Polybutylene Leak #3 by ilovebutter is licensed under CC BY 2.0
As the real estate market gets tighter and more expensive, more and more new, homeowners are forced into buying older homes. While they may have their charms, houses, and apartments past a certain age, they have their share of hidden costs and dangers.
Most aspiring homeowners know about the possibility of finding asbestos in older buildings. A severe health risk and known carcinogen, asbestos can be hard to spot and difficult (and expensive) to remove safely. But there’s another, a less well-known building material that can be just as dangerous: Poly B plumbing.
We’ve encountered poly B pipes at the Home Insurance People several times. Finding them on your property isn’t ideal, but don’t let it keep you up at night — there are ways to protect yourself and your home in the short and long term.
Read on to learn a little more about poly B plumbing, why it’s a problem, how it might affect your home insurance, and what you can do about it.
What is Poly B Plumbing?
“Poly B,” also known as PB-1, is short for polybutylene, a form of polymer pipes used in new homes constructed from about the 1970s until the early 1990s. They were cheap, they were flexible, and they were easy to install – much more straightforward than copper.
Polybutylene Leak #1 by ilovebutter is licensed under CC BY 2.0
Fast forward to 2021, and homes built with poly B plumbing are having problems. Poly B pipes are less durable than copper and tend to deteriorate on the inside while looking normal on the outside – until they start to leak. Leaks are often further hidden behind drywall.
When these leaks go unnoticed, the resulting water damage often weakens structures and can prompt the growth of mildew and the spread of toxic black mold, which can cause serious health problems for you and your family.
Unfortunately, poly B plumbing is no friend to your home insurance. Its presence in your home can often raise your expected insurance premiums – which is all the more reason to speak with an experienced agent right away to learn about your options and how you may be able to negotiate with your insurance company.
How to Tell If You Have Poly B Pipes
If you had a home inspection carried out before you bought your house, the inspector might have noted the presence of poly B pipes in their report. If they didn’t, or you didn’t have a home inspection done (it happens), look for exposed plumbing inside your home.
Check under your sink, the connections to your water meter, your hot water tank, and any unfinished areas with a water source (such as a basement).
Poly B pipes are often grey, although they can also be black, white, blue, or other colors. They have a bendable, plastic-like texture and typically have plastic or copper fittings along the length of the pipe. A dead giveaway is if the codes ‘PB-2110’ or ‘CSA-1 137.8’ are printed on the sides.
Unfortunately, if your home was built between the early 1970s and early 1990s, you could still have poly B plumbing hidden within your walls — it isn’t uncommon to see houses with a mix of metal and poly B pipes. If you think your home could be at risk, it’s best to call a professional plumber and arrange an inspection.
Polybutylene Repair by ilovebutter is licensed under CC BY 2.0
What To Do About Poly B Plumbing: Short-Term Options
So you’ve found poly B plumbing inside your home. Now what? If you’re on a budget, there are some short-term fixes you might consider:
- Replace any plastic fittings with copper fittings
- Reduce your home’s water pressure
- Lower your water’s chlorine levels
- If possible, reduce any heat sources located near poly B pipes
You may have noticed that all of these options center around the durability of poly B pipes. By reducing the stressors that most commonly cause them to deteriorate, you’ll ideally slow the rate at which they break down – and leak.
Remember that it’s best to speak with a plumber before attempting any of these options, especially those that affect water pressure or quality.
What To Do About Poly B Plumbing: Long-Term Solutions
Short-term solutions may work as a ‘band-aid’ option, but poly B pipes can be problematic. If or when you have the budget, it’s best to replace them entirely with PEX or copper pipes instead.
If we’re honest, this will likely happen at some point. Sooner or later, poly B pipes will damage your home and health and pack a sting on your home insurance too.
Replace them as soon as you can. It’s an investment that will pay off in the end: for both your home and your bank account.
Contact A Home Insurance Expert For More Help
This information about poly B plumbing is a lot to take in and may look scary. If you’ve got a home with poly B pipes and need home insurance and don’t have the money to replace your piping right now, you’re probably stressing about what to do.
Reach out to us. It’ll be okay. We see this a lot with homeowners in British Columbia, and we’re here to help you catch your breath and walk you through your options.
There are solutions if you need home insurance for poly B pipes. We’ll help you find them and lend an ear alongside the friendly expertise of a team that’s been there before.
If you live in Alberta or British Columbia and are looking for Home Insurance, we are here to answer any questions you may have about our range of home insurance products and services. Contact us at 1.844.544.4663 and see what makes us Harbord – The Home Insurance People™!