Most property owners in Calgary would probably be surprised to learn that they have a ticking time bomb running through their walls. If your commercial or residential plumbing system was installed between 1975 and 1998, you might be the victim of sinister pipework waiting to fail.
Polybutylene was a common pipe material during the mid-1970s to late-1990s because of several benefits it offered over traditional metal materials. As an alternative to copper piping, it had many benefits, but many property owners found out that those benefits came at a significant cost.
Nowadays, it’s common to have Poly B replacements. Calgary homeowners have brought up lawsuit cases in both Canada and the United States in which Poly B pipes’ inherent design flaws have been the leading subject. For that reason, many people with Poly B pipes choose to replace those faulty lines before they fail. Doing so isn't a simple task, and it's best to get support from professional Calgary plumbers — like the pros at Mr. Rooter Plumbing of Calgary — if you're planning on repiping your property.
Many Calgarians have questions about Poly B replacement because of the potential hazards it would otherwise pose to their property. You won't know that you need professional repiping services if you aren't sure whether or not you actually have polybutylene piping systems in your walls. Knowing how to identify which types of pipes you have will help you get timely replacement services before you have to deal with water damage.
Mr. Rooter Plumbing of Calgary is a locally-owned and operated company that stands behind its plumbing work, providing its residents with quality workmanship and excellent customer service. Our certified and uniformed plumbers always arrive on time, ready to tackle your problems with a positive can-do attitude.
What are Polybutylene Pipes?
Poly B piping was an early plastic pipe option used for hot and cold water systems. Its introduction to the construction industry in the mid-1970s allowed plumbers and contractors to use a cheaper material type than traditional copper pipes for repairs and installations. This is why Poly B started to gain more popularity.
Poly B piping was inexpensive and easy to install and use as a replacement material, which is why so many professionals in North America chose to use it. Besides cost-effectiveness, it also saved a lot of labor and time. According to the Government of Alberta's report on Poly B piping, it's estimated that just under 150,000 homes in Alberta have polybutylene components in their plumbing.
How Do You Identify Polybutylene Piping?
If you have a grey pipe running through your home, that might be Poly B. It’s easily identified by its light grey color and continuous permanent markings that indicate size, pressure rating, and several other pieces of information. They are often stamped with “PB2110” or a different code and have a diameter of 1/2 inch to one inch.
Poly B pipes in Calgary are more likely to have copper or brass fittings and copper crimping rings, but may also have plastic insert fittings with either aluminum or copper bands.
Unless you ask a house inspector or your local plumber to point it out, it may be tricky to identify Poly B because some copper pipes have been found to use Poly B material at junctures, installed to link copper stub-outs that feed plumbing fixtures.
Where Should You Look For Polybutylene Pipes In Homes?
When you think that ten million homes have this system installed between the late-70s and mid-90s, you might grind your teeth in panic, but we recommend staying calm because chances are you’re reading this in time before anything bad happens. There’s time to take a look around your Calgary home and inspect any visible lines, such as the drain lines under your sinks or other areas like your utility room, basement, on your water heater tank, or nearby your water meter and shut-off valves. Older homes probably have plumbing systems exposed in their basements. It’s worth familiarizing yourself with them and seeing which ceiling they disappear into. This way, you’ll have a good guess of which plumbing fixture they connect with. Typically, your main supply line will differ from the ones used on your fixtures. In fact, the majority of homes still opt for copper lines as their main structure and flexible steel tubing connectors that connect supply lines to the plumbing fixtures.
That said, the supply lines connecting to your household appliances, such as your dishwasher and washing machine will likely have PEX pipes. If they are grey and labeled PB2110, we recommend a Poly B replacement. Calgary homeowners are one step closer to healthier plumbing with that material gone.
If you’re unsure and your home is slightly older, feel free to call your local Calgary plumber for inspection and advice.
Why is Poly B Plumbing Bad?
All water lines suffer from the effects of age and will eventually fail if they're not maintained with annual routine maintenance, but Poly B plumbing proved particularly problematic over time. Even though it was originally approved by the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) for use in potable water systems, it proved to have a limited effective lifespan of just ten to 15 years. Around the ten-year mark, polybutylene pipes start to have several problems that can result in serious damage if you don’t replace them.
Problems Related to Poly B Piping Systems:
- High levels of chlorine cause increased wear
- Improper installation causes hairline cracks
- Installation near water heaters, in attics, and around other high-heat areas causes increased wear
- Use of grey or white plastic fittings that cause problems — instead of metal fittings
Whether you have metal fittings or plastic fittings in Calgary that are more prone to issues, all homes with Poly B piping will be susceptible to pinhole leaks and major malfunctions that can cause serious flood damage if you don’t call for Poly B replacement services. Any plumbing that you have running behind walls, ceilings, and floors should be inspected immediately for material type, age, and overall condition, especially if you are not aware of when they were installed.
Should You Get Poly B Replacement?
Calgary property owners might be scratching their heads at this, thinking about all the hassle and costs involved in a replacement. But do you feel comfortable having a known, faulty type of plumbing in your home or business? For most property owners in Calgary AB, the answer to that question might be “no.” If you have polybutylene plumbing and you're willing to take your chances with leaks, then Poly B replacement isn't necessary—yet! But keep in mind that wear and tear will eventually happen; therefore, keeping up with your annual inspection services is crucial as well as adhering to local plumbing codes that tend to change all the time.
That said, it’s still cheaper to go ahead with Poly B replacement than dealing with future damages that could involve water damage, mold, and even flood. Calgary plumbers have shared experiences of fixing more costly damages caused by faulty Poly B pipes.
As your local, trusted plumbers, our recommendation is to take advantage of Poly B replacement services from a reliable plumbing company before a major water leak results in basement flooding or contaminated water affecting your family. Otherwise, inevitable plumbing issues will force you to deal with insurance companies instead.
How Does Repiping Work?
Repiping or replacing your water supply connections isn't a small job, but it's essential for anyone trying to avoid polybutylene problems and the associated damage to homes and businesses. The exact process for Poly B replacement will depend on which expert plumbers you choose for that complex repiping service.
Traditional repiping methods involve manually removing and replacing problematic sections with new alternatives. That often means cutting through the drywall in one or more locations throughout your home in order to access the water lines inside your walls.
What Are Your Repiping Options in Calgary, AB?
If you want Poly B replacement, a licensed plumber can help you solve several common problems and avoid a disaster by offering the advantage of repiping services to replace your faulty system. There are two popular repiping material options for Calgary. Consider all the pros and cons, so you can make an informed decision about what would be best for your Calgary property.
Copper is extremely common for the installation of water lines and repiping purposes. It comes with numerous advantages, which is why it has continued to be used by professional plumbers for so many years. It's not entirely faultless though, and you may find more satisfaction with a different option.
- Erosion resistant (as long as interior coating remains intact)
- Longer lifespans — it can last for up to a century in some cases
- It doesn’t contaminate water
- Weather-resistant, fire resistant
- Completely recyclable
- Expensive material
- Difficult installation (requires soldering)
- Higher installation costs
- Theft — recycled copper is valuable
Cross-linked polyethylene (PEX or XLPE) is flexible plastic tubing that has increased strength, durability, and resistance to lower temperatures. It's been used since the 1980s because of its advantages over other materials, although many people outside the plumbing industry haven't heard of it, it is also commonly used for repiping. However, it can be easily confused with Poly B unless you look closely at the details and texture. PEX is typically red for hot water, blue for cold, and white for either one. Now and then, you might see grey PEX lines but it should be clearly labeled.
- Easy installation
- Reduced risk of joint leaks
- Immune to corrosion and limescale
- Easy to replace
- Higher resistance to freezing
- Installation requires special tools
- There is less knowledge about the long-term effects
FAQs – Poly B Replacement – Repiping
Can Polybutylene Last 30 Years?
Unlike copper, it can’t. Poly B has a lifespan of ten to 15 years and even then, it highly depends on your climate and local water systems. Calgary has a moderately hard water level and the City uses a fair amount of chlorine to keep our supply safe from bacteria by breaking down chemical bonds, but it has negative effects on Poly B material, leading to early wear. Immediate repiping will eliminate this issue and concern.
Is Poly B The Same As Kitec?
We have mentioned that there was a lawsuit filed against the manufacturer of Poly B. Kitec is a different manufacturer that also uses a similar plastic-based product for their piping. Yet, they have caused similar problems as Poly B despite being CSA-approved. We have done many repiping jobs, helping homeowners with efficient Poly B replacements services until Kitec hit the market causing another uproar that led to more repiping. Kitec pipes are usually blue and orange, which, again, might be difficult to distinguish from PEX. Your Calgary plumber is happy to identify it for you.
Should You Buy A House With Poly B?
We highly recommend telling the seller to schedule a Poly B replacement if they want to keep their home’s value up. Chances are, that house won’t sell. Mortgage lenders look closely at plumbing details and that includes Poly B. If you plan to buy a home with polybutylene materials, you might not pass for financing. The best way is to ask the seller to schedule a repiping job, or you offer to do it at a lower selling rate.
Can You Transition Poly B To PEX?
We sure can. If during a repiping job, you prefer PEX, we’ll be more than happy to go ahead with the Poly B replacement. Calgary homeowners often wonder if it’s possible to combine both polybutylene and PEX since they often share the same or similar size diameter. However, our answer is no, yet we still see PEX rings and fittings on Poly B, but we do not recommend it because they’re not compatible with each other.
Do You Need Poly B Replacement in Calgary, AB?
The team of experienced professionals at Mr. Rooter Plumbing of Calgary can help! Our exceptional repiping services include full, upfront pricing and a comprehensive guarantee that your repairs will be done right, or we'll make it right.