Polybutylene Plastic Pipe (Poly-B) was used extensively between 1978 and 1995, especially in residential construction as cold and hot piping water supply, but also for heating. These gray pipes (sometimes – black) are usually connected with gray or white plastic fittings. These insert fittings are fixed and held in place by a metal ring.
However, these plastic pipes have attracted many times attention over the years, because they are prone to leak. These concerns are based on the fact that both poly-B pipes and plastic fittings are exposed to high concentrations of chlorine residuals in the water and water with extremely high temperatures.
The truth is that these concerns have a real support, but accidents that happened are quite rare and in plus, they are due to a poor installation and not to a poor quality of materials.
Therefore, if your Poly-B water system is only supplying cold and hot water throughout your house you do not have reasons to be worried. However, for added safety and your peace of mind, you should adjust your hot water tank temperature below 130 F.
Do You Have Poly-B Pipes in Your Home?
If you are concerned if you have or not Poly-B piping water supply system in your home then you should do the following:
1| Find when your house was built. As we know these pipes have begun to be used heavily between 1978 and 1995, so if your home was built before 1975 and no major repairs (as repiping) have been made then most likely that this situation does not apply to you.
2| If you have electric baseboard heating or a forced air system and you do not have a hot water system heating, then you do not have Poly-B pipes installed for the heating system.
3| If you are doing some renovations and some water pipes are exposed, look for gray or black, flexible tubing or pipes. Areas where you can look may include: kitchen (under the sink), bathroom (under the lavatory sink) and basement (hot water heater and water meter connections). However, you should be careful because you can have copper pipes in some areas but that does not mean you cannot have Poly-B pipes in other areas.
Buying a Home with Poly-B
No house is perfect unless it is brand new and is built under your supervision.
So, most of the houses on the market have several different functional and cosmetic defects. If your budget is strictly limited, many of these minor problems, especially if beauty can be ignored and left for later. Unfortunately, there are other issues that must be solved immediately.
However, Poly-B pipes actually do not strictly fall into any of these categories. There are many rumors and lack of information regarding this type of material. So I will try in the following lines to clarify some issues regarding the impact that it can have a house with Poly-B pipes on your budget. I will refer here not only to the costs of house maintenance but also to the costs of replacing these pipes.
Many homeowners complain that they did not know from the beginning that their newly purchased house is equipped with this piping system, and therefore they have had quite expensive bad experiences.
Let’s see the facts about Polybutylene Plastic Pipes:
1| A home inspection, no matter how professional is made, cannot determine for sure if a polybutylene pipe is about to burst or to leak just looking at it. Generally, a plastic pipe deteriorates from the inside, without changing its appearance, and can anytime crack under water pressure.
2| As I mentioned above Poly-B pipes may leak or even burst suddenly, which can destroy your furniture and stuff and even causing extensive structural damage.
3| On the other hand, you can buy a home with poly-B plumbing with less than the market price and sellers will be more than willing to split the cost of a repiping job.
4| However, you will have trouble selling a house with this plumbing system, not to mention that the value of your home will decrease in time.
5| You are not eligible for financial assistance after 10 years of purchase.
6| Your home insurance premium may be higher and more than that, the insurance company may limit the coverage in case of leak claiming.
7| However, a copper repiping job is not more expensive than the cost of a carpet replacement and the job doesn’t take more than one week. The bright side is that during the work, the water circuit will be restarted every night after workers finish their job.
8| If you have a home hydronic heating system based on Poly-B pipes, do not hesitate to contact a specialist and have his assess regarding your heating system. He will do the required water tests and he will advise you on the necessary steps that you have to take.