radon test for a minimum of 48 hours; some test devices have a minimum exposure time greater than 48 hours.

•    When doing a short-term test ranging from 2-4 days, it is important to maintain closed-house conditions for at least 12 hours before the beginning of the test and during the entire test period.

•    When doing a short-term test ranging from 4-7 days, EPA recommends that closed-house conditions be maintained

•    If you conduct the test yourself, use a qualified radon measurement device and follow the laboratory’s instructions.  Your state may be able to    provide you with a list of do-it-yourself test devices available from qualified laboratories.

•    If you hire someone to do the test, hire only a qualified individual.  Some states issue photo identification (ID) cards; ask to see it.  The tester’s ID number, if available, should be included or noted in the test

•    The test should include method(s) to prevent or detect interference with testing conditions or with the testing device itself.

•    If the house has an active radon-reduction system, make sure the vent fan is operating properly.  If the fan is not operating properly, have it (or ask to have it) repaired and then test.

During a Radon Test

Closed-house conditions means keeping all windows closed, keeping doors closed except for normal entry and exit, and not operating fans or other machines which bring in air from outside.  Fans that are part of a radon-reduction system or small exhaust fans operating for only short periods of time may run during the test.

•    Maintain closed-house conditions during he entire time of a short term test, especially for tests shorter than one week in length.

•    Operate the home’s heating and cooling systems normally during the test. For tests lasting less than one week, operate only air-conditioning units which recirculate interior air.

•    Do not disturb the test device at any time during the test.

•    If a radon-reduction system is in place, make sure the system is working properly and will be in operation during the entire radon test.

After a Radon Test

•    If an elevated level is found, fix the home. Contact a qualified radon-reduction contractor about lowering the radon level.  EPA recommends that you mitigate the home when the radon level is 4 pCi/L or more.

•    Be sure that you or the radon tester can demonstrate or provide information to ensure that the testing conditions were not violated during the testing period.

Leo     Inspections Done Right

TIME TO WINTERIZE

Living in Colorado Springs has some challenges when going about the annual duty of winterizing your home.  The following tips you will find helpful especially for this environment, some of these tips come from personal and sometimes expensive experiences.

Colorado Springs is a GREAT place to live and the winters are not as brutal as the North Eastern states, in fact we can have days in the 60’s in the middle of winter.  With that in mind please read carefully the tips I propose, they are laced with problems I have seen in my Home Inspections.

DOORS and WINDOWS

Check the weather striping on your doors and windows, bad gaskets or weather striping can let in cold air and also moisture.  On the exterior of doors and windows check the caulking around the trim and especially the tops.  In winter snow can set on top of the trim for extended periods of time, if the caulking is deteriorated moisture can be introduced into walls or deteriorate trim and siding.

exterior trim1exterior trim2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ROOF GUTTERS

Clean your roof gutters and down spouts of leaves and debris, clogged gutters can cause ice dams to form along roof edges and force moisture under roof shingles or behind facia and other trim.  This can lead to moisture inside the attic space or deteriorate trim which can be costly to repair.  Make sure down spouts drain roof water away from foundation and the ground itself is draining away from foundations, unlike the photo below.

clogged gutter1clogged gutter2foundation drainage2

 

 

 

 

 

 

SPRINKLER SYSTEM

You should drain or blow out your irrigation system (especially if it is PVC) after the growing season and hard frosts start to occur.  The bad part of frozen and broken pipes is they don’t appear until spring when you re-energize your system.  Poly piping is more flexible and forgiving but still should be blown out.  If you don’t have an air compressor and the knowledge call a professional, it can be cheaper in the long run.

YARD MAINTENANCE

Yard maintenance in Colorado Springs in winter can be challenging, the winter temperatures can vary from blizzard to spring conditions within a week.  In dryer winters you should water lawns and young trees a few times, or when spring arrives you find a lot of dead grass or trees.  With that in mind, when you do water make sure to disconnect your hoses from the hose bibs after use.  Hoses left connected can cause hose bibs to freeze and rupture, when thawing occurs and you hear water running inside your walls you will remember, I should have disconnected that hose.
Flower beds close to your house should be cleaned, lots of dead leaves is a great food source for mold which can lead to mold spores which can invade your home.

FIREPLACE

Fireplace chimneys should be cleaned every year to prevent build-up and chimney fires.  Make sure your damper is working freely, after you start a fire and the room fills with smoke is not the time to remember your damper.  Make sure your spark arrester is in good condition and vent cap is attached well.  Spark arresters are important especially in areas such as Colorado Springs due to the dead and often times dry foliage  in the winter time.  Brush fires are fairly common in winter in Colorado Springs and the surrounding area.

fireplace cap

FURNACE

Furnaces should also undergo an annual cleaning by a professional, this can prolong the life of a furnace and makes the furnace more cost effective to run.
Keep your furnace filter cleaned and make sure you have plenty on hand, they are inexpensive and can save money on your utility bills.  Make sure your venting is well attached to your furnace and water heater.  If blizzards occur check to make sure your roof vent is clear to prevent carbon monoxide from building up inside your house.  If you have an old thermostat consider changing to a programmable thermostat  the wiring is usually lo-voltage and color coded the same as your old thermostat and easy to install.

CARBON MONOXIDE & SMOKE DETECTORS

One issue i come across a lot during my home inspections which can be a show stopper when selling your house is the absence of Carbon Monoxide detectors.  Change the batteries in detectors and if you don’t have Carbon monoxide detectors consider replacing your old smoke detectors with the new combination smoke and carbon monoxide detector.  Many deaths have been attributed to Carbon Monoxide.  The new detectors are about $45.00, what is a life worth?

Sprinkler Systems and Wood Siding

Sprinkler systems are very convenient and the newer timers have many programing features and options.  What about the sprinklers in relation to your structures?

If your house or building structures are made of wood or wood products and the sprinklers are not correctly adjusted,  the siding can become saturated and lead to decay or even produce mold growth.  After all the main ingredient needed for mold to grow is water.  As part of the INTERNachi Standards of Practice  I  examine the siding or exterior wall coverings for water damage or intrusion in all my inspections.

Even with masonry or brick exterior walls with a good paint or sealer, over time miss-adjusted sprinklers can create an avenue for water intrusion into your home or building, which if nothing else can lead to a maintenance nightmare.

My recommendation is to check the coverage of your sprinkler heads once a month and adjust as necessary to prevent  a large repair bill.  A little maintenance now can save you $$.

The photos below show the results of prolonged exposure to miss-adjusted sprinkler heads. This siding will have to be replaced and repainted (it sure is easier to adjust heads).

Winter is fast approaching the Front Range of Colorado, make sure you have your system drained by a professional  or if you have an air compressor and the knowledge you can do it your self (MAKE SURE YOU KNOW HOW).

 

deteriorated sidingdeteriorated siding

Frost Proof Hose Bibs

 

I live in Colorado Springs and perform Home and Commercial inspections along the Front Range.  In one of my home inspections I walked into a basement bedroom and was struck by a particular odor. It was that musty moldy odor one dreads,  after further investigation I discovered a “frost proof” hose bib located in the ceiling along a back wall had not been so “frost proof”.  In the photo below the split that is visible is due to a failed valve.

Note the length of this valve which is 18” long, the actual shut off is at the back of the valve which leaves 18” of pipe without water in it which is sufficient for winter conditions.  This valve however had failed leaving water in the pipe and subject to freezing.

The owner had to remove the carpet, a section of drywall and insulation, mitigate the mold in the wall cavity and have these items replaced.

The question remains, is your “frost proof” hose bibs operating correctly?
One good check is to operate your hose bib, when shut off a small amount of water should drain out. This would be the water in the 18” of pipe, because remember the valve is in the back of the unit.  

Even in the middle of winter we can have 60 degree weather which is a good time to water trees or wash your vehicle, don’t forget to disconnect the hose from your hose bib or you will be inviting disaster.

I hope this helps to prevent a catastrophe around your home or business.

 

failed frost proof hose bib  close up of split from freezing

 

 

Your Defensible Space

Here in Colorado Springs and the Pikes Peak region  has been a beautiful and wet spring and summer.  The grass is tall and green and the wildflowers tall and beautiful. I hate to say it, but fall is on the way and with the changing of the season. All the tall green grass and wildflowers will soon be changing to a crisp brown, which makes a great fuel for the spread of wildfires.

The area around your home should be a defensible space or zone, which can be maintained to reduce the spread of wildfires not only to your home but your neighbors as well.  As a home inspector I look for these issues  so I can inform the home owners of the danger.

The sketches below are taken from the InterNachi website and shows specific areas and distances from your home and how to prepare your landscape whether native or domestic to prevent the spread of fire.

With your home in the center, your roof and gutters should be kept clean form dried leafs and pine needles, and the first fifteen feet from your house should be kept clear of flammable materials such as firewood and grasses. Zone 2 from 15 feet to 125 feet, large trees and shrubs should be at least 10' apart and tree limbs should be trimmed to a height of 10 feet. The ground should be cleared of dried leaves, pine needles branches or other flammable materials.  Zone 3 is less restrictive, but trees should be kept healthy.

Colorado Springs is a beautiful place to live, please help keep it that way.

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