Polybutylene is a form of plastic resin that was used in the manufacture
of water supply piping from 1975 until 1990. Polybutylene piping
systems were viewed as “the pipe of the future” due to the low cost and
the ease of installation. These pipes are typically gray or white with a
dull appearance to them. The piping systems were mainly used for
underground water mains and as interior water distribution piping.
Experts believe it was installed in at least 6 million homes, and has
been used in as many as 10 million homes.
The most effective way of identifying Polybutylene pipes is to have
your plumbing inspected by a licensed professional. A professional
home inspector can confirm if you have poly piping installed in your
home and will be able to assess if there is damage to your pipes.
There’s certain characteristic that Polybutylene piping have.
Polybutylene that are underground can either be blue, gray or black.
People often confuse the black poly color with Polybutylene pipes. It is
usually 1/2″ or 1″ in diameter, and it may be found entering your home
through the basement wall or even the floor. Polybutylene used inside
your home can be found near the water heater, and coming out of the
walls to supply water for your sinks and toilets. Not all Polybutylene
piping systems use Polybutylene fittings, some use copper. If you see
copper fittings on a pipe, you might still have Polybutylene tubes.
The greatest concern with the Polybutylene piping system is that
eventually it will fail. It is believed that oxidants in the public water
supplies, such as chlorine, react with the Polybutylene piping and
acetal fittings causing them to flake and become weak. Micro-fractures
result, and the basic structural integrity of the system are reduced. This
results in the system becoming weak and fail without warning. This
then causes damage to the building and personal property. It is
believed that other factors may also contribute to the failure of
Polybutylene systems, such as improper installation, although it is
impossible to detect installation problems throughout an entire
system. Homeowner’s insurance policy holders are generally covered
for the water damage that Polybutylene pipe leaks cause to their
residence. However, home’s that are 30 years or older with
Polybutylene systems will not quality for home insurance/
Throughout the 1980’s, lawsuits were filed complaining of allegedly
defective manufacturing and defective installation causing hundreds of
millions of dollars in damages. Though most of these class action suits
have been settled, if you ever need to file a lawsuit due to
Polybutylene problems you’ll need to contact the appropriate
settlement claim company to find out if you qualify for a case. Like
stated before, always have your home inspected by a professional to
assure your home is safe!