Plumbers give tips on handling polybutylene
After her 1984 duplex flooded, Kim MacLennan of Orlando decided to stop repairing her leaks at $150 to $200 per job and install plastic piping called chlorinated polyvinyl chloride, or CPVC. The three-day job cost about $4,900, she says.
Plumbers recommend that homeowners compare the cost of replacement with repairs. For example, if a polybutylene leak happens at a home with a crawl space, 95 percent of the time the leak will happen under the home and not damage the actual home, so a simple repair rather than a full replacement might be more practical.
However, it’s a different story if a home built on a concrete slab gets a leak under the slab. “Polybutylene under a slab is going to fail sooner or later,” says Louis Puglisi, owner of Servant Plumbing in Mt. Pleasant, S.C. “Replace it because it’s too costly to repair.”
When ARS of San Diego makes polybutylene pipe repairs for homeowners, plumbing manager Nick Gagnon says the company always offers free estimates to replace the piping, understanding that some people need to save for such an expensive project. The cost can range from $6,800 to $7,500 for a two-bathroom home to close to $10,000 for a three-bathroom house, he says. That includes not only the plumbing work but also painting and drywall.
In Indianapolis, a replumb cost can range from $3,000 to $4,000, Doug Scaggs of B & W Plumbing & Heating says, and the work can take a few days depending on the number of bathrooms in the home. There’s usually no polybutylene in yard service lines in his area, he says.
By law, Maryland homeowners must replace their service lines if they leak, according to Ernie Taylor. Taylor owns Cobra Plumbing Services in Abingdon and says the full-day project cost to replace the yard line is, on average, about $2,200.
Signs that a yard line needs to be replaced are a wet front yard that refuses to dry out, a high water bill or a sump pump running all the time, Taylor adds.
Angie’s List member Brian Whitmer says he first noticed a puddle on a sidewalk beside his 1984 Silver Spring, Md., home even though there hadn’t been rain for days. He’d always wondered why that section of sidewalk was sunken until he learned about an underground polybutylene pipe leak. A repipe in October 2007 cost him $2,800, he says.
He’d experienced the exact same problem 15 years prior at a townhouse a few blocks away. At that time, he recouped $500 from the class action lawsuit, but the total cost of that replumb job was about $1,500. His current home does not qualify for any restitution because his polybutylene lasted more than 20 years before bursting — and happened after the 2005 yard service line leak deadline.