Leaking Polybutylene Pipe Replacement

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This article describes water damage caused by leaking polybutylene water pipe and the cost to tear out and replace the hot & cold water plumbing with CPVC plastic pipe.

Water Damage Caused by Leaking Polybutylene Pipe

A friend’s home was built in the 1980’s when polybutylene water pipe (or tubing) was widely used as a faster and cheaper plumbing alternative versus copper and PVC pipe. The problem with polybutylene pipe is chlorine in municipal water supplies attacks the plastic, causing it to become brittle, resulting in breaks  and leaks that can flood the home. Polybutylene pipe is no longer allowed by the Building Codes, but if it’s already in the home there is no requirement to remove it. If you plan on buying a home that was built between 1978 and 1995  have the home inspector thoroughly check for polybutylene plumbing. Otherwise you could incur costly repairs and have difficulty obtaining homeowner’s insurance.

The homeowners were away for the day and returned home to find the house was flooded! A polybutylene pipe in the 1st floor ceiling had burst:

Drywall Ceiling Water Damage caused by Polybutylene Pipe Leak

Drywall Ceiling Water Damage caused by Polybutylene Pipe Leak

Water poured from the ceiling and flooded the carpet and sofa and into the basement. An expensive nightmare!

Polybutylene Pipe Water Leak Drywall Ceiling Damage

Polybutylene Pipe Water Leak Drywall Ceiling Damage

The homeowner said it took about 3 weeks to have a flood restoration company dry out the carpets with large fans and dehumidifiers:

Polybutylene Pipe Leak - Flooded Carpets

Polybutylene Pipe Leak – Flooded Carpets

Problems with Polybutylene Pipe Leaks

The house was built in 1989 when polybutylene pipe was commonly used for hot and cold supply water plumbing. The homeowner had been plagued by numerous leaks in the polybutylene plumbing system. Most leaks were spot repaired by splicing in a new section of white PEX tubing (see the photo below). After a big leak flooded the house only two weeks after making another spot repair the homeowner was fed up and decided to tear out and replace all the polybutylene plumbing.

The plumber said chlorine in municipal water systems attacks polybutylene pipe which causes it to become brittle and crack lengthwise, resulting in massive leaks. The homeowner believes the polybutylene pipe becomes so brittle that any movement or bending during a splice repair causes a new leak a short distance away.

This home also had the blue polybutylene underground pipe that ran from the water meter to the house. The homeowner said the yard line had been replaced a couple of years earlier after they noticed the concrete driveway always stayed wet.

The polybutylene pipe in this home is a gray colored slightly flexible plastic tube. The pipe connections are made with barbed brass connectors secured with copper crimp bands. The identification marks are on the pipe are:

  • PB 2110 – material designation that identifies this as polybutylene pipe
  • SDR 11 – Standard Dimension Ratio 11, which defines the pipe size
  • CSA B137.8 – Canadian Standards Association mark and CSA standard B137.8 “Polybutylene (PB) Piping for Pressure Applications”

Polybutylene Pipe Identification PB2110 SDR11 B137.8

In the above photo, a length of white PEX polyethylene tubing was spliced to repair a leaking section of polybutylene. The PEX tube is connected to the gray polybutylene pipe segment by a barbed brass connector secured with copper crimp bands, which have tarnished to black color. Scratching or filing the crimp band reveals bright copper metal underneath the tarnish. PEX tubing is a quality product that is completely unrelated to polybutylene pipe.

Here’s a closeup of the PB 2110 polybutylene pipe:

Gray Polybutylene Pipe Closeup PB2110 SDR11 CSA B137.8

I asked the homeowner if they were aware of the class action polybutylene pipe lawsuits and product recalls. They filed a claim but the class action settlement fund had run out of money. Their insurance company covered the water damage but not the cost to replace all the plumbing.

Leaking Polybutylene Pipe Replacement

The homeowners hired a local plumber to replace all the polybutylene pipe in the home with CPVC pipe. (Check with your local Building Dept. for CPVC approval for hot and cold water plumbing. The Building Code may require metal water heater connections.) The cost to remove all the polybutylene plumbing and install CPVC pipe was $2,600.00 plus another $1,000.00 for the drywall contractor. The plumbing repairs required one week for this 2 story, 4 bedroom, 2.5 bath home. The plumber planned the work so the homeowners had water at the end of each day.

PEX water pipe is a very popular solution for polybutylene pipe replacement because unlike PVC, CPVC and copper pipe PEX is flexible and can make bends without elbow fittings, requires no glue or soldering, very reliable and easier to install. PEX is available in different colors with red typically used for hot and blue for cold for easier identification.

Replacing the polybutylene plumbing is a messy and difficult effort because the pipes are concealed inside the walls and ceilings. The plumber started by cutting away large sections of drywall with a utility knife to expose the plumbing and remove the damaged areas:

Polybutylene Pipe Replacement - Remove a Section of Drywall Ceiling

Polybutylene Pipe Replacement – Remove a Section of Drywall Ceiling

Cutting away the drywall ceiling to expose the leaking pipes:

Ceiling Drywall Removal to Expose Leaking Polybutylene Pipe

Ceiling Drywall Removal to Expose Leaking Polybutylene Pipe

Two runs of gray polybutylene pipe are visible in the living room ceiling above the plumber’s head:

Leaking Polybutylene Pipe in the Living Room Ceiling

Leaking Polybutylene Pipe in the Living Room Ceiling

The leak occurred when this section of gray color PB 2110 polybutylene pipe that serves the upstairs bathrooms developed a hairline crack. The water is under pressure, sprayed out from the cracked pipe and flooding the house:

Leaking Gray Polybutylene Pipe PB2110 SDR11 B137.8

Leaking Gray Polybutylene Pipe PB2110 SDR11 B137.8

The gray polybutylene pipe was removed and replaced with CPVC plastic pipe. Large sections of drywall were removed from the ceilings and walls throughout the house to expose the water pipes:

Leaking Polybutylene Pipe Replaced with CPVC Plastic Pipe

Leaking Polybutylene Pipe Replaced with CPVC Plastic Pipe

Numerous access holes must be cut in the drywall to locate the polybutylene plumbing and pipe joints:

Polybutylene Pipe Replacement: Drywall Cutouts for CPVC Plumbing

Polybutylene Pipe Replacement: Drywall Cutouts for CPVC Plumbing

Thanks for reading,

Bob Jackson

Copyright © 2019 HandymanHowTo.com   Reproduction strictly prohibited.


  1. jeff May 11, 2013 at 9:42 pm - Reply

    I’m a plumber and i have a house that has this pipe in it . We are starting to have problems with this pipe . Is there any class action lawsuits still active that can help pay for this mess.

  2. Fred Theroux August 6, 2013 at 8:27 pm - Reply

    The home I am plan on purchasing has grey pipe it is a 1992 modular are there any funds or plan available for help with replacement cost

    • BobJackson August 7, 2013 at 6:38 am - Reply

      See my reply dated May 12, 2013 at 7:35 am on this topic. In brief, settlement funds have been depleted and closed.

      If I were planning to a buy such a home, I would get three quotes to replace all the polybutylene pipe, add 20% for cost overruns and aggravation, then subtract the pipe replacement cost from the fair market value of the home.

    • Lucille Kuhlmann May 5, 2015 at 7:10 pm - Reply

      I have a pin size hole! Behind the sink in the small bathroom. Faces the wall in the garage!

      Does this mean the whole house has to be done! If so did the time run out to put a claim in.

      • Bob Jackson May 5, 2015 at 10:31 pm - Reply

        The filing date expired years ago and the settlement funds have long been depleted for the polybutylene pipe class action lawsuit.

        I recommend contacting a licensed plumber to fix the bathroom leak and inspect the PB plumbing in your home to see if you’re at risk. Hopefully it’s an isolated incident.

      • Youvone Dain August 4, 2017 at 4:32 pm - Reply

        I got a letter from my home insurance saying be cause I have this type of plumbing they was going to drop me. This is how I found out. I too hope they open another class action lay suite. 1,1 billion is not enough. they should just replace the pipes. We paid our mortgage now take care of use.

  3. GRANT December 23, 2013 at 3:15 pm - Reply

    have a pin sized hole needing to fix, splicing and patching with PEX sounds like the only option right now, does this stuff deteriorate fast after the first signs of defection?

    • BobJackson December 23, 2013 at 4:41 pm - Reply

      The homeowner said the leaks developed over a short time in numerous areas. Best to consult with a local plumber who has field experience with your particular product to assess the risk of more leaks.

  4. joseph clemons April 16, 2016 at 9:54 am - Reply

    i have had my mobile home for ten years and had all sorts of trouble with this gray line why am i just hearing about this?

  5. Inez August 1, 2016 at 10:45 am - Reply

    I have this type of pipe in my home and I am now having problems with leaks. I’ve lived in my home for 27 years and until last year I had no problem. I think that the class action law suit should be reactivated and funded for people that are now having to replace pipes that have been outlawed. I am told by a plumber that it is going to cost me $3000.00 plus to replace all of my pipes under my house. I am a unable to pay for getting that done. Where can I go for help to get this done?

    • Bob Jackson August 1, 2016 at 6:45 pm - Reply

      Have you tried filing a water damage claim with your homeowner’s insurance?

  6. KAREN WILEY September 24, 2016 at 2:27 pm - Reply

    My mother was unaware that her home has this plumbing or the settlements or replacement. My father took care of everything and died 10 years ago. She is having problem after problem. She has lived the the modular home since they purchased it over 25 years ago. Someone needs to do whatever it takes to file another class action or whatever you call it for all the people out there that were not aware and have these pipes. So sorry that they ran out of funds or closed or whatever. ..BUT…It is TERRIBLE that people are still suffering from the direct results from this faulty product and can not afford to have it replaced or fixed. The company happily took every penny they made from selling it to be put into people’s homes so they SHOULD be made to replace /reimburse every single piece. That is just common sense… Oh…sorry…we screwed you and since you were unaware of the lawsuit to right our wrongs in a specific time period…Too Bad, Not Our Problem!!! BULLSHIT!!! My mother is still working at 70 yrs old because she CAN NOT AFFORD TO RETIRE LET ALONE BE ABLE TO REPLACE/REPAIR THESE PIPES!!!
    I am soo sorry for all who are in such situations. Soo terrible to pay the price for a $companies$ defective materials.

  7. Blanche June 24, 2017 at 1:05 pm - Reply

    I purchased this dw mobile home in 2015 did not know anything about lawsuit , now have to replace all plumbing in this home and I am a senior who has no choice but to keep working no pension no retirement, just me. any one know of anything I can do?

    • Bob Jackson June 24, 2017 at 1:57 pm - Reply

      See my reply about Public Justice prior to yours.

      Was the polybutylene pipe listed in the seller’s homeowner disclosure or home inspection report before you purchased the mobile home in 2015? If not you might have a case against the seller and/or realty company. Probably a long shot but worth checking into.

  8. Fabian Jennings August 9, 2017 at 9:40 pm - Reply

    I have recently seen flexible gray pipes serving as the water lines for the sinks in a friends house. The exposed runs that I could see beneath the sinks were only about 2 feet long and I could not see any identification markings anywhere on them. This house is in Calgary, AB and was built in 1993. Could this flexible gray pipe likely be some unproblematic type of pipe other than poly-B? Is there any reasonable chance of that?

    • Bob Jackson August 10, 2017 at 10:25 am - Reply

      Have you tried getting a look at the far side of the exposed pipe with a flashlight and mirror? If no success, contact a plumber for a pipe inspection. He may need to remove a section of drywall to reveal the manufacture identification marks.

  9. mary Linander September 19, 2017 at 6:37 pm - Reply

    help! I have a big puddle at corner of house where polybuteline pipes under slab are leaking! It has to be coming from master bathroom- Do I try to find leak and have it fixed or replace all pipes in house up in the attic? The house is 27 years old? I will have to finance repairs either way- I had a leak detector come in April as water bill was too high- there was water at front of house way down deep which a plumber found- he thought leak was from street to house- Detector said leak was from hall toilet! replaced flapper and bill went down so thought Great! Now this! Help!

    • Bob Jackson September 20, 2017 at 8:30 am - Reply

      The home in this project also had a polybutylene water line from the street meter to the house. The homeowner noticed a problem when water ponded on the concrete driveway even during dry weather. No choice to but have the water line replaced at significant cost.

      A plumber can replace the underground water line but will probably tell you there’s no guarantee the interior polybutylene pipes will not leak, especially at the shutoff valve between the new supply line and old interior old pipes, because any disturbance can cause the old and brittle interior pipes to leak. All pipes will have to be replaced if you want peace of mind and a guarantee.

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