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Calculate Average Cost to Replace Polybutylene Plumbing

Virginia Shelley
5 minute read

As a homeowner, few things strike more fear than the thought of costly plumbing repairs. If your home was built between the late 1970s and mid-1990s, there’s a chance it has polybutylene pipes – a type of flexible plastic plumbing that has become notorious for its high failure rate.

The good news is, that replacing these pipes doesn’t have to break the bank if you plan. In this comprehensive guide, I’ll walk you through everything you need to know about the average cost to replace polybutylene plumbing and what factors influence that price tag.

What Are Polybutylene Pipes and Why Replace Them?

Let’s start with the basics. Polybutylene pipes, often referred to as “Poly B” or “PB pipes,” were a popular choice for residential plumbing from the late 1970s through the mid-1990s. These flexible gray pipes were touted as an inexpensive and easy-to-install alternative to copper. However, it didn’t take long for major issues to surface.

Issues with Polybutylene Pipes

Polybutylene pipes have a nasty habit of breaking down when exposed to chlorinated water, which was (and still is) used by most municipal water suppliers. This breakdown causes the pipes to flake and allows chemical residue to contaminate your home’s water supply. Even more concerning, polybutylene pipes have an alarmingly high failure rate after just 10 to 15 years of use, often leading to catastrophic leaks and water damage.

Because of these serious drawbacks, polybutylene pipes are no longer approved for use in new construction and replacement parts are no longer manufactured. If your home still has these ticking time bombs running through the walls, it’s strongly advised to replace them as soon as possible.

Benefits of Replacing Polybutylene

Beyond eliminating the looming threat of leaks and water contamination, replacing polybutylene pipes offers several tangible benefits:

It’s an investment that pays off in the long run while providing priceless reassurance today. So what signs should you look for that indicate it’s time to take action?

Signs You Need to Replace Polybutylene Pipes

Usually, the first clue that polybutylene pipes are failing is visible evidence of leaks or moisture damage. However, there are some more subtle red flags to keep an eye out for:

If you notice any combination of these signs, it’s likely time to start budgeting for a repiping project sooner rather than later.

Replacement Pipe Options

Okay, so you’ve decided to bite the bullet and ditch those problematic polybutylene pipes once and for all. What material should you choose for the replacement pipes? The three most common options are:

PEX (Cross-linked Polyethylene)

PEX is my top recommendation for most homeowners. This flexible, color-coded plastic piping is extremely durable yet easy for plumbers to work with. On average, professional PEX installation runs about $0.90 per linear foot – very reasonable.

PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride)

PVC rigid plastic pipes offer a similarly affordable and reliable solution, with installed pricing comparable to PEX. These white pipes may be slightly less flexible but are still a quality, budget-friendly choice.

Copper Pipes

The gold standard for residential plumbing, copper pipes are ultra-durable and largely immune to corrosion or contamination issues. However, that premium construction comes at a premium price – expect to pay around $6.25 per linear foot for copper pipe installation.

Your plumber can advise which material makes the most sense based on your home’s configuration and your budget.

Average Cost to Replace Polybutylene Plumbing

Now for the million dollar question (well, hopefully not literally a million dollars): What’s the typical cost range to replace polybutylene pipes in an average home? There are a few key factors that impact the bottom line:

With those variables in mind, here are some general cost estimates based on common home sizes:

Of course, these are just rough averages. The only way to get an accurate estimate is to have a reputable plumbing contractor inspect your home’s layout and existing plumbing conditions.

Replacement Process and Timelines

So what’s involved in this whole repiping process? While every job is unique, there are some typical steps plumbers will follow:

  1. Access pipes by cutting holes in walls, floors, and ceilings as needed
  2. Remove and dispose of all existing polybutylene pipes and fittings
  3. Install the new piping system (PEX, PVC, copper) following proper layouts
  4. Pressure test the new plumbing lines to check for leaks
  5. Repair any drywall, tile, or surfaces impacted during pipe removal

For a basic one-bathroom home, this process may only take 2-3 days from start to finish. Larger homes and more complex layouts can stretch out over a week or more. And don’t forget to factor in time (and costs) for obtaining any required plumbing permits from your local municipality.

Choosing the Right Contractor

Speaking of contractors, who you hire to handle this major plumbing overhaul is critically important. Here are some tips for vetting potential candidates:

Don’t simply go with the cheapest option – look for an established, experienced pro with a track record of quality work.

Polybutylene Lawsuits and Potential Reimbursements

One final consideration: If your home’s polybutylene pipes were installed in the 90s, you may be eligible for reimbursement from class-action lawsuits against pipe manufacturers. These lawsuits alleged that the pipes were defective and allowed for partial refunds on replacement costs.

Talk to your contractor, as they’ll likely be familiar with the claims process and paperwork required to potentially recover hundreds or thousands from these settlements.

I know having to tackle an unexpected plumbing overhaul like this can feel overwhelming, but replacing those faulty polybutylene pipes is a necessity. With proper planning, smart material choices, and an experienced contractor, it’s manageable – both logistically and financially. Here’s to fresh pipes and fresh water flowing through your home for decades to come!