Widely used in homes from 1978 to 1995, polybutylene (or PB) was widely used as supply piping. A substitute for copper due to its easy installation process and low material cost, many people saw it as an innovation in pipes that would take over the plumbing industry. Eventually, these pipes began to fail at a pretty rapid rate, causing millions of dollars worth of damage. Despite this, some homes are still equipped with polybutylene pipes and are a ticking time bomb in terms of potential damage. Here is how you can find out if your home has any polybutylene pipes and what it may mean for you.
Checking for Pipes
Common areas you may see these pipes include near sinks and toilets, near your water heater, and near your water shut-off valve. Here are some indicators that these pipes are polybutylene:
- If you see gray pipes with copper or bronze fittings that are flexible, this is a common look for PB pipes. They may also be blue, black, or other colors however.
- Check for a stamp with a code on it that begins with PB, like “PB2110.”
- These pipes don’t vary in diameter much and are ½” to 1” in diameter.
- It won’t be a drain, vent piping, or waste pipe.
Why Do Polybutylene Pipes Fail?
The reason polybutylene pipes fail isn’t known for certain but some believe that oxidants like chlorine that come through your public water end up reacting with polybutylene. This can cause it to scale, flake, and will make your pipes brittle, allowing micro-fractures to develop and compromising the structural integrity of the piping. If left unaddressed, this could lead to failure and water damage. Improper installation may also be a reason so many of these pipes fail, though it’s hard to say for certain what the cause is.
What if I Have Polybutylene Pipes?
If you do have polybutylene pipes in your home, you should have them replaced. PB that is installed between valves and fixtures is usually a simple and inexpensive swap for a professional plumber to make. If you have PB that runs from your water supply to your home, that is more difficult and could cost more. Contact a pro to see what they can do.
A RESIDENTIAL & COMMERCIAL PLUMBING COMPANY YOU CAN TRUST
Alpha Plumbing is a full-service plumbing and contracting company serving the Baltimore and Annapolis metro area with expertise in all aspects of plumbing. We’re family-owned and operated since 1991 from our office in Pasadena. We offer quality plumbing services at reasonable rates in a timely fashion. Our trucks are equipped with GPS systems to ensure we’re prompt and on time. No job is too large or too small! We maintain a fleet of well-stocked trucks and also own and operate our own backhoes for jobs requiring excavation.
For more information and to get a free no-obligation estimate, you can contact us on our website, send us an e-mail, or give us a call at (410) 255-5998.