If your home or commercial building is an 80’s baby, chances are your pipes could be in trouble and polybutylene water pipes are the culprit.
This material was used in homes built in the 1980s as a cost-effective alternative to copper and PVC. These pipes have caused multiple issues for home owners over the years due to oxidants (like chlorine found in municipal water) breaking down the material. Overtime, this can cause the pipes to scale, flake and become brittle. Breaks or leaks can often happen, compromising the integrity of the entire system and causing substantial damage to your property.
Polybutylene pipes were banned from new construction projects after 1995, but if they’re already in your home, there is no requirement to remove it. This is important to know if you decide to purchase a home that was built between 1978 and 1995. If this is the case, your home inspector should thoroughly check for polybutylene plumbing to avoid future issues.
Since a class action lawsuit was filed and settled several years ago, the only alternative (if you suspect you have polybutylene pipes in your home) is to consider having them replaced before misfortune strikes. In addition to avoiding water damages brought on by leaks or breaks in your home, other good reasons to consider replacing the polybutylene piping in your home include:
• The fact that some insurance companies have been known to cancel homeowners’ policies or refuse to insure homes built with these pipes
• Polybutylene piping can also affect a home’s value on the real estate market
How to know if you have polybutylene pipes in your home?
If you believe your home was built using polybutylene pipes, you should consult with a licensed plumber immediately and have the system inspected. These tips can help you find and detect whether your pipes could be made of polybutylene.
• Interior polybutylene pipes typically enter the home through a basement wall, concrete slab or crawl space.
• Check your water heater, sinks, tubs and toilets. The interior pipes are usually ½” – 1” in diameter and grey (or white) with a dull finish.
• External polybutylene is usually light blue, but it could also be grey or black.
• Good places to examine the exterior pipes would be the basement or crawl space underneath, main water shutoff valve or water meter.
Keep in mind that even if you have copper fittings, it doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t have polybutylene. Some plumbers continued to use copper fittings with these pipes.