Polybutylene Pipes: All You Need To Know…

Bathroom, Beginner Info

Polybutylene pipes
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In this post, I’ll walk you through various aspects of a polybutylene pipe to help you make an informed purchase decision.

Moreover, I’ll also be responding to queries related to polybutylene pipes so that most of your doubts are cleared.

Nonetheless, if I’ve not answered your queries, please get in touch with us via the contact form, and our core team will be more than happy to assist you.

So, without any further ado, let’s begin…

What is Polybutylene?

Polybutylene is a form of plastic resin extensively used from 1978 to 1995.

The main use of polybutylene was in the manufacture of water supply piping.

Polybutylene piping system is viewed as “the pipe of the future” because of the low cost of material as well as ease of installation.

As a result, slowly and gradually, polybutylene piping started replacing traditional copper piping.

Polybutylene piping has a huge presence in the Mid-Atlantic and Northwest Pacific states.

In general, polybutylene is typically grey or white and comes with a dull finish.

Two main uses of polybutylene piping are underground water mains and interior water distribution piping.

Do I Have Polybutylene Piping System?

Polybutylene underground water mains are usually blue, but some of them are also grey and black.

Make sure, you don’t get confused with black poly with polyethylene pipe.

A polybutylene pipe will be usually 1/2″ or 1″ in diameter.

You’ll find a polybutylene pipe entering your home through the basement wall or floor.

In simple words, a polybutylene pipe will enter your home mostly near the water heater.

At the same time, you shouldn’t ignore checking the water meter that is located on the street, near the city water main.

We at izzysmarthomeguide.com, recommend our clientele check both ends of the water main because in some cases, we’ve found copper pipe entering the home and poly pipe located at the water meter.

Needless to say, both types of pipes were used and connected somewhere underground.

Polybutylene pipes can also be used internally in your home.

If that is the case, then you’ll find them near the water heater, running across the ceiling, and coming out of the walls to feed sinks and toilets.

[Related] How to Cap off Polybutylene Pipes?

What Are the Pros and Cons of a Polybutylene Piping?


  • Quick, easy, and newbie-friendly installation steps
  • Flexible
  • Resistant to high temperature
  • Free from corrosion or calcification
  • Quiet
  • Resistant to hydrostatic pressure


  • Increase in fragility as they started aging
  • Potential for mold & water damage
  • Risk of cracking & leakage
  • Acquiring insurance isn’t easy
  • Possibility of issues when selling your home that comprises polybutylene piping
  • Health concerns and microplastics

Can a Polybutylene Piping System Fail?

The presence of oxidants such as chlorine in the public water supply can cause damage to polybutylene pipes.

Chlorine reacts with a polybutylene pipe and acetal fittings causing them to scale, flake, and become brittle.

As a result, you may witness micro-fracture and in the worst-case scenario, the basic structural integrity of the system may reduce drastically.

In simple words, it may lead to the breakdown of the system causing damage to both the building structure as well as personal property.

Your polybutylene piping system can fail also because of improper installation so make sure you get it installed by a certified plumber.

What Causes Polybutylene Pipes to Leak?

As mentioned earlier, oxidants such as chlorine can lead to the degradation and deterioration of a polybutylene pipe.

As a result, your polybutylene pipe may crack, leak, or even burst.

How Long Do Polybutylene Pipes Usually Last? 

In general, a polybutylene pipe has a life expectancy of 30 years.

However, if not maintained properly or due to faulty installation, it may start leaking or underperforming after 10 years.

Is Polybutylene Safe for Drinking Water?

Yes, a polybutylene pipe is safe for drinking water.

It was widely used as a supply pipe for potable water.

However, oxidation agents such as chlorine present in supply water can cause damage to a polybutylene pipe.

Are Polybutylene Pipes Still Used?

Yes, polybutylene pipes are still used.

You’ll find numerous residential plumbing systems using poly piping even today.

But, at the same time, you must be aware of the fact that polybutylene pipes haven’t been on the list of acceptable building materials since 2005.

As per my experience, there has been a drastic reduction in the use of polybutylene pipes since 1995.

If your home plumbing system was built after 1995 then the probability is very high that it may be using a different plumbing pipe.

Are Polybutylene Pipes Illegal?

Polybutylene pipes aren’t illegal.

However, polybutylene pipes were banned after 1995 for new construction projects.

Are Polybutylene Pipes Covered By Homeowners Insurance?

In general, polybutylene pipes aren’t covered by homeowners insurance due to increased risk and liability.

How Much Does it Cost to Replace Polybutylene Pipes?

Let’s have a quick look at the variables that can impact the replacement cost of a polybutylene pipe so that you can make an informed purchase decision.

Below are some important variables to consider for calculating the replacement cost of a polybutylene pipe.

  • Are you planning to replace a segment of your polybutylene piping system or the entire water supply system?
  • What is the number of bathrooms that you’re planning to get repiped?
  • How big is your home?
  • Are you planning to repipe your entire home with PEX pipe?
  • Do you’ve any plans to repipe your home with copper?
  • Do you’ve plans to reopen the ceilings and the walls?
  • Is your drywall being replaced and repainted by professionals?

You need to ask the aforementioned questions yourself as it will help you to make a good estimate of the expenditure.

The entire cost associated with the replacement of whole-home repipes to PEX pipe will fall in the range of $4000 & to $8000.

However, if you’re having your whole home repiped and hiring contractors to drywall and paint, the whole job might cost as much as $15,000-$20,000.

The cost mentioned above is just a rough estimate and so installation costs can vary slightly up and down.

Polybutylene Pipe Lawsuits

In 1995, for the first time, a class-action lawsuit was filed in Tennessee over a faulty polybutylene piping system.

Cox vs. Shell Oil Co.

The lawsuit, Cox vs. Shell Oil Co., was won and settled for $950 million, allowing affected homeowners the chance to get their pipes replaced for free.

Shell Oil Co. settled two major class action PB lawsuits.

The problem was serious as many end users would notice a leak and have it repaired, only to find another leak shortly thereafter.

As a result, a large number of people started complaining, and the numbers were more than enough to claim for the class action to be filed. 

Spencer vs. Shell Oil Co.

During the same time, another polybutylene piping lawsuit was filed, Spencer vs. Shell Oil Co.

In this popular lawsuit, around $120 million was provided for affected homeowners.

In this lawsuit, even without any leakage, any homeowner with Poly-B pipe and acetal fittings was eligible.

The lawsuit was settled with DuPont, who made the fittings and not the pipes.

Between the two major class action lawsuits Shell paid out over $1 billion in settlement costs to homeowners.

However, today both settlements have expired and the affected homeowners are no longer eligible for claiming any damage or loss.

Moreover, the websites have also been deactivated.

Furthermore, homeowners started complaining about the problems related to polybutylene piping systems within 10-15 years of installation.

Hurt vs. Shell Oil Co.

Hurt vs. Shell Oil Co. was filed in Arkansas, specifically excluding parties from the first lawsuit.

Unfortunately, for the new lawsuit homeowners, the case was thrown out with prejudice, so it cannot be refiled.

Buying a House with Polybutylene Pipes

If you’re planning to buy a house that was built during 1978-1995, then you need to pay special attention to its plumbing system in order to prevent any last-minute debacle.

If the house consists of a polybutylene piping system, then disclosure from the previous homeowner or realtor isn’t required.

Moreover, if the house that you’re planning to buy is fitted with PB pipes, then you can take the help of an inspector that will do a thorough inspection and will let you know whether the pipe will pass or not.

The polybutylene piping system inspector isn’t required to perform a pressure test.

Also, the inspector isn’t required to mention the material used in the piping system in some states.

In the worst-case scenario, your inspector may detect microscopic leaks or tears inside the flexible polybutylene pipes, which could burst or leak at any point in time.

At the same time, make sure your polybutylene pipe isn’t hidden behind furniture or sheetrock else leakage in it can do undetected.

Though your inspector would be able to find a sudden burst quickly still it will cause extreme damage to your home, causing tens of thousands of dollars in repairs.

So, if you’re planning to buy a house with a polybutylene piping system then make sure it is checked by an inspector.

Polybutylene For Inspectors

Read here: Polybutylene for inspectors

Is Polybutylene Pipe the same as PVC?

Polybutylene pipes popularly known as Poly B, aren’t the same as Poly Vinyl Chloride piping.

They are a form of plastic resin that was used extensively for the manufacturing of water supply piping from 1978 until 1995.

During that time, a polybutylene piping system was considered ideal for most domestic hot and cold-water plumbing and heating systems, offering exceptional durability as well as long-term performance.

The unique quality of a Poly B piping system is that it comes with natural flexibility so bending it to fit even the most awkward position is easy and hassle-free.

Poly B Advantages

  • Quick, easy, and newbie-friendly installation steps
  • Flexible
  • Resistant to high temperature
  • Free from corrosion or calcification
  • Quiet
  • Resistant to hydrostatic pressure

On the other hand, polyvinyl chloride pipes are white and have no history of leaking.

A PVC piping system comes with a higher degree of inertness and resistance to corrosion so it is capable of preserving drinking water quality.

Since they don’t have leakage problems so help in preventing unnecessary water wastage from source to consumer.

On top of it, a PVC pipe is free from bio-film contamination that can be a breeding ground for bacteria.

In short, a PVC piping system can be a good substitute for a Polybutylene counterpart.

Is Poly-B the same as PEX?

The truth is that both are very different piping systems.

A Poly B piping system is made from polybutylene.

On the other hand, PEX is a newer and more durable piping system that is made from cross-linked polyethylene.

PEX is a safer and more durable option.

  • Easy to install
  • Highly flexible
  • More durable
  • Environment-friendly

On the other hand, a polybutylene piping system comes with some serious risks associated with it.

So, it’s always better to evaluate these risks before making a purchase decision.

  • The quality of a Poly B piping system will degrade over time
  • Health issues
  • Heat sensitivity
  • The replacement parts of a polybutylene piping system aren’t easy to find

Is Polybutylene the same as CPVC?

No, polybutylene piping isn’t the same as CPVC or PVC piping.

Also, you shouldn’t confuse polybutylene piping with new-age cross-linked polyethylene.

Moreover, polybutylene piping isn’t the same as plastic ABS piping either.

CPVC aka chlorinated polyvinyl chloride is a strong and durable material that is mainly used in plumbing applications.

CPVC Pipes Advantages

  • Budget-friendly
  • Lightweight
  • Easy to install
  • Performs better under pressure
  • Leakage problems are rare
  • Temperature tolerance

Is Polybutylene Pipe Safe With Well Water?

Polybutylene pipes aren’t recommended for use with well water as there can be contamination from lead or other metals.

Moreover, the pipe may not be able to withstand the high water pressure from a well.

It’s A Wrap

First and foremost, I would like to thank you for being with us till the end.

Secondly, I would like to bring to your notice that I along with my core team have put loads and loads of effort into coming up with this idiosyncratic superlative piece of information on the topic of polybutylene piping systems.

And, in case, you liked our effort and want to appreciate us then please do share this post with like-minded people and the ones who are in search of a similar piece of information.

We’ve tried to answer almost all the important queries related to polybutylene pipes.

However, if I’ve failed to respond to your query then please feel free to reach out to us via the contact form of izzysmarthomeguide.com, and our core team will be more than happy to assist you in making an informed decision.

That’s all, as of now:):):)