PVC water pipes in townhouse a potential problem? (not just drains)

I'm looking at townhouses, and it turns out that the ones in the development I like (which was built in the 80s) uses some type of gray colored pvc pipe for the hot and cold water lines (rather than traditional copper). Do you think pvc water pipes are a potential problem that I should stay away from, or is it nothing to worry about? I heard a rumor that there have been problems with PVC water lines being prone to cracking. If this is true, then under what circumstances are they more prone to cracking than copper? I'm located in the northeast.
Let me know what you think.
Thanks.
Jeff
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PVC pipes are white and no problem. The grey ones may be a problem (they are not PVC). The problem I believe is that the joints do not stand up to chlorine. How they could have missed that I don't know. Big class action over it. But some joints have been replaced and should be ok. I would ask a plumber in your area.
I found this link for you:
http://www.amerispec.ca/english/brochures/plumbing.htm

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I will take a stab at this. The grey pipe is most probably polybutylene. Poly is a softer material much more flexible than cpvc lines and can withstand light freezing. In fact a fitting will ususally fail before the pipe does when frozen. But you need to check the fittings/connections to see what type of install you have. Newer systems using poly are done with compression fittings (pipe pushes into fitting and a large compression nut is screwed over it onto the fitting securing the pipe). This is used as the standard today and works fairly well. If this is the system installed then you are safe enough, there is still contention over how these will hold up over time.
There is an older type of fitting used that you need to be wary of though. Older installs were done using crimped copper bands over the pipe onto the fitting. Depending on the material used in the fitting will determine the likely hood of the plumbing to fail. Pretty much if your fittings are plastic they will fail. The material used in the plastic fittings haven't stood the test of time, and will deteriorate and cause a blow out. I've replaced 100's of these systems since early 90's. But if the system uses crimped copper over copper or brass fittings then all should be good.
Here is a page with what to aviod: http://www.spencerclass.com/mainpage.htm
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We had the gray pipes in our house and had them replaced through the class action settlement. Ask your agent or the homeowner if they have had the pipes replaced using the class action. If they did, they should supply you with the paperwork. If not and you really want the place, you may want to ask that the pipes be replaced before you move in - it is alittle bit of an inconvenience. We had use of water every night, but the cut holes in your walls and ceiling to get access, and ours was replaced in February, made it alittle chilly until they patched the hole up. The settlement includes having the holes they cut fixed, walls and ceiling painted and retextured.
Good Luck
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Terry & Diane wrote:

I thought I heard sometime last summer that either the time limit, or the dollar limit for the class action suit was very close to expire??? I'm pretty sure I saw it on the news (middle of minnesota) but can't remember the specifics.... I was a renter at the time....
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Michael Moss wrote:

Depending on your location, installer/builder, and manufacturer, there have been different class action lawsuits. Contact an attorney if you have PB pipe.
A google search reveals mostly that this is a quick-and-easy search-engine term to co-opt.
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jeff wrote:

Polybutylene (PB), not poly-vinyl chloride (PVC). As you suspect PVC is not good for all plumbing uses -- it doesn't stand up to heat, especially, and is primarily used in waste lines. PB has a wider range of acceptable temperatures and was used for a few years in mostly new-construction plumbing supply lines.

It's hard to know the truth, since this has been buried in litigation, but it does seem that PB does have long-term durability issues and in particularly is allegedly prone to cracking and complete failure, at least in certain circumstances.
There have been several class-action suits in the US, Canada, and Europe. The best-known one here is Cox v. Shell Oil represented by attorneys named Kinsella, and you have (perhaps) until 2009 to file a claim. I would contact an attorney now, as the class action settlement will cover certain repairs, but you don't want to wait until you need it; the settlement funds may have been exhausted by that time, or the legal status may change. Besides, it sounds like a PB failure could be a real mess, not just a little plumbing leak, but pressurized water everywhere.
http://journalism.medill.northwestern.edu/docket/02-0634classacts.html http://www.kinsella.com/polybutylene /
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