We love plastic. It’s cheap and easy to manipulate. We make utensils, bags, glasses and water pipes out of it.
How Polybutylene Came About
Copper piping, preferred for home plumbing for years, got a bit expensive in the late 1970’s. So, plastic suppliers focused on plastic resins for use in home plumbing. They recommended one resin, polybutylene, and touted it as the home plumbing pipe of the future. Builders installed it in millions of homes from 1978 to around 1995.
We found out a bit late this wasn’t a good idea. Many plastic resins such as PVC, or PEX are excellent choices for piping. However, there is a problem specifically with polybutylene. Chemicals in water such as chlorine react with polybutylene causing deterioration. This deterioration isn’t detectable by cursory inspection. The pipe needs specialist’s inspection to confirm it’s about to fail.
The Problems Polybutylene Causes
Polybutylene piping failures cause more than minor leaks. If the piping is behind sheetrock and springs a leak, the damage hides until the wall comes apart or mold sets in. Sudden failure is common and costly, damaging the structural integrity of the home.
How do you know if your home’s plumbing contains this piping? Take a look at the pipes you can see. If they’re gray, black or white and curved, call an inspection service who knows this piping and its issues. Many types of reliable plastic piping resemble polybutylene, and only a well-trained plumber or inspector recognizes the difference. Better safe than sorry in these cases.
What to Do if You Have Polybutylene Piping
It’s recommended this piping be replaced before catastrophic failure occurs. It’s costly but ignoring the issue is more expensive. In addition to lowering your home’s value, it’s likely to spend more time on the market if you sell.
As far as covering the expense goes, check with your home insurance company for coverage limits. In addition, there is a class action suit against polybutylene manufacturer’s which has paid out to homeowners, so you may wish to consult an attorney.
The best news is there are companies in your area who excel at replacing this piping to help save your home.