Polybutylene is a semi-rigid plastic like material that will usually have a slight curve to it and will normally be gray or blue, but can be black in color. All Polybutylene will have a product code of PB2110 stamped onto it and will be repeated every 18” – 24”.
POLYBUTYLENE WAS USED IN MILLIONS OF HOMES
Polybutylene was first introduced in the late 1970’s and was touted as a great innovation for the new construction market. It allowed contractors to install Interior Potable Water Distribution Systems much faster and cheaper than with the more conventional systems such as Copper, Galvanized or CPVC piping. It is estimated that Polybutylene was installed in upwards of 10 million homes, apartments, and commercial structures thru the 1980’s on thru 1995, when it became the subject of a class action settlement, (Shell v. Cox, www.pbpipe.com). It was mainly used in the Sun Belt and Mid-Atlantic States, with some also used in the Pacific Northwest.
POLYBUTYLENE IS DEFECTIVE
Polybutylene has been declared a defective product because it can prematurely and unexpectedly fail causing catastrophic leaks, damaging personal property and disrupting lives. There are 2 fundamental causes of failure of Polybutylene pipes. First; Chlorine and other oxidants are leached into the pipes which react with the Polybutylene resin causing it to become brittle. As the pipes become brittle, micro-fractures result reducing the structural integrity of the pipe, resulting in leaks. Second, the pipes could have been installed incorrectly. The ease with which Polybutylene could be installed, (didn’t even require experienced pipe fitters or plumbers), paved the way for sloppy installations where the special crimping tools weren’t calibrated regularly causing loose fittings, fitting were installed crooked, pipes were bent and kinked to go around corners, etc.
DO YOU HAVE POLYBUTYLENE IN YOUR HOME
You may have Polybutylene in your home and not even be aware of it. The most common way to determine whether you have Polybutylene or not is simply to look for it. In most homes you can readily see pipes such as in crawl spaces, ceilings of basements, under kitchen sinks or at the water heater. However, you may not be able to see the pipes in some homes. Because pipes are located in walls, ceilings and, in slab construction, under the floor it may be necessary to make small openings in wallboard to determine if Polybutylene is present or not.
Also be aware that Polybutylene was also used in Service lines from the water meter into the house. It may be a little harder to determine if you have it and may require having a professional inspect to determine.