Discovering Polybutylene: What You Need to Know

Polybutylene water supply piping found in a home on the Sunshine Coast by Examina Inspections

September 1, 2023


Examina Inspections

Let’s talk about polybutylene!

Polybutylene is a type of plastic pipe that was widely used in home plumbing systems from the late 1970s to the early 1990s. You may have heard of polybutylene, or Poly-B for short, and wondered what it is and why it’s a risk for homeowners. Here are some facts you should know about Poly-B plumbing and what you can do to protect your home from potential problems.

What is Poly-B plumbing?

Poly-B plumbing is a gray or black plastic pipe that was used as a cheaper alternative to copper pipes in new home construction. It was flexible, easy to install, and resistant to corrosion. However, it also had some serious drawbacks that became apparent over time. Poly-B pipes are prone to cracking, leaking, and bursting due to various factors such as water pressure, heat, chlorine, sunlight, and age. These leaks can cause water damage, mould growth, and health hazards in your home.

How common is Poly-B plumbing?

It’s estimated that there are over 700,000 homes across Canada with Poly-B plumbing. Most of these homes were built between 1978 and 1995, when Poly-B was popular among builders and plumbers. If your home was built during this period, there is a good chance that it has Poly-B pipes somewhere in the walls or floors. You can check for Poly-B pipes by looking for gray or black plastic pipes with markings such as “PB2110” or “CSA-B 137.8” on them. You can also look for plastic or copper fittings that connect the pipes.

Why is Poly-B plumbing a risk?

Poly-B plumbing is a risk because it can fail unexpectedly and cause major damage to your home. Poly-B pipes can crack and leak due to various factors such as water pressure, heat, chlorine, sunlight, and age. These leaks can be hard to detect until it’s too late, especially if they are hidden behind drywall or under flooring. Leaking water can damage your walls, floors, ceilings, furniture, appliances, and electrical systems. It can also create favourable conditions for mould growth, which can affect your indoor air quality and your health.

Poly-B plumbing can also affect the value of your home. Many buyers and lenders are wary of homes with Poly-B pipes because of the potential problems they can cause. Some insurance companies may refuse to cover homes with Poly-B plumbing or charge higher premiums for them. If you have Poly-B plumbing in your home, you may have difficulty selling it or getting insurance for it.

What can you do about Poly-B plumbing?

If you have Poly-B plumbing in your home, you have two options: monitor it or replace it.

Monitoring your Poly-B plumbing means checking regularly for signs of leaks or damage. You should also keep your water pressure low, avoid using harsh chemicals in your water system, and install a water filter to reduce chlorine levels. You should also inspect your pipes annually by a professional plumber who can detect any problems before they become worse.

Replacing your Poly-B plumbing means removing all the old pipes and fittings and installing new ones made of more durable materials such as PEX tubing or copper pipes. This is the best option if you want to eliminate the risk of leaks and damage from Poly-B pipes. Replacing your Poly-B plumbing can also increase the value of your home and lower your insurance premiums. However, replacing your Poly-B plumbing can be costly and disruptive, depending on the size and layout of your home.

The choice between monitoring or replacing your Poly-B plumbing depends on your budget, preference, and risk tolerance. Either way, you should be aware of the potential problems that Poly-B pipes can cause and take steps to protect your home from them.

If you are looking for a reliable and professional home inspection service in Gibsons, Sechelt, Pender Harbour or any other location on the Sunshine Coast, British Columbia, look no further than Examina Inspections. We are licensed by Consumer Protection BC and follow the standards of practice set by the Canadian National Association of Certified Home Inspectors. We use state-of-the-art equipment and software to provide you with a comprehensive and easy-to-read report on the same day as your inspection. Contact us today to book your inspection!

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