Fact Sheet About Polybutylene Plumbing and Heating

July 30th 2008
Fact Sheet About Polybutylene Plumbing and Heating

Found in homes built between 1978 and 1995, Polybutylene (PB) Plumbing is used for hot & cold supply piping in homes, also known as "Poly-B." It's less expensive in material cost and easier to install than traditional copper plumbing, however PB has attracted considerable attention over the years over concerns surrounding PB's potential to leak with a number of homeowners who have encountered minor to severe leaks, which has led to various class action lawsuits in Canada and the US against PB manufacturers. The claim is that polybutylene pipes and fittings may deteriorate, corrode and fail when exposed to hot water over 82C (180F) and high chlorine residuals in water.

DESCRIPTION OF POLYBUTYLENE PLUMBING AND HEATING SYSTEMS: Polybutylene plumbing and heating systems include polybutylene plastic pipe connected with acetal plastic insert fittings. Polybutylene plastic pipe is usually gray and occasionally black. The acetal plastic insert fittings are usually gray and occasionally white. The fittings are usually held in place with a metal crimp ring on the outside of the pipe.

Fact Sheet - Polybutylene (PB) Pipe:

This fact sheet about Polybutylene (PB) pipe is provided from the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) for homeowners concerned that they may have this product in their homes.

  • PB pipe is a flexible, grey pipe used in residential plumbing systems and hot water heating systems since the late 1970's.  Local building officials are responsible for inspection and enforcement of the Building Code to ensure the proper application and installation of PB pipe Consumers should check with a licensed plumber or building inspector to verify correct installation.  In order for PB pipe to perform effectively, it must meet performance requirements and be installed properly.  The CSA mark on a product indicates the pipe met the applicable requirements of the standard to which it was certified.

How to Determine if you have PB Piping in your Home:

CSA-certified PB pipe is for use in hot and cold water supply up to 82C only, when installed correctly according to manufacturers instructions. Consumers concerned about whether or not they have PB pipe in their homes should do the following:

  • Step 1 -- Determine when your home was built. If it was before 1974 and no major plumbing renovations were made, this issue does not apply to you.
  • Step 2 -- Determine whether your home has circulating hot water heating. If you have a forced air system or electric baseboard heating, the subject discussed by various news media regarding circulating hot water heating likely does not apply to you.
  • Step 3 -- In an unfinished area of your home where there are exposed water pipes, look for flexible, grey-colored plastic pipe or tubing. The areas to search in your home include:
    - Basement: connected to a water meter or to a hot water heater (Note: PB pipe should not be connected directly to a hot water heater. Connections to a hot water heater should be made according to the manufacturers instructions, normally using metal connectors at least 45 cm in length).
    - Bathrooms: connections beneath the lavatory sink and to the water closet
    - Kitchen: beneath the sink

    Make sure that PB pipe is a minimum of 30 cm vertically or 15 cm horizontally from sources of high heat, such as flue gas vents or heating appliances.
  • Note: There may be copper piping in some areas and PB pipe in others.
  • Step 4 -- Check to see if the CSA mark and CSA standard number "B 137.8" is on the pipe. The following marking should also be on the piping:
    - piping manufacturer identification
    - material designation "PB2110"
    - nominal size and "SDR 11"
    - pressure rating "690 kPa @ 82C or 100 psi @180F"
    - date code
    - the word "POTABLE" (to indicate suitability for use in potable water supply)

    The National Building Code of Canada requires PB pipe used in residential construction to meet the requirements of CSA standard CAN/CSA B137.8, Polybutylene (PB) Piping for Pressure Applications. PB piping certified to these requirements may bear the CSA mark, or the mark of another accredited certification organization.

  • Step 5 -- Contact CSA International at 416-747-4000 or 1-800-463-6727 with the CSA file number to determine the manufacturer of CSA-certified pipe. They provide you with a contact and a telephone number for the manufacturer of CSA-certified pipe.