What Is Polybutylene?
Now that you have heard, “you have polybutylene water pipes in your home” here is what you need to know. We will refer to polybutylene as PB for the remainder of this article as it is the common term in the construction world.
How Do I Know I Have Polybutylene?
If you home was built in between 1978 and 1999 there is a good change your water pipes are PB material, but more so in the 1990’s here in British Columbia. If you have a crawlspace, unfinished basement, boiler, or access to your hot water tank you can look there to identify the piping in your home. If not you can look under the sinks as well and try to see the pipes coming out from the wall. You are looking for a flexible, grey-blue pipe approximately .5-1” in diameter with blue markings. The markings should read something as follows: PB2100, CSA B 137.8 and pressure ratings such as 690kPa (100 psi).
Should I Be Worried?
The simple answer is no, but you should be aware of what piping you have and take the necessary measures to minimize risk of leaks. The fittings on PB can be either a blue/white plastic fitting called a acetal plastic fittings or they will be copper. There will be a copper crimp before and after each joint and that is where you should watch for leaks. It has been said the leaks were from poor installation, constant flow of hot water, and chlorine in the water; not the product itself.
What Can I Do To Minimize Potential Leaks?
If PB is being used to supply hot water to your bathrooms and kitchen it is recommended to lower your hot water temperature down to 130F on your hot water tank. If you have radiant hot water heat (hydronic heating) I would recommend having a qualified hydronic heating specialist inspect your boiler and piping once a year to marginalize any risks of leaks. This is a small price to pay for peace of mind.
Having PB in your home is not a major issue if it has been properly inspected. Having a qualified home inspector or plumber can give peace of mind knowing your not buying a problem waiting to happen. It is recommended to have professionals inspect for leaks, past repairs and trouble areas before you buy.