Do You Have Old Polybutylene Piping in Your Home?

If you home was built in the 1970s, 80s or 90s, there is a good possibility that the pipes in your home for plumbing were made from polybutylene. This piping was an economical option that was used for decades for interior and exterior plumbing. The pipe is known for its blue or gray color, and also for its unreliable nature. Unfortunately, after this piping was used in the building of thousands of homes, it was pulled from the market. If you have this piping still in your home, you could be facing possible plumbing problems. 

Polybutylene Piping Problems

The issue with polybutylene is the material reacts with chlorine that is in many city water supplies. This reaction causes the pipes to corrode and weaken. Over time, the pipes can begin to leak, or worse, rupture and cause substantial water damage to homes. Due to this major issue, the manufacturers of the piping were forced to stop making the product and were required to pay billions of dollars in damages to homeowners. 

So what should you do if you still have this piping in your home? The best solution is to have the piping replaced before it begins to leak or bursts. Water damage is an expensive home repair. It can ruin walls, flooring, ceilings and cause mold issues throughout the home. It is a wise investment to replace this piping before it becomes a much larger and more expensive problem.

If you are concerned that there may be polybutylene piping in your home, call your local plumber for an inspection of your pipes. Your plumber can offer solutions for replacing any old polybutylene piping with new safer piping options.

Posted on behalf of:
Bynum & Sons Plumbing, Inc.
2120 McDaniels Bridge Rd SW
Lilburn, GA 30047
(770) 736-8283

What is Polybutylene Pipe?

Polybutylene pipe was a type of water pipe that was extensively used in residential construction for approximately 20 years.  Blue or gray in color, the pipe was used on hot and cold water lines within the homes, as well as water service lines running into the home from the water main.  The pipe was highly regarded as viable and cost effective alternative to traditional copper piping.  

Due to substantial problems with the product the pipe is no longer used, but still may remain in homes.  The problem with polybutylene pipe is how the pipe reacts with chlorine, which is found in virtually all-domestic water supplies.  As a result of a chemical reaction with the pipe and chlorine, the polybutylene deteriorates from the inside out until the pipe ruptures.  Once the problem became widespread, a large class action lawsuit was filed.  As a part of the settlement, the manufacturers were required to replace the pipe and remove it from the market.  The resulting repairs cost the manufacturers billions of dollars due to the widespread use of polybutylene, which was used in home construction from 1970 until approximately 1995. 

Polybutylene pipe continues to be found in homes built during this time frame, due to the inability to identify everywhere it was used.  Although there are no longer any remedies available to homeowners impacted by the product, the only repair possible is the replacement of all polybutylene pipe inside and outside of the home.  One thing is for certain a home with polybutylene pipe will experience a catastrophic rupture at some point.

Posted on behalf of Find Local Plumber

Polybutylene Pipes: What You Should Know

For homeowners with properties built between the late 1970s to the mid-1990s, there is a very real concern about polybutylene pipes. Widely used in the construction of residential homes during this period, polybutylene pipes have been shown to have a high failure rate under even normal operating conditions. Such was the extent of the problem that a class action lawsuit was filed in 1995, and still stands as one of the largest in United States history. If you own or are considering the purchase of a home built during this time period, there are some important facts you should know.

Structural Compromise

Chemicals commonly found in public water supplies, like chlorine and other oxidants, dramatically reduce the structural integrity of polybutylene pipes. Use of incorrect fittings was widespread, further complicating the integrity of the piping. Because it’s not possible to accurately assess the condition of polybutylene piping simply by looking at it, deterioration occurs internally and is difficult to detect. By the time leaks become apparent, they’re almost always considered an indicator of complete, system-wide pipe failure.

Solving a Polybutylene Piping Issue

If your home still contains polybutylene piping, there is an almost certain chance you will face failure or widespread leaks at some point. In fact, the only real way to avoid potentially devastating damage and expensive repairs is to have the entire potable water system in your home re-piped. Almost all professional plumbers will suggest complete polybutylene pipe replacement over repairs, which is only a short-term fix for a long-term problem. A temporary repair may stave off failure for a short while, but putting off the replacement of polybutylene pipes can have catastrophic consequences for your home.

If you suspect your home may be fitted with polybutylene pipes, contact a licensed and experienced plumber in your area to set up an evaluation. Setting up an inspection and following through with replacement in the event of polybutylene piping discovery is the most effective way of protecting your home and possessions from water damage due to pipe failure.

Posted on behalf of Shawn Bynum, Bynum Plumbing


What Is the Best Type of Plumbing Pipe?

Surely, if you are building a new home or remodeling an existing home, you are buried under the weight of innumerable selection choices that must be made, everything from cabinets, countertops, carpet, tile, window treatments, etc. The very last thing that you probably want to spend time haggling over is the material used in your bathroom piping. Nevertheless, it just may be important to you and a choice that you wish to consider yourself, rather than just leaving it to the discretion of your contractor.

Believe it or not, plumbing systems have been around for thousands of years; the early Greeks used clay sewage pipes, the Roman had lead aqueducts and our early colonialists used hollowed out logs. Plumbing pipes today can be made from a variety of materials including several versatile plastic-types (PVC, CPVC, PEX) that have become useful throughout the world because of their lower cost and ease of installation. Their multitude of quick connecting fittings make almost any configuration possible. While they have become a popular replacement of copper, brass, steel, and old polybutylene pipe, they have some disadvantages, such as leakage or bursting when freezing. More traditional materials can have their own benefits, depending on the exact application.

All the available materials today for use in plumbing pipes (copper, plastics, brass, steel and concrete) have their own set of advantages and disadvantages. You can make a more appropriate and informed choice of the best materials for your plumbing project by working with your well informed local plumbing professional in narrowing down these choices, based on the specific needs of your individual project.

What is Polybutylene Piping?

Millions of American homeowners have polybutylene piping in their homes, and may be unaware of the problems that these pipes can cause. In the 1970s, polybutylene pipes were lauded as “the pipe of the future,” due to their relatively low cost when compared to copper piping and how easily they could be installed. By the 1980s, it became apparent that polybutylene or “plastic” piping could actually be quite problematic.

Why is Polybutylene Piping a Problem?

Water supply line pipes made of gray plastic polybutylene can begin to break down and flake apart over time due to a manufacturing flaw. Chemicals like chlorine, which is found our water supply, can exacerbate the issue and compromise poly pipes even further. When polybutylene piping failure occurs, it can be unexpected and can cause significant damage to your property and cherished possessions. Faulty installation can also contribute to the failure of polybutylene pipes, which tend to degrade more as time passes. If you don’t know how old your polybutylene piping is, you may be in for quite an unpleasant surprise, as older pipes are far more likely to fail as they age. Problems from a compromised poly pipe structure also occur inside the pipe, making it difficult to predict simply from examining the pipes’ exteriors.

Polybutylene and Homeowners Insurance Complications

While not all polybutylene pipes are guaranteed to fail, they are significantly more likely to degrade to the point of causing property damage over time than piping comprised of other materials. They’re so likely to cause trouble, in fact, that some homeowners insurance companies have a policy of canceling coverage upon discovery of polybutylene piping or refusing coverage to those homes outright.

Problems With Polybutylene Pipes

If you own or are currently in the market for a new home, you’ve probably been warned about polybutylene piping at some point during the process. While some unsolicited advice may not be wholly worthwhile, warnings about poly piping are. There are a variety of reasons why you’ll want to make sure that all polybutylene piping in your home is replaced, most of which boil down to expensive and potentially serious property damage.

What’s Wrong with Polybutylene Pipes?

Polybutylene piping was used during the construction of millions of American properties in the 1970s and was quite popular due to its ease of installation and relatively low price in comparison to copper pipes. Over time, however, it became apparent that the structural integrity of polybutylene pipes could be easily compromised. To further complicated matters, poly pipes degrade from the inside, making it almost impossible to spot potential problems by simply examining the exterior. Degradation of polybutylene pipes can lead to significant property damage, and failures can occur with little to no advance warning.

Polybutylene Pipes and Your Homeowners Insurance

Because of the extensive damage that polybutylene piping failure can cause and the likelihood of sucha failure occurring, many homeowners’ insurance companies will deny coverage on properties with poly pipes or even cancel existing policies upon discovery of them. The problem of polybutylene pipe failure was so widespread that a class action lawsuit was settled in 1995, allowing involved homeowners to replace their pipes with money from a settlement fund. A full polybutylene pipe replacement is a big job and is serious enough that only licensed plumbers with extensive experience and a specialization in performing them should be hired to complete the work.

Polybutylene Pipe Replacement

Polybutylene pipes may have been considered “the pipe of the future” in the 1970s, but their unforeseen tendency to break down over time has led to a dramatic change in their reputation. These days, poly piping is considered such a ticking time bomb that some homeowners insurance carriers are opting to cancel coverage or deny policies altogether for properties that have it.

Replacing the Pipes in a Vacant Home

If you’re in the process of purchasing a new home and you know that it contains polybutylene piping, you’re better off to replace it as soon as possible and to do so before moving in. You may even be able to roll the cost of replacing those problematic pipes with your mortgage, and it’s far easier for your plumbing contractor to manage the project when your home is vacant. A plumber that specializes in polybutylene pipe replacement will usually offer what’s known as a “turnkey job,” replacing not only the faulty piping but also repairing the necessary damage to drywall and paint.

Replacing Polybutylene Pipes in an Inhabited Home

If you’re currently living in a home with recently discovered polybutylene piping, the process of replacement is a bit more complicated. All of the polybutylene pipes must be located and removed, then replaced with either PVC or CPVC pipes. They’re typically found in attics, crawl spaces and water heater closets, and are usually installed under existing insulation. While it may take a bit longer to complete a polybutylene pipe replacement project in a home you’re inhabiting, a qualified plumber who specializes in poly pipe removal can usually complete all work within one week.

Buying a Home? Check for Polybutylene Piping

With interest rates at record lows, house prices near rock bottom, and sellers anxious to get rid of their homes in an overcrowded market, now is a terrific opportunity to get a great deal on a nice home.  New home construction is still slow, so most home buyers are looking at re-sales.

If you are looking at re-sales (previously owned homes), be sure to have the home thoroughly inspected before committing to the purchase.  If the home was built before the early 1990’s be sure the home inspector checks to see if the home was plumbed with polybutylene plumbing.  If in doubt, an inspection by a reputable local plumber could save you thousands of dollars in plumbing repairs for a polybutylene pipe replacement.

Polybutylene pipe was used for the hot and cold water supply pipes in millions of homes constructed after about 1970.  By the early 1990’s use of polybutylene pipe stopped because it was clear that most polybutylene pipes would fail after 5 to 15 years of service.

The exact cause of polybutylene pipe failure is not completely understood, but most experts believe that the pipe reacted to the chlorine in the municipal water supplies, causing it to become brittle and fail.  The only practical solution once the pipes start to fail is to have all of the plumbing in the home replaced.

Most homes built with polybutylene pipes have already had the pipes replaced, but you may find a few homes that still have the original polybutylene pipes.  If so, your options are to either steer clear or to make sure that the purchase price reflects the need to have all of the polybutylene pip replaced.

Identifying Polybutylene Plumbing

Polybutylene is a type of pipe that was used for the interior plumbing systems in millions of homes built between 1970 and 1995.  Estimates vary, but somewhere between 6 million and 10 million homes were built during this period with polybutylene plumbing.  Polybutylene was used for the interior water distribution lines throughout the house.  In addition, it was often used for the water supply line from the municipal water main to the house.  It was not used for drain lines or sewer lines.

Polybutylene pipe was popular because it was inexpensive, easy to work with, corrosion resistant and seemed to be very durable.  Unfortunately, it was discovered that polybutylene pipe reacted with chlorine in the public drinking water supplies and became brittle.  After a few years, the pipes would develop fractures and begin to leak.

However, some homes have never had a problem with their polybutylene pipes. One challenge of polybutylene is that it is impossible to tell if a pipe is about to fail by visual inspection.  There is some indication that some polybutylene pipe leaks were caused by improper installation techniques, but again a visual inspection will not reveal whether the installation was proper.

To be sure whether or not you have polybutylene pipes in your home, you need to be able to see the piping.  In some homes, copper stubs were used to connect faucets, toilets, and other fixtures.  The short copper pipes were connected to polybutylene hidden in the walls, floors and ceilings.  The same can be true for polybutylene water service lines.  A short section of copper pipe was used where the lien enters the home and the rest of the line buried in the yard is polybutylene.

Interior polybutylene is usually gray, but can be white or black. Exterior polybutylene used for water service is usually blue, but can be gray or black.  If you suspect you have polybutylene pipes in your home, talk to a plumber who specializes in polybutylene pipe replacement.  He or she can confirm whether or not your pipes are polybutylene and help you understand your options.

Polybuylene Pipe Replacement Options

If you own a home plumbed with polybutylene pipe, you should consider your options before contacting an experienced plumber for a residential repiping.  Polybutylene pipe was installed in millions of homes built after 1970.  By the early 1990’s it became clear that polybutylene pipe that was exposed to chlorine found in the drinking water of many homes would fail and begin to leak and it was taken off the market.

Class action lawsuits were filed against the manufacturers of polybutylene pipe and homeowners who joined these suits received settlements to pay for the replacement of their plumbing.  Unfortunately, it is probably too late to file a claim if you haven’t already done so.

Homeowners have essentially three options for dealing with polybutylene pipe.  The first option is to do nothing and wait to see if the pipes begin to fail.  For some homeowners, this option may be the best route.  Polybutylene fails due to exposure to chlorine and if your drinking water has a very low level of chlorine, your pipes may provide good service for years.  Homes that use well water or that are connected to a municipal water supply that uses a low level of chlorine may not have the plumbing problems typically associated with polybutylene pipes.

If your pipes have begun to leak, then your choice is whether to replace all of the pipes now or to fix the leaking pipes and replace them later.  In most cases it does not make good economic sense to fix a leaking polybutylene pipe.  Your plumber may be able to repair a leaking section of pipe, but a leaky polybutylene pipe is a sign that the rest of the plumbing will fail soon.  Your plumber can help you make the decision, but generally the best course of action is to have all of the plumbing replaced.