Polybutylene Piping Or Blue Poly Problems

From about 1978 to 1995 Polybutylene piping more commonly known as “blue poly” was commonly used for water lines. It was low cost and cheap to install, and seen as the “next best thing” as a replacement for copper piping in homes and business. You tend to see it more in the Southern and Western states in the US – what they call the “Sun Belt” states. Most or this type type of pipe is dull gray or white in finish. If you do some research, you’ll find that many housing and construction experts estimate it was installed in as many as 10 million homes. That’s about one out of every 5 homes build during those years.
Do you have blue poly pipe? Well, the easiest way to tell is that underground water pipe with blue poly is usually blue, but there is some chance it could be gray or black and still be polybutylene. You might have to ask a plumber, since gray and black Gravity Conduits pipe can also be what they call “black poly” (a completely different makeup of piping). A lot of times blue poly is at where the piping comes into your home, or at the water meter. You might see it by your water heater, or by toilets or sinks.
Why is blue poly piping no longer popular or used? Two words: pipe failure, and lawsuits. In fact, the maker of blue poly – Shell Oil Company, will no longer accept damage claims through it’s class action suit for blue poly as of May 1, 2009. Why do the pipes fail? Top Press Dual Flush Valve While there doesn’t seem to be an absolute definitive cause, most believe that it’s the chemicals in the water, like chlorine over time. The blue poly pipes become brittle and pieces of them flack off, and the fittings often crack – sometimes very small fissures.
In the first years of problems, lawsuits alleged that improper installation was the cause, but experts testified that “increased use of cloramines accelerates corrosion and degradation of some metals and elastomers common to distribution plumbing”. So you can imagine that if you buy a home in the Sun-Belt region of the US that was built in the 80’s or 90’s, one of the first things you want to check is if the plumbing has any blue polybutylene piping. Don’t rely on a building inspector to tell you, call a certified plumber.

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