Calgary Poly B Plumbing Services

Poly B Pipe Replacement

Poly B piping has been a fixture of plumbing systems in Calgary homes for decades but homeowners have woken up to the hidden (and not-so-hidden) problems associated with this type of piping.

The potential for leaks makes Poly B piping replacement top of the home improvement list for many homeowners.

What are the key issues to address if you want to replace Poly B and have the peace of mind of a leak-free home?

Why was Poly B piping used in Calgary homes?

Polybutylene pipe (“Poly B”) is a type of tubing made from a plastic resin that was widely installed in Calgary homes built during and after the late 1970s.

The traditional plumbing systems were copper-based because it is safe, durable, and conducts heat and electricity well. It is also quite versatile and can be made into many shapes. The downside is that it tends to be quite expensive.

During the 1970s, copper rose in price and cheaper alternatives were sourced for all types of applications – including plumbing.

Copper was replaced in electrical systems with very poor results and the same can largely be said for the alternatives to copper in home plumbing systems.

Poly B was used in water supply piping in Calgary housing until the mid-1990s, despite problems with leaking in high-pressure/high-temperature environments being widely reported.

Consequently, around a quarter of homes in Calgary have their water delivered through Poly B piping.

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If your house was built between the late 1970s and the late 1990s, it’s best to get your plumbing system professionally assessed.

Make sure you hire licensed and insured professionals who are experienced in this line of work like the team at Alpha Plumbing in Calgary.

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Why was Poly B piping used in Calgary homes?

Polybutylene pipe (“Poly B”) is a type of tubing made from a plastic resin that was widely installed in Calgary homes built during and after the late 1970s.

The traditional plumbing systems were copper-based because it is safe, durable, and conducts heat and electricity well. It is also quite versatile and can be made into many shapes. The downside is that it tends to be quite expensive.

During the 1970s, copper rose in price and cheaper alternatives were sourced for all types of applications – including plumbing.

Copper was replaced in electrical systems with very poor results and the same can largely be said for the alternatives to copper in home plumbing systems.

Poly B was used in water supply piping in Calgary housing until the mid-1990s, despite problems with leaking in high-pressure/high-temperature environments being widely reported.

Consequently, around a quarter of homes in Calgary have their water delivered through Poly B piping.

Common issues caused by Poly B piping

Poly B piping certainly was a cheaper alternative to copper to install but homeowners to this day are still paying for this cost-cutting measure.

The biggest problem? Leaks.

Some of the issues it causes include:

  • Leaks in piping near high-temperature areas including hot water tanks
  • Leaks appearing if high chlorine levels are present in the water supply
  • Fittings installed too tightly leading to cracks in the piping and leaks
  • Bent piping, which can cause leaks and damages when put under stress
  • The use of acetal fittings to connect pipes (instead of metal) causing leaks

The total life expectancy of Poly B is much shorter than copper and leaks have typically begun to occur after around 10 to 15 years.

How do you identify Poly B piping?

So, now you’re worried whether your home has Poly B piping? Remember that it is installed in around 25 percent of all Calgary homes.

The most common usage of Poly B occurred between 1985 and 1997, so start by finding out the date that your home was built.

It’s important to know if your home could develop a leak problem – or, if you’re buying a home, you’ll certainly want to know if you’re going to have to replace the plumbing system.

So, how can you identify Poly B in your plumbing system?

Here are a few pointers:

  • Check colour: if your piping is silvery gray, black or blue it is likely Poly B.
  • Check for Poly B stamping: your pipes should have an easily identifiable stamp, with the letters “PB” followed by a string of numbers.
  • Check common locations: certain areas of homes were popular for Poly B usage, namely the main water shut-off valve outside homes, basement ceilings and walls, sink feeds, toilets, bathtubs, and around the hot water heater.
  • Dig deeper: just because you don’t see Poly B doesn’t mean it’s not in your home. Sometimes, behind the walls, Poly B is connected to copper piping out of sight, so remove panels behind toilets, tubs, sinks, and showers to check there.
  • Check plumbing fittings: if you see aluminum, copper, or brass crimp fittings, the plumber may have used it to link Poly B pipes to plumbing joints and fittings, so this is a good place to check.

Why do leaks occur with Poly B piping in Calgary homes?

As already mentioned, the use of Poly B in plumbing is a well-established cause of leaks in the home.

But why?

It was largely because the people recommending, selling, and fitting the pipes had not done their homework on the material that they were using.

Polybutylene is:

  • Vulnerable to ultraviolet light, making it unsuitable for use outdoors.
  • Generally designed for less than 70 pounds pressure (certainly no more than 100–105 pounds). 70 pounds is the average water pressure and it often spikes over this, meaning that it can degrade and develop cracks (especially where water needs to make sharp turns in the system).
  • Weakened by high temperatures.
  • Weakened by the presence of chlorine, chloramine and other oxidant chemicals used in water treatment.

These problems are only exacerbated if cheap plastic fittings were used in your system as another cost-cutting measure. These fittings can degrade and become brittle over time, causing leaks.

What are the alternatives to Poly B piping?

Apart from reverting to tried and tested (and expensive) copper, are there any other options for Poly B replacement?

One interesting and affordable alternative is PEX or Cross-Linked Polyethylene.

This is a flexible tubing option that is far more durable and resistant to pressure and temperature than Poly B. Therefore, it is far less susceptible to degradation and leaks.

This smart solution has been used in Europe since the 1960s but is having a new lease of life here in Calgary as people discover its potential to affordably replace Poly B.

What is the cost of Poly B replacement?

Replacing piping in a plumbing system doesn’t come without some significant costs but some homeowners have their hands forced.

Insurance companies do not like Poly B piping and may insist on replacing it. So, if you’re selling your home, Poly B replacement is a necessary investment.

Ripping out the old piping and installing safer, leak-free piping (like PEX piping) is a major job usually requiring several days’ work from plumbing professionals.

You can console yourself with the fact that you should only have to do this once in your life and it can save your home from potential water damage that could end up costing you a lot more.

When you calculate the total costs of Poly B replacement, you will need to consider the following:

  • The size of your house: more pipe = higher costs (obviously)
  • The number of plumbing features in your home (bathrooms, sinks, showers, etc.)
  • The type of Poly B replacement pipe you choose: even PEX comes in different forms with different prices
  • How much drywall needs to be removed?
  • The location of your property – city-based or more remote?
  • Whether you need painting done after the piping replacement
  • The quality of the plumbing professionals you hire

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Get a professional quote for Poly B replacement Today

Remember, just because you can’t see Poly B piping in your home or the Poly B piping you can see looks undamaged, it doesn’t mean that you can sleep easy.

If your house was built between the late 1970s and the late 1990s, it’s best to get your plumbing system professionally assessed.

Make sure you hire licensed and insured professionals who are experienced in this line of work like the team at Alpha Plumbing in Calgary.

We can provide an estimate on Poly B replacement if required.

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Call us today at (403) 470-5785 to find out more about the poly B replacement service and to make an appointment for a boiler evaluation with an experienced Calgary plumber.

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