Recently, Strata Councils and Insurance companies have begun declining insurance or assigning high deductibles to homes with Poly-B piping in their plumbing. Here’s everything you need to know about Poly-B, and why you should be replacing it.
Plumbing tips from A1 Choice Plumbers in Kelowna & West Kelowna
Polybutylene Piping (or Poly-B) is a blue or grey non-rigid water supply piping. Chances are you’ve either seen it or heard of it before. With production beginning in 1977, Poly-B was widely used because it was relatively inexpensive and easier to install than traditional copper or even C-PVC water piping. Poly-B has caused a lot of problems – you may have heard a story or two throughout the years – and although improvements have been made since it was first introduced, problems still persist. This article discusses what those problems are, how they affect you and your home, and what you can do to fix them.
WHAT IS POLY-B?
Poly-B was supposed to be the next big thing. It largely replaced copper for most homes where cost was an issue. Poly-B is very easy to assemble and there’s no soldering involved. It’s also very flexible, and you can bend it to suit your desired angle.
Interior Poly-B are typically grey or white in colour, while exterior ones are usually light blue, grey or black. The best places to inspect for interior Poly-B are sinks, toilets, bathtubs, and water heaters. Common exterior places to inspect for Poly-B are at the points where pipes enter the home, such as the basement, the main water valve or the water meter.
Although Poly-B has performed its job in many homes without a problem, it has struck controversy as it has experienced failures and affected a homeowner’s likelihood to receive insurance coverage.
Recently, Strata Councils and Insurance companies have begun declining insurance or assigning high deductibles to homes with Poly-B piping in their plumbing.
WHAT ARE THE PROBLEMS ASSOCIATED WITH POLY-B?
The problems started surfacing in the early 1980’s in the form of leaks and ruptures of the piping. The majority of these leaks occurred at the pipe joint fittings. While the manufacturers of Poly-B argued that the majority of the leaks were the fault of bad installation through the use of improper fittings to join the pipes, there were simply too many problems occurring for this to be the sole cause. Contributing factors that cause Poly-B failures include chemicals in the water supply reacting with the piping, and using acetal insert fittings (grey or white plastic) to connect the pipes, which weaken the pipes and joints. In place of plastic fittings, metal ones are preferred. Other causes are cracks in the fittings, applications where high levels of chlorine are used in the water supply, and poor installation in areas of excessively high temperatures, for example near water tanks or in the attics of houses in very warm climates.
After numerous class action lawsuits against the manufacturers, Poly-B is no longer manufactured or used in installation. In Canada, Poly-B was originally tested and certified by the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) as an acceptable product for potable water systems, but as of 2005, the NRC-CNRC National Plumbing Code de-listed Poly-B as an acceptable plumbing piping material.
When buying a home the discussion of Poly-B and its relation to insurance needs to occur as soon as possible. The presence of Poly-B may affect the long-term plumbing of your home and eligibility to receive insurance coverage.
WHY YOU SHOULD REPLACE POLY-B PIPING?
The history of Poly-B piping has shown that it is not a reliable piping material to sustain your house’s plumbing long-term. Because Poly-B piping is weakened by chemicals in the water supply, it is likely to result in unwanted leaks, pipe cracking, and ruptures. These leaks have the potential to create significant and costly issues in your home, including mold growth and wood damage.
Due to the issues of Poly-B piping, Strata Councils and Insurance companies have required homeowners with Poly-B piping to undergo plumbing upgrades to receive insurance or have their deductibles a reasonable amount.
For the safety of your plumbing and your insurance costs, our experts are A1Choice recommend replacing the Poly-B Piping in your home.
WHAT CAN I DO TO FIX PROBLEMS WITH POLY-B PIPING?
The most effective way of identifying Poly-B is to have your plumbing inspected by a licensed and experienced plumbing professional. In the meantime, ensure that the operating pressure of the system is safely between 40 and 60 psi and your hot water supply system is significantly lower than 180º F.
Insurance Requests For Homeowners with Poly-B Piping
Here’s how a certified professional can fix problems with Poly-B piping:
1. Replace Poly-B piping with Plex piping
Ultimately, the only way to eliminate the chance of leaks from Poly-B piping is to replace all Poly-B components with a modern and reliable piping such as PEX. Cross-linked polyethylene (PEX) shares many of the same qualities as Poly-B, but with an enhanced cross-linked molecular structure that greatly improves its structural integrity and, unlike Poly-B, PEX pipes are not softened by heat.
At A1Choice Plumbing, our experts have extensive experience with removing Poly-B piping and Plex piping installation.
2. Replace Old Hot Water Tanks
Several Strata Councils have sent notices to their homeowners requesting upgrades to their hot water tanks. To renew their condo insurance or receive a reasonable deductible, these Strata Councils have required replacement of any hot water tank older than 10 years. Additionally, these Strata councils specifically required proof of installation to from a licenced plumbing company.
Take a proactive approach to benefit your plumbing and home insurance. Contact one of our trusted experts to replace your Poly-B piping and hot water tank. This will give you peace of mind knowing the piping in your home is sound.