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


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.

Fixing Leaky Qest Plumbing

If you are experiencing problems with leaky Qest (often called Quest) plumbing in your home, you should consult with a plumbing contractor with experience in polybutylene pipe replacement before spending any money repairing your old Qest pipe.  Qest was a brand name for a type of polybutylene pipe that was taken off the market in the mid 1990’s.  Until then it was used in millions of American homes and manufactured homes for the hot and cold water lines and the water supply line from the meter to the home.

Qest hot and cold polybutylene pipes are usually grey although you may find some silver or black polybutylene pipes.  The water supply line is usually blue but can be gray or black.  If you suspect that you have Qest or any other type of polybutylene pipe, have it inspected by a professional plumber.  It is easy for a homeowner to confuse defective polybutylene pipe with modern PEX pipe.

Polybutylene pipe is no longer on the market because it tended to fail at a very high rate.  Early failures were experienced at the fittings, but later the pipes themselves began to fail.  It was discovered that chlorine in the water reacted with the pipe and caused it to break down.

Several class action lawsuits over the defective pipes were settled years ago.  Unfortunately, if you have not already filed a claim it is probably too late to join the settlement.

Repairing polybutylene pipe is a short term solution because it will soon fail again.  The only permanent solution is to have all of the piping replaced by a plumbing contractor that specializes in residential repiping.  Most plumbers can probably handle the job, but a specialist will have learned techniques for replacing the pipes with minimal damage to your home.

Use a Specialist For Whole House Repiping

If you need to replace the water pipes in your home, you have a choice between using a general plumbing contractor or a repiping specialist for your plumbing replacement.  Some homes have serious plumbing issues that require all of the water distribution plumbing to be replaced.  The most common reason for a whole house repiping is because the home was plumbed with polybutylene pipes.

After polybutylene pipes were installed in millions of American homes built from the mid 1970’s to the mid1990’s, it was discovered chlorine in municipal water supplies reacted with the pipe led to pipe failures.  Polybutylene pipe was taken off the market, but many homeowners are still dealing with the after effects.

Most general plumbing contractors can handle a repiping, but you are probably better off hiring a plumber who specializes in commercial and residential repiping.  Replacing all of the pipes in your home involves locating and removing the original plumbing and installing new PVC, CPVC, PEX or copper pipes.

The original pipes can run through the basement, crawlspace, or attic and are often hidden in walls, ceilings and floors.  If the home was built on a concrete slab, the plumbing may run under the slab or be embedded in the concrete.

A residential repiping specialist who has handled hundreds or thousands of commercial and residential repipings will have developed techniques for replacing the piping with minimal damage to your home.  They will have a better feel for what type of replacement pipe works best and how to run the new piping if access to the old piping is limited.

In addition, in most cases holes have to be cut in walls, floors or ceilings and a repiping specialist may have contractors who can quickly and professionally make the necessary repairs.

Polybutylene Pipe

Many homes built in the 1980’s and early 1990’s have polybutylene plumbing and/or polybutylene water service lines that run from the street to the home.  Polybutylene pipe was used because it was less expensive than copper tubing and easier to install.  Builders saved thousands of dollars for materials and labor on each house constructed by using polybutylene plumbing instead of copper.

Unfortunately, it turned out that polybutylene pipes and fittings suffered from manufacturing defects that caused them to fail after only a few years of service.  They were also affected by the chlorine present in most municipal water systems which cause the pipes and fittings to break down.

In addition, polybutylene pipes can become fragile from excessive heat or cold or if they were overly stressed during installation.  In short, polybutylene plumbing systems usually have serious problems with leaks repeatedly developing either due to cracked pipes or from failed fittings.

If you have polybutylene plumbing in your home that is developing leaks, it is often possible in the short term to repair the leak by replacing the failed section of pipe or fittings using modern PEX pipe and fittings with adapters to connect the PEX pipe to the polybutylene pipe.

However, repairing leaky polybutylene pipe is rarely cost effective.  Your polybutylene pipes will continue to develop leaks and the best solution is usually to completely replace all of the polybutylene plumbing.

A complete polybutylene pipe replacement is a big job that is best left to an experienced plumber.  Be sure to get bids from several reputable plumbers and choose a plumber with experience in replacing polybutylene plumbing.