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What You Need to Know About Polybutylene Plumbing

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From the late-1970s all the way through the mid-1990s, homes throughout the country were constructed using plumbing made from polybutylene. Polybutylene is a plastic resin that was found to be extremely inexpensive, lightweight, and easy to use. Millions of homes were installed with this type of plumbing, also known as Quest plumbing, as it was easy to obtain, inexpensive, and generally believed to be reliable.

However, as years have gone by these pipes have been shown to be prone to leaks and other serious issues, and thus the homes which still depend on this plumbing could find themselves at risk. While it hasn’t been definitively proven, it’s widely believed that polybutylene plumbing is prone to corrosion and flaking. This corrosion leads to thin and brittle spots in your plumbing, and these spots often become the source of potentially dangerous plumbing leaks.

How to Tell If You Have Polybutylene Plumbing

Quest plumbing is usually easiest to spot by its trademark gray color, though it could also be white or black. It always has a dull finish which feels different from other plastic pipes like PVC. Joints are also usually pretty distinguishable by orange or copper-colored bands which are used to secure the pipes in place.

The easiest place to check to see if you have these pipes running through your walls is near your water heater. This is where a small segment of pipe will often pop through the wall and provide a fixture where you can connect your water heater. However, sometimes plumbers would use copper “stub outs” here, so the presence of copper doesn’t necessarily indicate that you don’t have polybutylene plumbing.

Likewise, you can also check where your main water input line is located. Your main water input line can usually be found in your garage, and is usually easy to spot by the large emergency shutoff valve attached to it. If this line is a gray plastic color, then you could very well have polybutylene plumbing.

Will My Pipes Fail?

If you have polybutylene plumbing, one of the first questions you probably have is “is my plumbing in danger of failing?” The answer isn’t as simple as “yes” or “no.” The truth is that polybutylene plumbing has been linked with an increased failure rate, but the evidence of a firm connection between these pipes and failures is somewhat slim. And that’s also demonstrated by the number homes out there who have used these pipes for decades without issues. In fact, there are many homes who still use polybutylene plumbing that’s 30 years old or more and haven’t had a single issue yet.

However, with that being said, it’s still strongly advised you consider replacing polybutylene plumbing as soon as possible. Because the risk is still there, it’s still in your best interest to replace your plumbing with a material that’s durable, reliable, and not prone to the problems that polybutylene plumbing can present. Your pipes may be fine now, but issues could slowly form without you ever being aware, and before long you’re dealing with a serious issue that you never expected.

There’s another risk you may not be aware of either: home insurance companies often charge significantly higher rates or simply will not cover homes which use polybutylene plumbing. Because polybutylene has been linked with increased failure rates, these companies have determined that it brings their risk up significantly, and thus they charge appropriately for it, or even avoid covering it all together. If you’re considering buying a home with polybutylene pipes, you may want to check with your insurance company to see if you’d be covered before signing any documents for it.

What You Should Do About Quest Plumbing

If you do have quest plumbing in your home, we strongly advise that you consider having your home repiped. A repipe service eliminates the risk of a polybutylene plumbing failure by eliminating these pipes from your plumbing system entirely. By installing a new plumbing network with lines constructed of a durable and non-corrosive material, you’ll improve your home’s safety, increase its reliability, and reduce the risk of a sudden, unexpected emergency. We particularly recommend this service for those whose polybutylene plumbing lines are 30 years old or more.

Interested in repiping your home? Call the experts at Moe Plumbing Service by dialing (818) 396-8002!

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