Poly-B-Piping

What is Poly B Plumbing?

Poly B, also referred to as Polybutylene, is a flexible grey pipe used in hot water systems and residential plumbing. It was manufactured in between the years of 1978 and 1998 because of its flexibility, low cost, and ease of installation. It is estimated that in Canada alone there are over 700,000 homes that have had this piping installed prior to it being discontinued. Each and every one of these homes is at risk of poly b issues happening.

Poly B was the first plastic plumbing pipe manufactured to be used as an alternative to a more expensive copper piping. The fact that is was inexpensive and easy to install made it very appealing to plumbers and contractors throughout the US and Canada including Calgary, AB. In Canada, the use of poly b piping was originally tested and certified by the Canadian Standards Association and approved for potable water systems. 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 times that range from 10 to 15 years. Following this time frame, almost in all instances, poly b pipe failure has happened. It is not a matter of if the pipe will fail but how long until the pipe fails.

See some “Poly B Photos” to help you identify if you have this piping in your home.

 

 

Problems with Poly B Piping

Although there may be homes that have not experienced damages to a home the fact is that the pipe was discontinued for a reason. Eventually and over time the pipe begins to leak and cause damages to homes. One or more of the following are the reasons you may be experiencing poly b issues in your home:

  • High levels or free chlorine exist in the water supply causing leakage throughout the piping system.
  • Improper installation of the piping in homes where fitting were installed too right causing hair line cracks eventually ending with leakage and damages to homes.
  • Improper installation of piping to be bent and put under stress causing leaks and damages to homes.
  • Installation near high heat areas including hot water tanks, in the attic, and other areas of extensively high temperatures.
  • The use of acetal (white or grey) fittings to connect pipes rather than the preferred metal fittings.

See our “Poly B Lawsuits and Home Insurance” page for more information about home insurance claims and lawsuit information. Poly b issues with home insurance and law suits have been around for many years and the chances of receiving a claim or having your home insurance policy cover the costs are very minimal.

Costs for Replacing Poly B

The cost of replacing the poly b Plumbing system in your home depends on the size of your home and the contractor doing the work for you. Replacing the system is almost always invasive to an extent. There are many professionals that have have devised quick ways of re-mediating poly b and getting your home back into the condition exactly as it was before. There are many factors that can dictate the price of a job.

  • Materials
  • Labour
  • Re-mediation
  • Interior Access
  • Size of the House
  • Number of Bathrooms
  • How much drywall needs to be removed to access pipes

Cost is always a deciding factor when considering to replace poly b. In general these jobs are not cheap. Depending on these factors the price can range quite significantly. We have found the average price between $6,000 and $15000. This price should include complete removal of poly b with PEX piping and all repair to walls and ceilings during the poly b re-mediation process. A typical poly b job takes about a week to complete the plumbing aspect of things and then up to another 2 weeks to complete the drywall process.

The investment however is a a good one none the less. You will have peace of mind that you will not be a victim of a leaking water system and avoid the costs that come with an unexpected pipe failure.

See our “Choosing a Poly B Contractor” page for information about hiring a contractor and getting the job done properly.

We have many people who write us asking for a contractor and we refer our inquiries to a Calgary based company called Urban Piping Ltd. They have a great reputation for getting the job done quickly and efficiently leaving your home in the same condition as it was prior to finding Poly B piping throughout your home. They can offer different solutions and cost effective approaches for anyone dealing with Poly B issues.

14 Comments

  1. I live in a 24 years old high rise in Burnaby BC and we do not know where to run to next with buckets. We are24 floors and water leaks weekly with drywall and carpet damage for days.

  2. Unfourtunatly this isn’t the first story of this nature that we have heard about recently.

    How has the condo board and insurance dealt with the incidents Ken?

  3. We can get insurance but it is $50k deductible and repiping done by previous boards has started but they hired a contractor that could not take a city permit out. They our blowing pipes because they did not connect the pipes correctly. The dry wall damage goes on. I think about $700K spent or 9 floors 14 floors still need to be done but the contractor issue needs to be sorted out. We got about $110K in the bank! What do you do with that.

  4. My home was built in 1987 and has poly-b only in the concrete floor for the radiant heating system. There was never chlorine in this sealed system ( I live on an acreage and usually fill the system with rain water). I only have perhaps 2 feet of pipe coming out of the floor from every run before it reaches the copper header. If the pipe were to leak, the floor drain 2 feet away would catch it.Insurance companies wish to lump me into the same category as all the other homes where the poly-b is used throughout for hot and cold water.Not fair!

  5. I didn’t know anything about Poly B until I experienced a minor leak on the 3rd floor of my home over the weekend. Having done the research on how risky it is to have this stuff in a house (mine was built in 1989), I have made repeated appeals to my insurance company to work with me to get all the rest of this nasty plumbing out of my home. All I have asked is that they pay for the dry wall repairs, paint and labor associated with the conversion to Pex – I’d of course cover all plumbing material/labor costs. My insurance company has so far claimed that they haven’t even heard of Poly B much less have any concern wrt its integrity/reliability. I have offered to provide references (including all of the easily-found info pertaining to lawsuits) but they aren’t interested. I’ve pointed out to them that by not taking the opportunity to spend a relatively small amount now, if damage occurs as a result from failure in future, they are the ones who will suffer the greatest loss, not me. Again, this is apparently lost on them. I’ll give them one more chance to deal with this intelligently, tomorrow when I speak to one of their “Customer Relations” managers. I would have thought that a large business (this is one of Canada’s biggest insurance companies if not THE biggest) specializing in risk management/mitigation would be more intelligent about the types of risk they are willing to accept….

  6. i recently had a leak where my hot water tank is & the plumber said it was my hot water tank.i paid to have it replace.one day went by & there was another leak.plumer came out,examined tank & saie it is not the tank,but a leak in the wall.he opened the wall & found the grey pipe leaking,he removed it & installed copper tubing.another day went by & plummer came out again,fixed leak & said to not call him again on this matter.he did not charge me!

  7. Received an all cash list price offer on a home I listed but it ffell through when the inspection came back saying the house had this piping.

  8. Did you ever get your poly b replaced Maurice?

  9. You are spreading false information when you state that “these water systems have acted without failure in many homes for extended periods of times that range from 10 to 15 years. Following this time frame, almost in all instances, poly b pipe failure has happened”. In fact, Alberta has reported a total of only 4 failures in the last 25 years out of hundreds of thousands of homes with poly-b. Similar failure rates are reported in other pipe systems as well. 4 out of 100’s of 1000’s can hardly be called “almost in all instances”. Our house has 25-yr-old poly-b that has so far caused no issues whatsoever. When I’ve installed new fixtures and replaced sections of pipe, the old pipe sections appear to be as flexible and strong as ever. Copper and PEX can also fail in time.

  10. According to a new market report published by Credence Research “Polybutene Market – Growth, Share, Opportunities, Competitive Analysis, and Forecast 2013 – 2023,” the Polybutene market was valued at US$ 1,750 Mn in 2015, and is expected to reach US$ 2,500 Mn by 2023, expanding at a CAGR of 4.5% from 2016 to 2023.

  11. Insurers are not in the business of helping you to improve your home – they are there to cover loss. If they paid to assist homeowners in replacing Poly-b piping, they would go out of business. They will discount your policy if you don’t have poly-b; they won’t pay for you to replace it.
    This is all explained in the policy documents for nearly every insurer, and is covered in the General Lines Level 1 licensing.

  12. The piping still poses a risk, and insurers recognize that.

  13. Our home was built in 89. 3 years ago we had a small leak in the poly b. Was caught early, and we repaired that section. This past summer, the poly b connected to the water main under the foundation cracked and we had an slow leak that went un noticed since it was near the water drain. By time it was found, the drywall was moldy, and the adjoining room carpet was damaged. We had to replace the water main … digging through the driveway in the process. Insurance only covered the water damage, not the new driveway or plumbing. 2 weeks later the upstairs toilet water line cracked, leaking into the kitchen below. We have since replaced all the poly b with Pex. The whole fiasco cost us over $20000 . I’m happy to say we have been dry ever since

  14. My first exposure to Poly-b was in the bush of Alaska in 1985. We also used high density PE pipe but I was only aware of this product in diameters of 2″ and larger at that time. Wirsbo PEX came along shortly after and seemed to be a superior product to Poly-b for small diameter pipe. We built a bunch of water services with loop circulation in interior Alaska in the mid-80’s with 1/2″ and 3/4″ poly-b. We discovered that poly-b would burn almost explosively when it was inadvertently touched with a torch flame while sweating copper fittings and this pointed to a potentially serious fire hazard. For that reason it was advised to never use it inside houses Poly-b could generally tolerate a single freeze up. The second time it froze it would generally rupture. We did have leaking problems but concluded that when joints leaked, we could cure the problem by replacing the compression tool. I don’t recall experiencing problems with leaking joints but I only used this product for a few years and never went back to observe product longevity. When Wirsbo PEX came out, that is all I have used, both for hydronic heating and plumbing, in lieu of copper. PEX retains much of its superior material properties at -60F, does not seem to be particularly flammable, and I can always be assured of good joint with either compression fittings or the push-in connectors, such as shark-bite.

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