Polybutylene Pipe was the latest invention in the 1970s and was widely used till the end of 1990. They were manufactured by none other than shell oil, having lower cost in comparison to the typical copper and much better resistance to environmental changes. The only issue was that they started to have leakage issues that caused the company to stop manufacturing them in 1995.
Due to this issue, many households completely built around the Polybutylene Pipe were forced to either change it or repair the existing ones. Not everyone could afford the expensive house plumbing and was required to take the path of repairing.
For this specific reason, we are here to talk about the repairing of Polybutylene, discuss the issue that caused the leakage, the existence of Polybutylene Pipe, and then give you the best solution to your problem.
What are these Polybutylene Pipes?
Simply referred to as PB, the Polybutylene Pipes are plastic resins that were at that time an innovation, coming with more resistance to heat and freeze while providing more flexibility. It all came with a much cheaper price tag in comparison to the famous pipe at that time made of copper.
As Polybutylene was used as a pipe for drinking water, the chlorine in that water started degrading the plastic, resulting in cracking and leaking. It was a complete failure, damaging the whole house’s plumbing and proving dangerous.
At the end of 1995, manufacturing stopped, and Oil was sued to pay 1 billion dollars to do the re-piping of around 320k houses. Many houses, as of today, have these Polybutylene Pipes in them because the sale and purchase of houses never stops.
Identification of Polybutylene Pipe
Most of the time, Polybutylene Pipes have PB2110 written on them, where PB stands for Polybutylene. Besides this, you can check out various other things that indicate you have this piping in your home and will soon require repairing.
- Half or one-inch diameter
- Comes in white or gray color most of the time, while they can also be in silver, blue, and black.
- As an extension or fixture to the supply line or water heater
- Most of the time, it is used in unfinished areas, basements, and spaces where you have to crawl.
- Used mostly in the United States (south side)
- They are only used for the drinking water supply, not for drainage.
What to do if you have a Polybutylene Pipe in your home?
Even if you have the necessary identifications mentioned above, it is still important to contact a professional plumber who can inspect the inside of your Polybutylene Pipe. Although there may not be visible cracks on the exterior, there is a high probability of leaks occurring internally.
A skilled plumber will inspect the pipes from the inside and inform you of their current condition. If you have the funds to replace the water pipes in your home, consider using materials such as copper or PEX pipes. This will prevent future problems and only require a one-time payment, eliminating any future hassle.
Insurance companies typically do not provide coverage for homes with Polybutylene Pipes due to the potential for damage in the future. Therefore, it is important to replace the water piping entirely before finalizing the purchase of a home with Polybutylene. Doing so can save a significant amount of time and hassle down the road.
If you can’t afford to replace your water system, consider repairing it with Polybutylene Pipe, which we will discuss below.
Repairing Polybutylene Pipe
Repairing is the last resort, as it is difficult because there is no quest fitting and Polybutylene Pipe. There are still a couple of options out there as PB’s diameter (outside) is similar to copper pipe, PEX, and CPVC. You can also use a mixture of various materials to repair the PB pipe. Below, we have all the extensive details on them.
Just like we mentioned the outside diameter of PB is similar to copper, PEX, and CPVC; you can use their push-fit fitting to repair cracked or leaking space. Note that it is hard for you to track down the inside cracks, but for the outside ones, you can easily join them together to stop the leakage for some time at that spot.
You will have to call a professional to look at the issue and provide a permanent solution to that problem, like using glue to join push-fit fitting on the damaged part of the Polybutylene Pipe.
For large pipe section
There are push-on couplings available that are like a transition from Polybutylene to a much more reasonable copper pipe, PEX, or CPVC. It is mainly used for large sections of Polybutylene Pipe, instead of repairing small sections from time to time.
You can effortlessly join the Polybutylene Pipe with that coupling and then cross the new pipe from that point onwards.
For small leaks
Mostly, in mobile homes, you will find very small leakages on the straight pipe, or it can be any location that is accessible easily. There, you can use the push-on fitting to repair it quickly.
To do this, you can cut the area of small leakage, referred to as a pinhole, and then push that repair coupling. There are issues with measurements most of the time, so take precise measures and cut the exact amount of pipe required.
For supply tube fixture or shut-off valve replacement
There are push-on shutoff valves, which are quite good for the repair of Polybutylene Pipes. Manufacturers came up with the flex line push-on valve and tube for water supply through which you can effortlessly change the lines that supply water to the faucet in no time.
For this, you will have to first shut the water supply completely from the fixture, remove that flex line that was present before, and make a measured cut exactly on the Polybutylene Pipe. Now, you will have to join the new flex line after pushing the new shut-off valve.
Finally, it is time to check if there are leakages from the repaired part or not. It doesn’t come immediately, rather check several times in the day after turning the water back on.
Transition coupling from Polybutylene to cross-linked polyethylene
The second method is the complete transition of Polybutylene to polyethylene. It is the best option for the areas where you can’t access cracked or leaked Polybutylene Pipe. There is that transition coupling that changes PB to PEX.
These transition couplings are made with brass material and are typically there to pay back for the diameter difference between both these pipes. Furthermore, there are two types of transition couplings depending on their crimp rings
- One is for the transition of pipe fitting towards the Polybutylene Pipe
- The other is for the transition of pipe fitting towards the polyethylene pipe
For the valves of the washing machine
You can use Polybutylene push-on valves specifically for the washing machine. In terms of overall usability, the transition fitting is much more effective because when it is safely transitioned to PEX, you won’t have to worry about finding the right equipment at the store. There are PEX tubing commonly available in the market for purchase.
Wall Pipe leakage
There are times when the Polybutylene Pipe passes through the wall, and there is leakage inside that specific part. Most of the time, an inaccessible area like this is replaced with another pipe not made up of Polybutylene.
Another great method is to use the transition coupling to completely change that Polybutylene area to polyethylene. You can use the transition as close as you can get to the pipe rather than making sure that it hits the spot.
Value leakage inside the walls
In the case of new installations like shower valves and other valves inside the wall, make sure you are using the transition coupling. It can help you join the polyethylene riser with the Polybutylene plumbing system.
Should you change the Polybutylene Pipe?
Yes, the Polybutylene Pipes should be replaced as soon as you can and if you have the amount available as well. The chlorine and fluoride in your water system can damage this pipe slowly, which can cause a major issue as well. You can replace the system with copper, polyethylene (PEX), etc.
How much time does it take to deteriorate Polybutylene Pipe?
The average deterioration time is around ten to fifteen years. If the Polybutylene Pipe in your home is more than 10 years old, it is like borrowed time and anything terrible can happen to it.
Is it safe to use Polybutylene Pipes for drinking water?
For the most part, Polybutylene is safe for drinking water, posing no issues to health and well-being. However, the pipes should be replaced when there isn’t a visible crack or leakage. The reason is that there might be slow damage at first and it can grow to pipe bursting or other conditions that can physically harm your family. Nevertheless, it is also super expensive to completely fix these Polybutylene Pipes.
Polybutylene pipes are somewhat completely useless, always having a danger of either bursting or leaking. Therefore, one has to consider changing the house water pipe system completely if the budget allows that. On the other hand, if the budget doesn’t allow you to change it, you can also repair the cracked parts.
Therefore, we compiled this article to help you understand and repair the situation afterward. If you are looking for a professional to visit the location and help you repair or change Polybutylene Pipe, you can visit skilledblue.com.