Plumbing: you usually don’t think about it as long as it’s working properly. However, if your home has Poly-B (or Polybutylene) plumbing, you may have had to make some repairs or replace the plumbing entirely. So, what is it and why is it an important issue to take a look at?
Poly-B is a gray plastic pipe used as a water supply line in your home. This type of pipe was installed in many homes from the beginning of the ’70s until the early ’90s. It was believed that the material was great and also cheaper than copper, but a few years later, homes with Poly-B plumbing began to spring leaks. Some Poly-B plumbing would leak behind drywall and not be discovered until it was a huge issue, causing major water damage and growing mold. It’s estimated that roughly 700,000 homes across Canada with Poly-B plumbing.
While these pipes may look ok from the outside, they will slowly deteriorate from the inside, causing future ruptures. Although there has been a lot of controversy over the use of Poly-B, these water systems have acted without failure in many homes for extended periods of time that range from 10 to 15 years. Unfortunately, it is not a matter of IF it will fail, but WHEN it will fail.
Why should I replace my Poly-B plumbing?
Homeowners may have difficulty getting insurance and Poly-B plumbing can discourage potential buyers from purchasing your home in the future. InterNACHI (International Association of Certified Home Inspectors) advises that as leakage can happen without any warning, plumbers often recommend replacing Poly-B pipes with something else (such as PEX or copper).
Check out these 5 Plumbing Issues for new homeowners.
What can you do to maintain your Poly-B plumbing?*
If you have Poly-B plumbing in your home, it is almost inevitable that you’ll need to replace it at some point. Here are a few things you can do to extend the life of the existing Poly-B:
- Replace plastic fittings: As mentioned above, in the early days of Poly-B piping, the fittings in some areas were made of plastic, and tended to fail over time. This is less common in Canada than in the U.S. If your fittings are plastic, you might consider getting a plumber to replace these with copper or brass fittings.
- Don’t over-crimp: You’ll notice that the pipes are held in place with metal bands. If these are crimped too tightly, hairline fractures could result. With fractures, leaks, so this is an important step.
- Lower the pressure: Pressure-reducing valves are available and are designed to reduce the water pressure in your house, allowing for less stress on both the pipes and fittings. Most experts recommend between 40 and 60 psi. High water pressure can cause damage to your home’s fixtures, as well as cause the pipes to rupture.
- Reduce the chlorine: High levels of chlorine in the water can speed the deterioration of poly-B pipes. Most regions of Canada don’t have an issue with chlorine, but if your home is in an area with high levels of chlorine, you may want to consider installing a filter to remove chlorine right where the water comes into the home, not just where it comes out of the tap.
- Turn down the heat: Hot water causes Poly-B pipes to deteriorate quicker. You may want to turn down the temperature on your water heater, but be careful; turning it too low can cause bacteria to grow. And Poly-B pipes should not be connected directly to the hot water tank. BC Hydro recommends setting the tank to no lower than 55 degrees to prevent bacteria forming in the tank. If you have small children in the house, setting the water to a lower temperature has an added bonus of helping to prevent scalding. See Hot water tanks.
Our company has over 60 years of experience and our plumbers come prepared for any plumbing situation. Our technicians are licensed, bonded and insured for all the work done in your home. If you need assistance or advice, give us a call (250) 800-0000 or check out our website. You can rest assured that your Okanagan home is safe in our hands.
*Square One insurance: Accessed on August 30, 2019, https://www.squareoneinsurance.com/poly-b-plumbing