Polybutylene Home Plumbing Pipes Fail in 20-30 Years / by Norris McDonald

This photo shows corrosion occurring on the inside of a polybutylene pipe. (Photo: Don Reichert)

This photo shows corrosion occurring on the inside of a polybutylene pipe. (Photo: Don Reichert)

Many homes built in the late 1970s to mid-1990s have pipes or water service lines made of polybutylene.  Plumbers say pipes made of polybutylene start to leak within 22 to 30 years, meaning ‘90s-era homes that were constructed with the piping are likely to leak sooner rather than later.

Polybutylene pipes, once considered a cheaper and more durable alternative to copper, will break. It’s just a matter of when because it gets brittle and becomes unstable.

A class action lawsuit against polybutylene manufacturers was settled for $950 million in 1995. Within the next decade, builders stopped using the material for pipes because of the potential hazard and shifting building codes.  If your house was built before 2000, plumbers say there’s a decent chance it might have polybutylene pipes.

(Photo: Don Reichert)

(Photo: Don Reichert)

The medium-weight plastic pipes are usually gray, white or blue, and the letters “PB” should appear somewhere on the printed label. A plumber can help identify if you have polybutylene in or near your home.

Common replacements for polybutylene are pipes made of PVC, CPVC and copper.  Replacing the pipes costs several thousand dollars. Predicting when they’ll break is a crapshoot because they deteriorate from the inside out.

If your polybutylene water service line starts to leak, you should replace it entirely, because repairs are expensive and will only last so long. If you have more easily accessible polybutylene pipes in your home, you could opt to repair them instead of replacing them.  But such repairs will eventually break again.  (Coloradoan, 2/28/2017)