Are Polybutylene Pipes Durable or Should I Replace With Copper?

December 2nd 2008
Are Polybutylene Pipes Durable or Should I Replace With Copper?

Q: I have recently purchased a home with PolyB plumbing. Can I replace all the hot water connectors with copper ones, or do I have to replace all the plumbing with copper? We have not had any problems with water thus far but have heard it can lead to problems.

A: Polybutylene plastic pipe PolyB, or PB for short, is usually gray and was installed in homes built between 1978 and 1995, used for hot and cold supply piping in homes.

However, PolyB has attracted considerable attention over the years because of concerns with its potential to leak. The claim is that polybutylene pipes and fittings may deteriorate when exposed to hot water and high chlorine residuals in water. However, there appears to be a relatively low incidence rate of failures, most of which have been attributed to poor installation.

Your question implies your Polybutylene is delivering your domestic hot and cold water throughout the home. If this is the case, there has been little to no concern to my office. I always respond by suggesting turning the water temperature down to 130 F on the hot water tank.

There are more concerns with the hydronic heating systems using PolyB (radiant and convection type). If this applies to you, please contact a hydronic hot water heating specialist and have them assess your system by doing water tests within your system and they will advise you on the next steps to take. Contact the HouseSmart Home Services Referral Network for a company in your area.

Note: it is very important to have a hydronic heating specialist to address any concerns with these systems.