Home Hazards

Additional Information

Polybutylene Piping 

       What is it? How does it effect homeowners insurance when buying or selling a home?

     When offering a home for sale, the seller needs to get top dollar and sell it as fast as possible. At the point when purchasing a home, the future buyer needs to get their money's worth from the property with minimal redesign cost. Tragically, with the presence of Polybutylene plumbing that can become difficult for both buyer and seller. 


 What Is Polybutylene? 

    Manufactured and utilized from 1978 until 1995, Polybutylene piping is a water supply piping that was less costly, more adaptable, and simpler to install than copper piping. It is mostly found in the "Sun Belt" because of the substantial housing development from the 1980s through the mid-1990s. On the other hand it has been found to some degree in homes constructed as late as the mid 2000's. It likewise has been found in homes constructed much before the 1980's. For instance, homes manufactured in the 50's and 60's have been found to be re-piped in the mid-80's with Polybutylene. It is believed to have been installed in 6 to 10 million homes all through the United States and utilized as a part of re-piping some more.     polytubes  Not just was Polybutylene piping utilized inside the homes for water supply systems, but, additionally for outside underground water mains. It commonly is 1/2 to 1-inch in diameter and can be in different colors. The most widely recognized colors are Gray, White, Black. Gray being the most common. The lines for the most part are stamped with the code "PB2110" however may likewise say "QEST", "QUEST", or "VANGUARD". The best places to check for it are the water supplies for the sinks and toilets. At the water meter, main water valve and water heater and where the water supply enters the home. Note that occasionally Polybutylene piping was utilized with copper piping at some points; so, just because you can not see Polybutylene piping in the open does not mean it is not still in the walls.  Also, many times it is mistaken for other types of piping, for example:  PEX. 

The Problems with Polybutylene

     It has never been scientifically proven, but it is believed that oxidants in the water supply systems, such as chlorine, react with the Polybutylene piping material, causing it to flake apart on the inside of the piping. Eventually, small fractures deepen, cracking through the pipe, and it begins failing. Manufacturers contend that most of this occurs at the connection points; for this reason the manufacturers believe the problem is caused by improper installation. Whatever the real cause, it weakens the water supply system, which can fail without any warning causing both personal property and building damage. The older the pipe, the more likely a problem can occur. Another issue that has recently surfaced is most insurance companies will not write coverage on a home that contains this type of plumbing system. When buying or selling a home, changing insurance companies, or if a 4 Point inspection is asked for by an insurance company, the type of plumbing system is noted making obtaining insurance very difficult.  However, not every PB system fails, but the material is susceptible to corrosion when it comes into contact with chlorinated water, resulting in breakage and splitting of PB piping. Throughout the 1980s, lawsuits for alleged defective manufacturing and defective installation for hundreds of millions of dollars in damages were filed. Some homeowners had (and many still have) problems with their insurance companies.  In some cases, homeowners are finding that homeowners insurance companies will either cancel their coverage when extensive damage is caused by [Polybutylene] or refuse coverage to homes piped with Polybutylene.     

What Should Realtors, Sellers, and Buyers Do? 

  Before the majority of the Polybutylene piping lawsuits that happened in the 1980's, you could tell buyers that a house is being sold "as is". Raynor v. Shrewd Realty Co., 504 So. 2d at 1364 and Johnson v. Davis, 480 So. 2d at 628, on the other hand, demonstrated that the courts are moving toward taking out the feeling that all is well with the world where sellers and real estate agents felt comfortable, deciding in favor of new buyers over sellers and their agents. Different jurisdictions have different laws concerning real estate agent disclosure, however it appears that judges across the nation are taking a closer look at "what is the correct thing to do" for every situation. So as a Realtor you have to protect yourself. When you speak to a buyer, you need to protect their interests (and yours) by inquiring as to whether the home has Polybutylene pipes and strongly recommend they get a home inspection (Note that a home inspection can just let you know whether there are Polybutylene pipes present in a home, not if and when they may fail.) Also, as you show the home, do some checking yourself under the sinks and at the water heater.  In the event that it has Polybutylene plumbing, inquire as to whether the seller is going to replace the plumbing or give a comparable reduction in the cost of the home. On the off chance that a reduction in value is given, you then need to talk with your client about the need to do a replacement of the piping in the near future. Understand that this may only work sometimes. On the off chance that the house is being sold and will require a 4 Point inspection, insurance agencies may not insure the home until the pipes has been replaced. This means that without insurance the purchasers may not be able to get a home loan to continue with the purchase of the home. When Polybutylene pipes are found to be in the home, protect yourself with a written disclosure of the presence of Polybutylene to your buyer, keeping a duplicate for your records with the client initialing. Incorporate in the written disclosure that a large number of Polybutylene pipes have failed. You also should have the client consent to a waiver agreement, expressing you uncovered Polybutylene and releasing you of any liability. At that point, on the off chance that they don't replace the piping and it fails, they can't say you didn't caution them and take you to court.  If it does have polybutylene pipes, ask if the seller is going to replace the piping or give an equivalent reduction in the price of the home. If a reduction in price, you then need to discuss with your client the need to do a replacement of the piping. Understand that this may only work sometimes. If the home is being sold and will need a 4 Point inspection, insurance companies may not write a policy until the plumbing has been replaced. This means that without insurance the buyers will not be able to receive a mortgage to proceed with the purchase of the home. When polybutylene pipes are present, always protect yourself

Electrical Panels

Additional Information

4 Outdated and Unsafe Electrical Panels That Could be Hiding in Your Home 

  If you own an older home (built before 1990), you might have one of these outdated main electric panels/boxes hiding in your home.  And these outdated panels don’t just make you uncool like a pair of outdated bell-bottoms might. They can also be extremely unsafe.  You see, electrical panels contain safety devices (either fuses or circuit breakers) that trip and shut off the power when too much electricity flows through them. This helps prevent fires caused by overheating wires.  Yet many Sarasota-area homes have old, outdated panels that might not work as intended, leaving them vulnerable to a house fire. Here are 4 types of unsafe panels you should consider replacing if you have them... 

 1. Federal Pacific Electric (FPE) Panels  For a long time (1950s-1980s) Federal Pacific Electric was one of the most popular manufacturers of electrical panels in the United States. And they were installed in millions of homes.  But these panels are extremely unsafe.   Why they’re unsafe: FPE electric panels’ circuit breakers fail to trip when they should (when there’s a short circuit or circuit overload). This problem has lead to thousands of fires across the United States, including this one in Central Florida.   There are also many reports that FPE circuits in the off position still send power to the circuit. This can cause electrocution when working on a circuit you believe to be off.  How to tell if you have one: FPE panels are most common in homes built between 1950 and 1980. Federal Pacific Electric will likely be written on the cover of your breaker box. Inside, look for the name Stab-Loc (the brand name of the circuit breakers). 

 2. Zinsco Panels  Zinsco or GTE-Sylvania panels were popular electrical panels installed in homes throughout the 1970s. Zinsco is now defunct, but many homes still have these panels.  Why they’re unsafe: The circuit breakers inside many Zinsco panels melt to the main ‘bus bar’. This means the breaker can’t ever trip, even when there’s a short or overloaded circuit. So if there ever is a short or other problems, the surge of power melts wires and starts fires in your home.  How to tell if you have one: The name Zinsco anywhere on the panel is a sure sign it should be replaced. Also, many GTE-Sylvania or Sylvania panels are simply re-branded Zinsco panels or contain the problem Zinsco design. These should also be replaced.   However, not all Sylvania and GTE-Slyvania branded panels are dangerous. So if you have one, an electrician will need to inspect it to see if it has the problematic design.

 3. Split-bus electrical panels  A typical modern circuit breaker has a single metal bus. Electricity comes into the panel, passes through a main breaker and to the bus. The bus then connects to each individual circuit breaker, providing power to your entire home.  You can then shut off power to the bus (and therefore your entire home) simply by turning off the main breaker.  Split-bus electrical panels are different. They have 2 buses and no single main disconnect. They have up to 6 breakers labeled “main”. One of these main breakers controls power to half (the bottom) of the breakers in the panel. The other main breakers connect directly to the first bus.  Above is a photo of a split bus panel with front cover removed. You can see how the top 3 breakers are connected directly to the incoming power (large black wires at the top). Then the 3rd breaker supplies power to the lower breakers (see the blue wires connecting them).  Why they’re unsafe: By themselves, split-bus panels aren’t unsafe. However, these types of panels haven’t been used for over 40 years. That puts them past their expected lifespan, meaning the circuit breakers may not trip as they are designed to.  Plus, electrical code no longer allows for multiple disconnects.  How to tell if you have one: Open the front cover of your electrical box. Are your breakers divided into 2 groups? Is there no single disconnect breaker? These are good indications that you have a split-bus panel.


4. Fuse box  Fuse boxes are old electrical panels that use fuses instead of circuit breakers to protect your wires from becoming overloaded. When a circuit draws too much electricity, the fuse burns out and must be replaced.  Why they’re unsafe: Fuses aren’t inherently unsafe. They work just like circuit breakers (except they can’t be reset and must be replaced.) However, most fuse boxes in homes today are unsafe because they’ve been modified to try to serve today’s energy demands.  Homeowners (and sometimes contractors) create problems in many fuse boxes that make them unsafe. Here are a few: •Placing too many things on a single circuit. Because fuse boxes typically have fewer circuits, homeowners often end up plugging in too many electrical appliances to a single outlet. That leads to fuses that blow a lot, which can lead homeowners to... •Replacing a fuse with a bigger fuse. If you replace a 15-amp fuse with a 20-amp fuse (or larger), your fuse may stop blowing. However, you’ll also create a massive fire hazard. The wires in that circuit are only rated for 15-amps, not 20!  •Replacing the fuse with something metal. Some homeowners go a step further and insert a metal object (like a penny) where the blown fuse once was. Again, this eliminates blown fuses, but also completely removes the safety that fuses provide. Your wires could pull large amounts of electricity, overheat and start a fire.   How to tell if you have one: Chances are if you have a fuse box, you already know it. But if you’re not sure, find your main electrical panel and open it up. Instead of a bunch of switches (circuit breakers) you should see fuses.  What to do if you have one of these panels  If you have one of these unsafe and outdated electrical panels, we highly recommend replacing them. At the very least, you should have an electrician inspect the panel to see if there are any signs of problems. Recommend the installation of S-type fuses and adapters to ensure that the circuits cannot be overloaded. These adapters screw into the standard fuse location and reduce the thread size down. Various sizes are available, from 15 to 30 amps, and allow only the correct amperage type-S fuse to be installed. These adapters are designed so that, once installed, they cannot be removed. 

Fused Neutral Panels

For a period in the 1920s, fused neutral circuits were very common. They were outlawed in 1928 by the NEC. The problem with these is that if the neutral -- rather than the live -- fuse blows, then the circuit will appear not to be live. However, someone working on the system would easily be able to complete the circuit to ground, providing a return path for the current, and thus be electrocuted.