Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Terminology Tuesday - Polybutylene Pipe (Aka "Grey Pipe")

(Note: I think it's important to know the terminology and words used when learning any new business including mobile home investing. I came up with 'Terminology Tuesday' as a day to go over the terminology used in the mobile home business. It's important to know the terminology when talking to people in the business so you're all on the same page).

As defined in Wikipedia:

"Polybutylene is a thermoplastic Polyolefin. It is created by polymerizing butylene. It is a semi-crystalline thermoplastic, and is also known as polybutene-1. It should not be confused with polybutene, a low molecular weight oligomer with a different repeat unit.


The suitability of polybutylene for use in plumbing is controversial. Polybutylene plumbing was used in 6 to 10 million homes built in the United States from 1970 to the mid-1990s. Problems with leaks led to a class action lawsuit, Cox vs. Shell Oil, that was settled for one billion dollars. Polybutylene plumbing is still widely used in Europe and Asia.

The material oxidised when used in hot water systems, developing longitudinal cracks which eventually punctured the walls leading to floods and damage to properties. Many acetal resin fittings also cracked, a problem caused by chlorine attack. Even the low concentration (ppm) of chlorine used in most potable water supplies for purification was enough to initiate cracking."

Definition Link

Polybutylene pipe is usually referred to as "grey pipe" because it is grey in color. The majority of mobile homes built before the year 2000 will usually tend to have it.

In my experience, most sellers I have dealt with have taken out the old grey pipe and replaced it with PVC pipe - usually white in color. However, there will be cases where "grey pipe" still exists in the mobile home.

When you go to inspect a mobile home, be sure to look under the sink - see what kind of piping they have for each room with a water supply. Run the water from the sink and test it out. Look under the sink to see if there is any leaking.

Be on the lookout for a bucket under the sink near the piping - this will signal you that there has been prior leaking. If you see "grey pipe," chances are there will be cracking and/or future cracking down the road. These are issues that will need to be addressed in negotiations.

Happy Investing!

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