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How to Identify Polybutylene Pipes, Lawsuits, & Replacement

Derek Hales

Written By: Derek Hales

Updated on:

Buying a home can be overwhelming as it’s an intense, multi-step process to undertake. Once you find the home and have a contract accepted, an inspector is called out to assess the home’s condition (depending on contract and financing terms).

The inspector will look at various parts of the home and determine their condition and the potential need for replacement prior to finalizing the contract and going to closing.

Once they give their final recommendation, negotiations and additional work may be needed. Then, it’s time to close and the new owners are handed the keys to start their journey in their new (to them) home.

When it comes to the plumbing system for the home, all might look well and fine. But as many as 10 million homeowners in the United States have found, looks can be deceiving. 

This guide will provide information on:

Notice – The contents on this page are not legal advice. I am not a lawyer. I am not your lawyer.

What are Polybutylene Pipes?

Polybutylene, or PB-1, is a type of plastic resin that was used extensively in the late 1970s to mid 1990s to make water supply pipes. You may also hear or read polybutylene called “PB” or by the brand name “Quest” or “Qest.” 

It was highly marketed as a low cost, easy to use option for plumbing systems in new home construction from 1978 to 1995. Polybutylene pipes were mainly used in the following regions:

  • Mid Atlantic
  • South “Sun Belt”
  • Pacific Northwest
Pacific Northwest

Polybutylene pipes are flexible and able to maneuver in and around new build construction, so they were easy to integrate for plumbers. They are also resistant to freezing, which is why it was popular in the Mid Atlantic region as well as the warmer areas.

Additional information:

Why Does it Matter?

One of the reasons that polybutylene pipes were so popular and in high demand was because of its longevity. It was a cheaper alternative to copper, which was popular in the 1970s and 1980s. Properly installed, it was meant to last as long as copper.

When polybutylene pipes were first being installed, they were done with a crimping tool to secure pipes and fittings. A few years later, copper fittings were being used to attach polybutylene pipes in the plumbing system. This is mainly due to not crimping properly and causing leaks, either from being too loose or too tight.

There are several factors that can cause leaks or bursts in polybutylene pipes:

  • Age of the pipes
  • Improperly installed
  • Chlorine degradation from municipal water treatment (the most common cause)

Municipal water treatment is considered the main cause and the pipes typically fail closest to the water main where it’s closest to the water source. The interior of the pipe shrinks, causing stress on the exterior and creating small leaks that get weaker over time.

Polybutylene pipe lawsuits
In the 1990s lawsuits ended the use of PB pipes

This became so common, a class-action lawsuit was filed in the 1990s, ultimately halting the use of polybutylene pipes.

Polybutylene Pipe Lawsuits

In 1995, a class-action lawsuit was filed in Tennessee over faulty polybutylene plastic piping.

Cox vs. Shell Oil Co.

The lawsuit, Cox vs. Shell Oil Co., was won and settled for $950 million, allowing affected homeowners the chance to get their pipes replaced for free.

Shell Oil Company
Shell Oil Co. settled two major class action PB lawsuits

Many people would notice a leak and have it repaired, only to find another leak shortly thereafter. So many people complained, that there were enough claims for the class-action to be filed. 

Spencer vs. Shell Oil Co.

There was also another lawsuit filed around the same time, Spencer vs. Shell Oil Co., where $120 million was provided for affected homeowners. In this lawsuit, any homeowner with Poly-B pipe and acetal fittings were eligible even if there was no leak. The lawsuit was settled with DuPont, who made the fittings and not the pipes.

Poly B lawsuit settlements
Between the two major class action lawsuits Shell paid out over $1 billion in settlement costs to home owners

Unfortunately, both settlements have long since expired and affected homeowners are no longer eligible to claim damages or loss. Websites for both settlement funds have been deactivated.

Most homeowners started to notice problems within 10-15 years of their polybutylene pipes being installed. However, some would take even longer, spurring a new class-action lawsuit to be filed in November 2017. 

Hurt vs. Shell Oil Co.

Hurt vs. Shell Oil Co. was filed in Arkansas, specifically excluding parties from the first lawsuit. Unfortunately for the new lawsuit homeowners, the case was thrown out with prejudice, so it cannot be refiled.

Buying a House with Polybutylene Pipes

When purchasing a home that was built between 1978 and 1995, pay special attention to the plumbing system. Disclosures from the previous homeowner or realtor are not required when it comes to polybutylene pipes.

If a house is fitted with PB pipes, an inspector can do a thorough inspection and visually, the pipes could pass. Pressure tests are not recommended and inspectors are not even required to note or mention the material used in the plumbing system in some states

Home Inspection

What’s worse, there could be microscopic leaks or tears inside the flexible polybutylene pipes, which could burst or leak at any time. And leaking pipes can go unchecked for a while if they are hidden behind sheetrock and/or furniture.

A sudden burst might be found quickly, but can still do extensive damage to a home, causing tens of thousands of dollars in repairs.

Even if the home was not built during these years, there is still a chance that it contains polybutylene pipes. This type of piping is no longer sold in the United States but is still being used in other countries, mainly Europe and Asia.

Not sure what to look for? The next section discusses ways to identify polybutylene in plumbing systems.

How to Identify Polybutylene Pipes

As stated above, polybutylene pipes are flexible, plastic resin pipes that could have been used on the interior or exterior of the home.

Here are the characteristics of polybutylene pipes:

  • Usually has a stamp reading “PB2110”
  • The most popular color is gray, but can also be found in silver, blue, white, and black
  • One half to one inch in diameter
  • Will be used only for water, not waste, vent, or drain piping

Places to look for PB pipes on the interior of the home:

  • Protruding from sinks or toilets into the walls
  • In the ceilings of unfinished basements
  • By the water heater
  • In the washing machine utility box

Places to look for polybutylene pipes on the exterior of the home:

  • At the water meter
  • Main water shut-off valve (in the basement or lowest level of the home)

Polybutylene is sometimes confused with PEX tubing. PEX is usually used in radiant heating systems and is either white, blue, or red. The colors are noticeably brighter than PB and the tubes are much more flexible and able to coil.

The Cost to Replace Polybutylene Pipes

If the home you are living in or looking to purchase has polybutylene pipes, it’s recommended that the entire plumbing system be replaced immediately. As stated above, a leak can happen at any time and without warning.

Costs to replace a polybutylene plumbing system varies.

Things to consider:

  • How much needs to be replaced
  • Is it interior and exterior or just interior
  • What type of material will be replacing the polybutylene

The average cost to replace polybutylene with PEX or PVC plastic can cost up to $10,000. If copper piping is used, then the cost could be higher, as much as $15,000 or more. 

Copper pipes / plumbing
Copper plumbing

Contractors will also have to cut holes in the walls of the home to access the piping and switch it out. Call around for a few quotes as the same contractor should be able to do the entire job. 

If damage has been caused by leaking pipes, stop all work and make sure all materials are saved and not discarded. Call your homeowner’s insurance company to file a claim for any damage. They likely won’t cover the cost of the plumbing system replacement, but insurance policy coverage varies.


Polybutylene pipes were used extensively in new home construction during the 1970s until the 1990s. Though not banned, polybutylene pipes are no longer sold in the United States market.

Most homes built after 1995 should not have polybutylene pipes, but there may still have been piping available and some plumbers may have still been using them. 

Municipal water treatment was found to be the number one cause of polybutylene pipe failure, and homeowners involved in one of two class-action lawsuits were awarded money to replace their plumbing for free. Another lawsuit was filed in 2017 for newly affected homeowners, but the case was closed without a settlement.

If you are looking to purchase a home, look out for the signs of polybutylene piping as inspectors and realtors may not be required to disclose. If you think your home may have polybutylene pipes, have a plumber and/or contractor come out to inspect your home.

While the cost may be expensive to some for pipe replacement, it can be much more costly if damages are incurred. Even if the homeowner’s insurance covers the lose, you may still be on the hook for:

  • Deductibles
  • Plumbing system replacement
  • Higher future premiums

Additional Resources:

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About Derek Hales

Derek HalesDerek Hales is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of He has been featured in Fast Company, Reader's Digest, Business Insider,, She Knows, and other major publications. Derek has a Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration from Kansas State University. Hales has been testing and reviewing products for the home since 2014.

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84 Comments on “How to Identify Polybutylene Pipes, Lawsuits, & Replacement”

  1. I just heard about the poly pipe lawsuit.

    I’m repiping right now cause insurance cimpany won’t accept poly pipes…any recourse for replacement cost

  2. Hello,
    We bought our new construction townhome in June 1994. It is located in Silver Spring, Maryland 20906.
    We just had a water heater replaced and the plumber noticed the water intake from the city outside that comes into the basement in the utility room is blue which I suspect is the pipe material of this article refers.

    What recourse do we have since it is currently not leaking but it is 28 years old? The rest of our plumbing is copper or PVC drain or cast iron drainage.

    Who is responsible for paying for replacement? It could mean digging up the driveway etc.

    We have insurage that covers street to house water and sewer, but they usually don’t pay out until it leaks.

    What would you do?


    • Most likely you have very little recourse at this stage.

      However, a quick conversation with a lawyer would be worthwhile to discuss your options.

  3. Double wide was setup around 1975.
    We bought place in 1991.
    Has black water lines, which I have fixed some broken lines over the years-not had any issues with lines past few years.
    But sounds like could be anytime-?

    But for a while now, been noticing some black residue getting in screen of bathroom sink.
    I’m guessing this is from the whatever black lines that haven’t been replaced-(?)
    But my main question is- can this be harmful to people and or long time issues?
    No residue that I can see from kitchen sink (where we still use for drinking/ice)
    Have not found any information so far.
    Any info, thoughts, or direction would be appreciated!
    Thank you for your time.

    • This is really a question for a local plumber. And perhaps a laboratory water quality test. SimpleLab is a great home lab testing kit –

      Any answer for me or anyone other than the above would just be guessing.

  4. i have the grey pipeing in my home and it keeps breaking and we have to fix how do i get shell to replace all the pipes in the house? I was not told when we bought the house that the pipe is bad

  5. Do homeowners have any chance of recouping funds to replace these pipes because I bought a mobile home in about 2008-2010 and after living it a while I found this was used extensively in our home.

  6. A polybutylene line was nicked during an installation of a tv mount in the den of my home. Even though there does not appear to be any leaks at this time, I fear this act may have weakened the line. I had a plumber to assess the damage and give me an estimate for repair. The plumber is proposing to cut out 12 inch polybutylene and replace with new pex pipe. Does this appear to be an acceptable fix?

  7. I just bought the house in May 2022
    Address 8561 sw Charlotte drive
    Beaverton Oregon 97007
    Last week I had a plumber to release connection under the kitchen sink to allow the contractor to install kitchen counter top with the new sink that day I found out from the plumber I have the kind pipe you mentioned polybutylene’s and advice us to replace all the pipes in the house
    What should I do to get into the law suit to replace my house pipes all over

    • You should contact a lawyer and see what your options are.

      I am not a lawyer. I am not your lawyer. And I cannot provide legal advice. This is not legal advice.

  8. If I bought a home with polybutlene pipes in 2021, is there still recourse for payment for replacement under the class action suits?

    • Doubtful, but that’s really more of a question for a qualified lawyer. I really cannot say for sure.

  9. Hello,

    Question on polybutylene tubing;

    New home installation in 1987.

    Builder and plumbing company stated that material used, polybutylene and the metal (copper)compression fittings were not on the list for the class action that was initiated at that time. 35 years now with no issues.

    We’re the failures associated with specific lots or manufacturing dates for the tubing? If so, how can I verify this? Specific markings perhaps?

    After all this time with no issues or claims, my insurance company is going to cancel my coverage! Help!

    Many thanks!

  10. My house was built in 1972. My plumber wants to repipe my entire home because of what he says are polybutylene pipes. Was polybutylene in use in 1972? My homeowners insurance will be canceled if these are polybutylene and not replaced.

  11. March 8, 2022 I awoke to a pool of water in both my laundry room and garage, from a leak in my attic. I immediately called a plumber, who identified the problem. The plumber then showed me a piece of the pipe, told me it was outlawed in the 90’s. my home along with the 10 other homes on this court, were built between 1989 to 1991. I’m at the point of a class action lawsuit, because I’m now having to spend money that I now unfortunately did not expect to spend. I have this polybutylene pipes through my entire attic.

  12. Yes I live in a 92 manufacture home and it has the polybutylene pipe in it and I was wondering where can I get help to replace it before the worst happens I lived here for 8 years and when I first moved in I had to fix a couple of lines already if anyone can give me a number I can call I will be happy

  13. I have a home with the polybutylene pipes. I purchased in 2005, never knew of the situation and now even though I have had insurance, cannot get it anymore due to age.

    I’m unable to afford to re plumb.Any other funds or resource information is greatly appreciated

  14. I have a Sears refrigerator, purchased in 2007. Recently the waterline providing water for the ice maker and water dispenser sprung a leak where the 1/4″ tubing connected to the shutoff valve. I fixed that but unbeknownst to me there was a 2nd pinhole leak in the tubing which has resulted in significant damage. The tubing is grey with no markings. The pinhole leak was in a place where there’s no explanation for why the leak occurred.
    Did they use PB in refrigerator waterline? There is no reason for either of the leaks to have occurred and to happen simultaneously is odd..

  15. I live in ohio and have experience a pipe leak first in May of this year , and now this month. Very costly to fix both repairs , and was told that the entire piping outside from my home to the meter at the street needs replaced. Quoted over 8,000. Is there any lawsuits open in ohio for this?

  16. Who can I contact about the issue of my water pipes? I bought our house 4 years ago and didn’t know about the class action law suite. My house was built in 1955 however, at some point my house has been re plumb using that pipe and has to change several pipes because of that issue.

  17. Our home was built in 1988. We purchased it in December 1995 and there was no mention of Quest pipe nor did we inquire about it as we were not aware of the situation with said pipe. We are having our surge tank replaced–we have a well–and the plumber has informed us that we have quest pipe throughout for our plumbing. He quoted a price of over $8000.00 to replace it all and suggested we do so due to some indicators that the pipe appears to be failing in places. Is there any monies left–class action suit related–to help us with this situation? We are retired and do not have this kind of money to put out for such a repair. We live in Powhatan, Va., which is approximately 25miles SW of Richmond, Va. Thank you, in advance, for your time and effort in addressing this issue for us.

    • Unfortunately, I don’t know anything about the state of the settlement funds.

      I would suggest you reach out to lawyer to discuss your options. Just 30 minutes of their time should be enough to give you an idea of what you can do.

    • Unfortunately, I am unsure. That’s a question for either the manufacturer, plumber, or perhaps a general contractor.

  18. As a renter should this be disclosed in a lease, especially if the property demands that you must obtain renters insurance? If the tenant has no idea until more than one major water leak happens, then who shares the responsibility of this? If a buyer doesn’t have to be informed then what about the tenants that pay high prices for apartments? Sweep it under the rug and say oh well. I heard of insurance policies not even covering polybutylene pipes. Non disclosure my ass.

    • That really is a question for a lawyer. Unfortunately, I’m not sure. I do see what you’re saying though. That is indeed quite a bit more risk to a major leak.

  19. I was told I have poly piping in my home that is showing signs of leaking. What recourse do I have as I don’t have that kind of money to hire someone to replace all of the plumbing. SS doesn’t pay me that much. Thanks for any info you can give me.

    • You probably want to discuss with a lawyer. You may have legal recourse and/or you may have recourse with your home owner’s insurance.

      In either case, we are not lawyers and cannot provide legal advice. This comment is not legal advice.

    • You could try your home owner’s insurance. Beyond that, you would likely need to file a law suit.

  20. Bought a stick built home in NC in 2012. Been in the house almost 9 years. It has Polybutylene pipes. House was built in 1995. I have had 4 leaks so far and I’m looking for any type of lawsuits or anything to help with cost of repairs. I’m gonna have to switch everything over to PEX.

    • My name is Sharon and I’ve had 2 bad leakes in the attic. I was told about the class action law suit in Port St Lucie Florida, can I still get in touch with that law office to help me fix my pipes please email me any information you have about this in Florida email

  21. I purchased my manufactured house used in 2001, it’s a Champion was told top of the line, I was young and got it cheap enough. Yes it does have poly supply lines w/copper fittings and crip rings. Going on 20yrs. now and not a single drop of water from where its NOT supposed to come from, knock on wood, Is this simply luck, copper fittings, well water supply, or all the forementioned? I have had good luck replacing parents house’s galvanized piping with PEX-A ,expandable pex, Propex, Uponor, so many names, what is great about it…everything..NO crimp rings to leak, low cost fittings, cheap milwaukee expanding tool, ability to create a manifold system cheap w/valves. If my system ever starts to leak, I plan to use Pex-A , route new lines along ceiling edge, cover w/ crown molding, i wont have to open floor up in every room to access old lines, I can run lines down wall cavitys to fixtures. Great read , Champion is NOT Cadillac of mobile homes, no such thing, but it does have wheels under it

    • You’re very welcome!

      And of course. We really appreciate the share. It helps more people find Modern Castle 🙂

    • Never got any money from class action lawsuit on grey pipe in mobile home. Still go mobile home and still repairing grey pipe. I’m not a well off Vet. Now just an old man tired of this pipe. Another leak today

  22. Does anyone know of any open class action lawsuits in PA regarding these Polybutylene pipes? Does it have to be by state?

  23. I just moved into a community and found out all neighbors had this piping they all got theirs fixed but do not know If my townhome was fixed. All these folks have lived on this Cul-de-sac for over 20 years and the thought of not telling your neighbor makes me sick to my stomach. These townhomes were built in 1985. If Townhomes next door has defective pipes then whole complex has a problem. We have a main break in water line right out side my door

    • Probably worth getting a plumber to come out an take a look. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

      If those pipes break one day you’re going to be in for a huge bill.

  24. Our house was built in 1994, and just had the bluemax pipe leak/burst outside the house underground. Insurance does not cover the cost of repair/replacement. What a mess.

  25. Re: Polybutylene Plumbing Oversight

    I believe there may have been a major oversight regarding defective products which should be included in the polybutylene lawsuit. Specifically, Home Depot, Lowe’s, and other retailers sell angle stops and straight stops with polybutylene supply tubes attached. In addition, the tubes are sold without valve stops.

    This came to mind when a home which I bought last year that was built in 1995 sprang a leak this week in a polybutylene lavatory water supply tube.

  26. Bought mobile about 10 years ago have gray pipes and been have problems every since bought been had to fix water pipe now how another pipe buster

  27. I have a 1987 Cavco when I purchased it 3 years ago floors were solid now since there was a leak in the bathroom under the tub sunk my floor and seems like other spots are soft now too. Insurance would not pay for the fix even though it was a sudden occurrence I have to have my whole bathroom floor and shower rebuilt very hard for someone living on SS I really think Shell needs to take ownership and pay us to get pipes fixed

  28. My house is a 1995 Oakwood mobil home and i have Polybutylene pipes its leaks so bad there a big bag of water under the black netting cover my kitchen and hallway has floor damaged

  29. I bought my home in 2016 and now i am getting leaks in the wall between my two bathrooms and the vanity’s are showing black at the bottom and at the walls. These homes were built in 2002 in Hemet, California. I live in a 55+ and all the homes are the same. I called AAA today, but it doesn’t sound like they will pay to get it fixed. Do i have any recourse. Thank you.

    • Unfortunately, I’m not sure. If your home owner’s insurance won’t cover it you are probably out of luck.

      You could try consulting with a lawyer to see if they can work on your behalf to force your insurance company to cover it. That would the next step I would take.

  30. I too just purchased a 1995 home in Tucsan, AZ. House closed May 2020. June a leak was found at my water main pipe on accident. American Leak detection was looking at a potential water in wall issue from a window. The inspector was teaching someone so he used my house as an educational opportunity for his trainee. I was blessed. I immediately had Dustin Weber fix the leak. Actually. It was easier to replace the entire line as the original “blue pex pipe was deep like the plumbing to dig. AZ code is 12” to lay this pipe….my dog was 14”. This information like other info was not disclosed at time of sell. The past Class Action suits should have looked in records to determine ALL properties the were provide this inferior product. I pray I don’t have to spend one more dime to fix something. I’m already over 5K and headed to 15k. Keep me posted. I do have Pre-Legal and kept a chunk of the pipe taken out of the ground with other pictures.

    • Yikes…I’m sorry to hear about your experience, Celeste. That sounds like a nightmare.

      Plumbing problems can quickly balloon costs out of control. Hopefully you’re near the end.

  31. I think that my home- built 20 years ago- was built with polybutylene pipes and a plumber confirmed this. We have had five leaks in a hot water pipe, and finally replaced all pipes in the home. My neighbors have all had leaks, as well. Any advice on how to start a class action lawsuit? Thanks

    • Unfortunately, we are not lawyers and cannot provide legal advice. If you think you have a legal claim you should reach out to a lawyer.

      Usually you can get a free consult with them to at least see if you have a valid claim to go after.

  32. The Plastics Pipe Institute (PPI), where I work, recently updated its document PPI TN-31 “Differences Between Crosslinked Polyethylene (PEX) and Polybutylene (PB) Piping Systems for Potable Water Plumbing Applications”, which includes good information about PB systems and how they failed, and that PB continues to be a viable plastic pipe material in other parts of the world. Much of the PB tubing that was installed in plumbing systems across North America will deliver a service life of 25 years or more, whereas the polyacetal fittings were susceptible to chlorine degradation. To access, just google “PPI TN-31”.