Poly-B Piping in your home, what are the dangers?
Do you know what kind of plumbing is hidden inside the walls and floors of your home?
Poly-B was very common in homes built between the 1970s and early 90s. At the time, Poly-B was a great alternative to copper piping as it was both easier to work with and much cheaper. It is estimated that around 800,000 homes across Canada were plumbed using Poly-B. It’s not something you think about often if it’s working properly. If Poly-B Piping in your home, what are the dangers?
How do you tell if your home has Poly-B?
Most Poly-B pipes are grey, though other colours (like black, white, or blue) exist.
If you’re not sure whether you have Poly-B plumbing, look for gray plastic pipes anywhere there is exposed plumbing: under the sink, connected to the water meter, at the hot water tank, or on the ceiling of an unfinished basement.
Poly-B plumbing systems often have plastic fittings connecting the lengths of pipe, though copper fittings appear sometimes as well. Copper- or brass-fitted Poly-B systems are reportedly quite common in British Columbia, for example.
One other way to identify Poly-B plumbing is by the markings printed on the pipes. Poly-B pipes usually have an identifying code stamped on the side: either “PB2110” or “CSA-B 137.8.” The absence of these codes doesn’t automatically mean it’s not Poly-B; if your home’s plumbing meets all the other criteria, it could still be Poly-B.
If you suspect your home’s pipes are Poly-B but can’t confirm it, contact Fox today to arrange a complimentary plumbing inspection.
With Poly-B pipes, you’re better safe than sorry.
What are the Risks with Poly-B
The first problem with Poly-B has historically been the fittings. The fittings, used to connect one pipe to another, are often plastic. These fittings are prone to cracking and leaking over time. In some cases, the fittings weren’t installed correctly. They’ve often been over-tightened, causing the pipes themselves to crack.
Poly-B pipes are also prone to damage from water pressure and heat. Most home plumbing systems have to deal with both of those things, making Poly-B a poor choice.
But wait, there’s more:
Chemicals like chlorine slowly degrade polybutylene. Even in the tiny doses sometimes present in municipal water supplies, such chemicals can harm Poly-B pipes and lead to leaks.
While a cracked pipe often leaks enough that you’ll discover it quickly, degradation from heat or chemicals can take a long time, and it starts from inside the pipe. Poly-B plumbing may appear perfectly fine on the outside while being ready to rupture at any moment. There’s just no way to tell.
What should you do when something goes wrong?
It’s difficult to judge the condition of Poly-B piping. Home inspectors can look for obvious signs, such as visible repairs or improper installation. But the damage to the pipes begins from the inside where you can’t see it.
InterNACHI (International Association of Certified Home Inspectors) advises that leakage can happen without any warning. Plumbers recommend replacing Poly-B pipes with something else (such as PEX or copper). Not only might you have difficulty getting insurance, but Poly-B plumbing can discourage potential buyers from purchasing your home if you ever decide to move.
There are things you can do to extend the life of the Poly-B pipes, but most experts say that the best solution is usually to replace the entire system.
What’s wrong with Poly-B plumbing?
At first, homeowners started noticing small leaks behind drywall and mould growing behind walls throughout their homes, causing damage to walls and flooring. These leaks and floods became common enough that contractors started noticing that Poly-B was used in all cases.
While the Poly-B piping looked fine from the outside, at around the 10-15 year mark, Poly-B would develop hairline fractures and cracks that are invisible to the naked eye, causing leaks behind walls. Unfortunately, it is not if, but when the hundreds of feet of Poly-B in a typical home will fail.
Why should I replace Poly-B plumbing?
The first and most important reason to replace Poly-B plumbing is to eliminate the risk of leaks behind walls. Leaks behind walls can damage walls, floors, cabinets, and personal valuables. In addition to this, homeowners may find it difficult to purchase home insurance if the home is plumbed with Poly-B. Potential home buyers are also discouraged by home inspectors to purchase homes with Poly-B piping.
If you want peace of mind, consider re-piping your home with PEX. PEX is the recommended replacement for Poly-B due to its ease of installation and durability. Find a contractor you can trust. The cheapest is not always the best. Make sure the contractor you hire is using licensed plumbers and will adhere to all BC building codes. Your home is the largest investment you will make, it makes sense to hire someone you can trust.
Costs to replace Poly-B Plumbing
There are quite a few factors that can raise or lower the cost of replacing Poly-B Plumbing. Obviously, a larger home with a more extensive plumbing system will cost more.
However, aside from the material and labour costs for replacing the plumbing itself, there’s the added cost of actually gaining access to the pipes. Replacing a whole plumbing system means tearing up flooring and opening walls — an expensive undertaking.
However, if you leave it too long and your Poly-B pipes start to leak, you might find yourself having to pay for remediation of water damage and mould on top of the Poly-B replacement cost.
Fox Plumbing Heating Cooling Electrical has been serving Vernon and North Okanagan for over 20 years. Give us a call and we’ll be happy to answer any questions you may have about Poly-B piping.