What is Poly B?
Poly B is the name given to polybutylene plumbing. This was a grey or blue-colored plastic piping that was typically used in the 1970s to 1990s in residential homes in North America. It was believed to be the plumbing solution of the future with the majority of houses built or renovated around this time period adopting this plumbing. Poly B was seen as the low-cost solution to previously used M or L copper lines which would supply both hot and cold water to fixtures in houses. It was especially favored following the rise of commodities that occurred in the ’80s which drove up the prices of copper.
Polybutylene was quickly introduced into the market following a partnership deal between Shell and Dupoint. This flexible, grey, plastic pipe was praised by plumbers and contractors alike because it was easy to install, inexpensive and required fewer joints than the copper lines that had been in use. However, there had been reports that even before the product was fully rolled out into the market, state members of the ASA and CSA were paid off in order to expedite the process.
However, in 1991, the first lawsuit against Poly B was filed and in mid-1996, production of the product was halted. This was after countless allegations of bursting pipes were reported, resulting in property damage. It was estimated that by this time, polybutylene pipes had been installed in about 25% of the homes within the 70;s-90’s time period as well as in several commercial situations.
How to identify Poly B piping in your house
You may try to dig into your walls to find out whether your house was fitted with polybutylene piping or not but the best way to go would b to hire a professional. Not all blue, grey or white plumbing is Poly B. Even a standard home inspection will more than likely not be reliable because the majority of inspectors do not have the tools required to open the water mains to identify polybutylene piping.
It is also important to note that many plumbers installed copper stubs that protrude through the walls, hiding the Poly B pipes in the walls. Some even used Poly B as the main water line, disguising it as copper at the street or house ending. This makes it even more difficult for an inexperienced person to identify this kind of plumbing, solidifying the case to hire a professional.
Why you should seriously consider replacing Poly B pipes
By now, you have probably gathered that polybutylene pipes are not the safest to have in your house. Owing to the number of lawsuits that were filed against the product and the lengths taken to hide the use of the product in plain sight. The first batch of problems that were reported from using Poly B pipes resulted from the handling of the material during production, transportation, and installation.
Polybutylene can be considered a very temperamental product. The reason for it springing leaks is because, over time, its molecular bonds break. In addition, exposure to UV light has been shown to significantly speed up the deterioration of the bonds. That being said, when large plumbing companies were building multiple houses on a street, they would haul all the Poly B pipes and drop them off on the driveways to be used as each house was built, extending their exposure to the sun. Houses fitted with these pipes experience the most amount of damage within a shorter time. Smaller companies that were more careful about costs would not purchase the polybutylene pipes until they were needed for a specific house, thereby limiting their exposure the UV light.
As if being affected by UV is not enough, polybutylene has also been found to be severely affected by chlorine. Areas with high amounts of chlorine in the water experienced significant deterioration with their piping system. Once a house experienced its first leak, there would be more to follow every three to six months. Typically, Poly B plumbing, even with the best of handling has shown not to last more than 10-15 years. It is impossible to tell when exactly the pipes will fail as they can burst at any moment but it is certain to happen. This is even without showing any outward signs of possible failure. The best time to replace poly B pipes is as soon as you find out that your house was fitted with them.
While your pipes are being replaced, it’s probably best to find an alternative place to stay. Your water will be cut off, there will be plastic isolating certain areas of the house and cuts in the walls and ceilings throughout the house. Most reputable companies will typically complete the work in 5-8 business days.
What to do when you experience a pipe burst
This is rather obvious, that you should call a plumber. However, you should seriously consider replacing poly b piping at this point rather than just repairing it considering your troubles are only just beginning. In terms of insurance paying for the damage caused to your house by the burst or leak, you will probably strike out. After the class action lawsuit of 2005, home insurance companies have become rather tricky when it comes to polybutylene leaks. They have become exempt from legally covering these damages. Some do cover this damage at an “extra fee” but it’s usually not worth the trouble you will have to endure.
Cost of Poly B repair and replacement
The amount of money you will spend to ensure your house is leak-free will depend on a number of variables including:
- Extent of damage
- Size of the house
- Location and number of toilets, bathrooms and other wet areas in the house
- Amount of drywall to be replaced
Speak to your Urban Piping to come up with a good rate for you. Urban Piping Ltd Offers A Complete Poly B Replacement Service Including Plumbing, Drywall, and Painting. We do not sub-contract, 100% of work is done in house by Urban Piping Ltd.