Poly-B is a gray plastic pipe used as a water supply line in your home. It was used extensively from the early 1970's through to the early 1990's. Believed to be an excellent material, it was also much less expensive than copper. In the mid-80's, leaks were starting to be detected in homes with Poly-B plumbing. Leaks often occurred behind drywall and were not discovered until major water damage and mold had occurred. It is believed that approximately 700,000 homes were built in Canada with Poly-B plumbing.
So you ask – how do I know if my home was built using Poly-B plumbing? Your home inspector will check for gray plastic pipes wherever there is visible plumbing. One of the biggest issues with Polybutylene plumbing is that the pipes look good from the outside. However, it may be degrading on the inside and could burst at any time. There is no way to tell.
In addition to difficulties obtaining home insurance, the presence of Poly-B piping in a home, may deter buyers from purchasing it. While there are things that you can do to help prolong the life of this type of piping, most home inspectors recommend replacing the complete system with copper or pex.
What do I need to tell my home insurance company?
If your home was built between the early 1970's and early 1990's, your insurance company will want to know what type of plumbing is in your home. Insurance companies are reluctant to provide coverage on homes with Poly-B plumbing as losses from ruptures can be massive. It is possible that you will not be able to obtain insurance at all for a home with Poly-B or that your premiums and water damage deductible will be much higher.
When purchasing a new home, make sure you know what type of plumbing has been installed. A licensed home inspector will be able to give you that information as well as the peace of mind that the plumbing is of good quality and in good condition. Knowing what type of plumbing is in the house will make purchasing decisions and shopping for insurance easier.