Polybutylene Piping – The Leaky Truth

This week we’re going to take a look at a rather controversial item for many home inspectors – Polybutylene Piping.


Also known as “Poly-B” piping, it was used from the late 1970′s to the early 1990′s for hot and cold water distribution in homes. It is extremely common to see this type of piping here in the Northwest.

It usually has a dull grey (sometimes white) appearance, with metal bands at the fittings.

It was flexible, easy to install, and cheap, and it gained popularity for those reasons. However…

Poly-B can prematurely burst. Chlorine, present in most domestic city water supplies, is suspected to weaken the structural integrity of the plastic and cause it to prematurely burst. Even if it looks fine from the outside, it could still have flaked away on the inside.

Poly-B piping has so far been the subject of several class-action lawsuits. In some states/provinces, it will affect the homeowner’s ability to get home insurance!

If you have this type of piping in your home and it starts to leak in one area, it may just be the beginning of your headaches. If one section of pipe has weakened then more leaks will likely follow. You may need to re-pipe your entire house.

Depending on your home inspector, they may not necessarily report Polybutylene piping as a deficiency, but will warn that it will require ongoing monitoring for any signs of failure. I personally take this route and make sure my clients fully understand the implications of this type of piping.

As a side note, my childhood home, which is almost 30 years old, contains all Polybutylene distribution piping and is still going strong. As with many things in life, “your mileage may vary”.

Polybutylene News


About the Inspector:

David is a licensed, insured, Certified Home Inspector in the province of BC. and holds a certificate in home inspection from Ashton College in Vancouver.

He is also a licensed Power Engineer in BC, and holds a certificate in power engineering from the McPhail school of Energy at SAIT in Alberta. He has been involved in the construction, maintenance and repair of luxury and high-end commercial buildings in downtown Vancouver for many years.

He has a common-sense approach to Inspecting Homes and an innate ability to explain complicated concepts in clear terms.

Call now to book your home inspection!

604 395-2795

Does Vancouver Have Radon?

Radon is a colourless, odorless, tasteless, naturally occurring, radioactive gas that is formed from the decay of uranium or thorium in the soil under a home.

Radon gas from natural sources can accumulate in buildings, especially in confined areas such as basements. The US Environmental Protection Agency reports direct evidence of Radon exposure causing lung cancer.

The BC Center for Disease Control performed two studies in the interior of BC to measure radon in homes and radon in schools.

The following radon maps for homes in BC were created from a survey performed in 2007 for radon in BC cities, giving an indication of the radon prone areas within the province.

According to the research done by the BC Center for Disease Control, Metro Vancouver is NOT a radon prone area in our province. Areas notable for their high levels of Radon are Clearwater, Barriere and Castlegar.



How to Replace Your Roof

All homes need to have their roofs replaced from time to time. There are major differences in materials and installation that will dramatically affect the price and longevity of them. Today we would like to focus on the most common material in our area, asphalt shingles.


When selecting a roof with 3/12 pitch or greater, asphalt shingles are economical;

These shingles will perform well for many years when properly installed by a licensed contractor who specializes in asphalt shingle roofs.


In order to get the best price and value from a roof, we have some tips you should consider, when reviewing a contractors quotation.


1) Does the bid include tearing off the old roof, or is it a roof over?

2) What kind of shingle are they using, is it a Laminated Shingle (also called Architectural Shingles)  – 30 years or more, or standard 3-tab shingles (cheaper 15+ year material)?

3) Are there any sheathing repairs in the bid? What material?

4) Bids should include all new flashing, (chimney to roof, siding to roof, skylights, plumbing and vents stacks)

5) Ensure that your contractor will bring your roof up to current standards for ventilation. (1sf of vent for every 150sf of roofing) We see many homes with inadequate roof venting.

6) Assure all bath and kitchen vents are properly vented with dedicated vents for each fan and do not point vent hoses to attic vents.

7) Including zinc strips will dramatically reduce moss problems on your new roof.


Asphalt Shingle Installation

Asphalt Shingle Installation


Occasionally, home owners will try to save money by ‘roofing over’ an existing roof. This is not usually recommended. A roof that is installed over an old roof will not lay flat, beside other issues. Why would anyone cover up old, deteriorated, damaged, roof covering material after spending all that time and money? Worse yet, what are the current conditions of the underlayment and plywood sheathing that has been covered up?

This can cause the new roof to not perform as well, leading to premature leaks and failure. It also traps more heat, causing the tar in the roof to evaporate petroleum, leading to cracks and failure. In addition, the added weight of another layer can cause structural problems.


As the surest way of knowing, the safest thing to do is to have the roof stripped so that it can be examined for potential structural problems and what the conditions are before resurfacing it and to be sure that you are acquiring a professional roofer that knows what he is doing.


When your roof is replaced, we recommend you choose a 30-year, architectural shingle. Standard 3-tab has a much shorter life, (closer to 15 years). Since the cost of a roof is mostly labour, there is no reason to go for the cheap materials. The labour is the same, and the materials cost about 1/3 more. With double the lifespan, it is the best value for your money.


When getting prices, ask the roofing companies if their bids include any sheeting repairs. Most tear-offs will require some repairs to sheeting. There are two kinds of common products, OSB and plywood. OSB is the standard sheeting used today, but plywood is a more expensive and superior product.

Ventilation is key to a long a lasting roof. When ventilation is poor, it is much more likely to have problems with structural pests in the roof framing and mold in the attic.


A cheap roofing bid will often not include proper venting of bath and kitchen fans.

When these are not properly vented outside, the moisture from them will contribute to structural pest issues and cause the roof sheeting to rot prematurely. Zinc strips will help keep moss from taking over your new roof. This will cost more upfront, but moss will destroy roofs quickly in wet climates.

How to Prevent Dryer Vent Fires

Over 15,000 clothes dryer fires are reported each year; dryer vent cleaning is the number one defense against dryer fires. Failure to clean is reported as being the number one cause of dryer fires.Professional dryer vent cleaning is recommended each year to prevent dryer fires and to keep your dryer working efficiently.

 The function of the dryer duct system is to carry heat and moisture from your dryer drum as your clothes dry. Unfortunately, lint also gets into the dryer ducts, building up and restricting airflow. Most people think the dryer ducts also remove lint; however, most of the lint that escapes the lint screen becomes trapped and builds up in the ducts. Very little lint actually makes it to the vent outside. Lint build-up restricts air flow required for the dryer to perform its job. As the dryer labors to dry your laundry, it consumes more energy. Poorly maintained dryer vent systems can result in spending an additional $18 – 24 per month not to mention repair bills when the appliance breaks down.

When dryer vent systems become clogged with lint, they will overheat and cause a fire that spreads quickly. Another cause of dryer fires is drying rags soaked with flammable chemicals. These should be line dried, even if they have been washed, as residue can remain. The heat from the dryer can cause the materials to ignite inside your dryer.

Dryer Fire

Results of a Dryer Fire

For your safety as well as proper maintenance of your appliance, here are some tips:

  • Clean the lint screen after every load to maintain air flow needed by your clothes dryer to work more efficiently, saving you money on utility bills and preventing a fire.

  • Wash the lint screen periodically to remove residue build-up caused by dryer sheets.

  • Do not place rags soaked in flammable substances in your dryer; these should be line dried.

  • Do not store flammable chemicals near the dryer.

  • Do not go to sleep or leave the home when the dryer is running

Have a qualified dryer exhaust specialist clean your dryer vent system at least once a year, more often if you have a large family and are doing over 8 loads of laundry per week. They will also perform a complete inspection to be sure you have a properly installed dryer vent system.

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