Poly-B plumbing was once a household name. Prized for their durability and affordability, these water pipes were heavily used in both residential and commercial buildings. That is no longer the case. In fact, one of the main reasons people require home plumbing repairs in Calgary and Airdrie nowadays is damaged or deteriorating Poly-B water lines.
But what is a Poly-B pipe, and why is Poly-B repair and replacement such a huge concern for Canadian homeowners? Let’s take a look.
Poly-B stands for polybutylene, a type of lightweight, flexible plastic resin used for making different materials, including water pipes. Poly-B pipes are sometimes also called PB pipes for short.
From the early ‘70s till the late ‘90s, Poly-B plumbing was extensively installed in new homes. Constructors considered it a fantastic material at the time. It was flexible and easy to work with, allowing for convenient fitting and hassle-free installation. More importantly, being a plastic polymer, Poly-B pipes were significantly cheaper than their metal alternatives. This made them a perfect substitute for copper piping.
However, during the mid-‘80s, problems started emerging. Homes that had Poly-B plumbing were frequently experiencing leaks and eventually required Poly-B replacement.
The leaks usually occurred behind drywall. As a result, homeowners were unable to discover the problem until mold appeared or the leak caused significant water damage.
Based on survey reports, it is estimated that more than 700,000 homes in Canada had this piping installed before it was discontinued.
It’s interesting to note that the Canadian Standards Association initially approved Poly-B plumbing for potable water systems. The pipes were tested and certified for use in homes and offices. And Poly-B plumbing did indeed work well for about 10 to 15 years. However, people noticed that beyond this period, Poly-B pipes began to fail.
In other words, the main issue with Poly-B lines is not ‘if’ the pipe will suffer damage. Rather, it’s a matter of how long until it deteriorates.
If you aren’t sure whether your home has Poly-B water lines, look for exposed plumbing. The easiest way to confirm Poly-B plumbing is via the PB2110 code stamped somewhere along the pipe.
Poly-B pipes are also easy to identify with their characteristic grayish-blue colour. However, they can sometimes be white, black, cream, or silver as well. Poly-B piping often has plastic or copper fittings joining different lengths of pipes as well. At times, they might use brass-fittings for connections. Moreover, Poly-B lines are an average of ½ to 1 inch in diameter. Also, given their material composition, they can sometimes be curved as well. If your plumbing lines have these features, they are probably Poly-B pipes.
You can look for exposed plumbing under the sink or near your home’s main water supply. The pipes at the hot water heater and on unfinished basement ceilings are also typically bare. So, you can tell if you have Poly-B plumbing by looking at those water lines.
Older homes built between 1980 and 1998 should be inspected for Poly B plumbing. In many homes finding polybutylene pipes is very easy, however in homes that are fully developed it can be quite challenging. Houses with a finished basement may require cutting into the drywall to locate and identify the pipes used.
Places to look for Poly B Pipes include:
The most common reasons homeowners require Poly-B repair and replacement are as follows:
Perhaps the biggest problem with Poly-B plumbing is that the pipes often look good from the outside. However, they might be degrading on the inside and, therefore, can burst without prior warning. As mentioned earlier, many times, the leaks are small and hidden. Hiring a professional plumber in Calgary to inspect your water lines is of crucial importance. They can help you identify the condition of your piping and perform any required Poly-B repairs on time.
Additionally, there are certain things you can do to prevent Poly-B issues in your home. For example:
White and gray acetal fittings are prone to cracking due to the freeze-thaw cycle. If your Poly-B plumbing utilizes plastic fittings, have a plumber replace them with their brass or copper alternatives.
Chemical reactions between chlorine and polybutylene are bound to damage Poly-B pipes. If the municipally supplied water in your region has a high chlorine concentration, consider installing a filter near the main supply. This can increase the lifespan of your Poly-B piping.
Excessively hot water increases the rate of deterioration of Poly-B pipes. So, try to lower your hot water heater temperature, if possible. However, do not set it below 55-degrees Celsius as it can result in bacterial growth in the tank.
Proper maintenance and routine inspection can prolong the life of Poly-B pipes by fixing minor leaks and damages on time. Keep in mind, though, that you will eventually require Poly-B replacement at some point or the other.
For any inquiries or issues related to you Poly-B plumbing, get in touch with us today. We specialise in Poly-B repair and replacement services, and can fix any issues you are having with your pipes in no time.
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