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Polybutylene: Once a plumber's dream, now, a homeowner's nightmare

Plumber Replacing Old Pipes

In the 1970s, plumbers across the country thought they had discovered the "pipe of the future," a model that was a less expensive than the copper piping, which had been used for decades and was easy to install. This pipe was made out of a substance called polybutylene which, despite being perceived as a miracle-material, was pretty much a simple plastic.

Not ten years after plumbers began installing polybutylene in homes and businesses coast to coast, plumbing lines made from this material were quickly deemed defective. Pipes burst, properties were damaged and class actions lawsuits followed, though many plumbers continued using this blue or gray plastic up until 1995.

More than 10 million properties across the country had polybutylene systems installed over a span of 20 years. Although this material is no longer sold in the U.S., many homes, apartment buildings and commercial structures still have plumbing systems that incorporates polybutylene extensively. Not all properties with these pipes have yet suffered the plumbing catastrophes that helped plumbers across the country realize their mistake. It is only a matter of time, however, before these pipes cause costly damage for those who fail to replace them.

The fatal flaw with this material is that it has proven highly corrosive over short spans of time, especially in recent years as water supplies become increasingly chlorinated. Even polybutylene pipes that appear structurally sound on the outside will almost assuredly have severe flaking and corrosion throughout the interior that is getting into the water supply and weakening a plumbing system.

Luckily, pipes made of this substance are easy to spot. If you look up at the plumbing in your basement and see a blue, gray or black tubing, you should immediately look into having it replaced.

Polybutylene was used extensively throughout the Mid Atlantic, and Virginia plumbers are well aware of the damage that this material can incur and how to prevent it. If you're looking for a plumber near Arlington, VA, trust John C. Flood.