Author Topic: Repiping and Polybutylene  (Read 5405 times)

blackfedora

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Repiping and Polybutylene
« on: February 10, 2015, 11:43:20 AM »
Hey guys, sorry if this has already been asked, but I didn't see a lot of results for Polybutylene using the search function.

So today I had a plumber come out to make repairs on the main drain line (darn tree roots). While he was here he offered to take a look at the water heater as well, because his company was running a special on water heater maintenance/replacement. When he got the water heater he immediately stopped and said "ouch, you've got Poly". Then he went into a pitch about repiping the house now before it fails. His company would charge $4-5 thousand for the repiping, so he's hardly an unbiased resource.

Looking online it seems that these Polybutylene pipes are a pretty big problem, so I don't think my plumber was being dishonest. However, isn't this kind of what home insurance is for? I mean, sure, if I wasn't a mustcian with the resources to deal with random expenses like a water leak-- I would understand replacing working pipes. But I have a large emergency fund for this sort of thing.

Am I insane, or does "if it ain't broke..." apply here?

Bobberth

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Re: Repiping and Polybutylene
« Reply #1 on: February 10, 2015, 01:23:47 PM »
I can't speak to polybutylene directly, but most of the rentals I buy are missing their copper water pipes (much cheaper that way) and I replace them with Pex.  You're looking at maybe $250-$300 of supplies and parts (assuming you would need all new shut offs etc) plus $80-$100 for tools if you can't rent or borrow (my local HD rents them).  I can replace all the water lines in a single story with a basement in an afternoon with Pex.   Pex is easy-end up with a leak?  Crimp it again.  Problem solved. Copper will cost you more and takes more skill to solder but they do have the Shark Bite and other versions of the no solder connections but I try to use those as little as possible.  $4k-$5k seems a bit pricey to me unless you are talking about copper up multiple stories, pipes behind walls and replacing the main water line too.

RH

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Re: Repiping and Polybutylene
« Reply #2 on: February 10, 2015, 01:55:06 PM »
We had our house repiped with PEX. One bathroom, kitchen, laundry, sink in laundry room,  2 outside spigots, water line for fridge, It was $3,500. Peace of mind for me when on vacation/renting it out. We replaced old galvanized pipes.

MetalCap

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Re: Repiping and Polybutylene
« Reply #3 on: February 11, 2015, 05:55:01 AM »
I always worry when things happen to be on sale or special...  Usually that means unnecessary money out the window/down the drain/witty plumbing pun.

Pex is the way to go for most plumbing repairs but it can't be used within 18" of the water heater.  CPVC is another good alternative to copper and Poly but neither PEX or CPVC can be used within 18" of the water heater.  That needs to be metal pipe.

Poly does need to be changed but 4-5 k the plumber better repipe the whole house, make me a sandwich and rub my feet AT LEAST.

My suggestion is get a price for him to do the metal taps at the water heater and then PEX the rest of the house yourself.  It should be cheaper and easier for self repair.

Mr.Chipper77

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Re: Repiping and Polybutylene
« Reply #4 on: February 11, 2015, 01:36:29 PM »
^ what he said and Pex is the way to go!

Jack

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Re: Repiping and Polybutylene
« Reply #5 on: February 11, 2015, 01:41:07 PM »
Pex is easy-end up with a leak?  Crimp it again.  Problem solved. Copper will cost you more and takes more skill to solder but they do have the Shark Bite and other versions of the no solder connections but I try to use those as little as possible.

I have very little plumbing experience, but soldering was dead easy. I mean, really easy. IMO, drilling holes and routing the pipe, which you have to do equally for Pex, is the hardest part of plumbing, not the soldering. Also, I would be too worried about leaks to trust a sharkbite fitting.

If I were going to re-plumb a house I'd go for Pex because it's cheaper (particularly, cheap enough that it's practical to design the plumbing with "home runs" to centralize the shutoff valves), but I would not in any way be scared of soldered copper.

Mississippi Mudstache

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Re: Repiping and Polybutylene
« Reply #6 on: February 11, 2015, 01:57:21 PM »
Couple things to consider: do you have PB pipes and fittings, or just PB pipes? Because if you have PB pipes with copper fittings, your pipes are less likely to fail. Also, do you have a 1-story house with a basement or crawlspace? If so, leaks are less likely to cause significant trouble.

That aside, if you do choose to replace it, then unless you live in a French Chateau, the quote to replace the plumbing is outrageous. I completely replaced the plumbing supply in my last house (1600 sq. ft., crawlspace, one-story) with a manifold system for under $500. It took one Saturday.

blackfedora

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Re: Repiping and Polybutylene
« Reply #7 on: February 11, 2015, 03:18:57 PM »
Hey everyone, thanks for the replies. More details to consider:

  • I live in a 1 story house with a crawlspace.
  • I have PB pipes and PB fittings, all of which are ~20 years old at this point.
  • My water contains both chlorine dioxide and chloramines
  • None of the rooms adjacent to pipes have been renovated or invested in, so I really don't have much to lose in the event of a leak.

I consider myself pretty handy, and I'm not afraid of drywall (We removed popcorn ceiling and refinished the drywall underneath when we first bought the place). However, I am a little concerned with repiping myself because I've never done any in wall work like this. Up until now it's all been superficial stuff (replacing existing fixtures or lights, replacing carpet for hardwood, paintint, ect...). If I do this myself do I need to worry about insurance? The last thing I need is to go through all of this only for something to break and then my insurance won't cover me because I didn't go through a $4000 contractor.
« Last Edit: February 11, 2015, 03:20:49 PM by blackfedora »

MetalCap

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Re: Repiping and Polybutylene
« Reply #8 on: February 12, 2015, 05:42:29 AM »
BF,

When I redid my upstair bathroom, I hesitated on the plumbing for months, delaying the overall project.  Pex ended up taking me 3 hours to do and has held up perfectly over the past 5 years.  9/10 leaks in Pex are from poor installation BUT are also fixable with recrimping.  If you test before covering back up you should be fine.

The sharkbite fittings are the same way and are perfect for T-ing off of copper to transition to pex.  I suggest trying to replace a simple line first to get the hang of it.  The same day you do that, you;ll be running out to Home Depot to get materials for the rest of the house.

My problem with copper and soldering is, cost, tight spaces (I have a cape cod) means fire potential and copper crimping/bending failures.

Try it out!  I don't think insurance will have any worry with this unless you remove the structural beam or flood the entire house for a day or so.  If you make sure you have the water off and test frequently (do so with either material) and while you're at it install shutoff valves at each tap (costs $2 more and worth every penny)  It's really hard to mess something up that bad.

Jack

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Re: Repiping and Polybutylene
« Reply #9 on: February 12, 2015, 08:56:13 AM »
I don't think insurance will have any worry with this unless you remove the structural beam or flood the entire house for a day or so.

The insurance company would also want you to follow any rules your jurisdiction might have about getting permits.

Bobberth

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Re: Repiping and Polybutylene
« Reply #10 on: February 12, 2015, 10:17:04 AM »

My suggestion is get a price for him to do the metal taps at the water heater and then PEX the rest of the house yourself.  It should be cheaper and easier for self repair.

You can also buy the copper HWH connectors and then run PEX to the connector and attach.  No plumber needed at all.