You Have Polybutylene Pipes in Your Home – You Have Trouble

Polybutylene Pipes in Your Home

If your home was built between 1978 and 1995 – you may very well have a plumbing system made out of polybutylene pipes, or “poly pipe.” For almost 20 years, poly pipe was used instead of copper pipe in most underground and interior plumbing systems because it was less expensive and easier to install.

  It was discovered that poly pipe begins to degrade at 10 to 15 years, which means that this kind of plumbing will fail at some point in the future. Unfortunately, it’s not a question of “if” a poly pipe plumbing system will leak – it’s a question of “when” – and this can be a truly serious problem for homeowners.

What’s the problem with poly pipe?
polybutylene pipes
Poly pipe actually breaks down as a result of the water that flows through it; the pipe oxidizes and disintegrates as a result of the chlorine in the water. What’s worse is that the pipe deteriorates from the inside; you can’t see the damage. When you look at the pipe it can look perfectly fine – right up until it breaks or leaks. There’s no way to tell where or when the piping will fail, it just fails all at once, without warning.

How much damage can it do?

Because it’s so difficult to detect where poly pipe is having a problem, it’s hard to catch leaks before it’s too late, and if the pipe breaks – it can cause extensive damage. There have been a number of class action lawsuits as a result; the cost of fixing a house can be more than the house is worth. This kind of piping is such a problem that some homeowner’s policies refuse to insure a home that has it. What’s worse is that others have been known to cancel a policy and refuse to pay damages if they are caused by poly piping.

What will poly pipe do to a home?

Poly pipe often does more extensive damage to a home than other types of plumbing material because it’s so difficult to spot a problem before it becomes a problem. The leaks and/or breaks can be larger and more serious, so they often result in more damage, the kind of damage that leads to severe structural problems. Because of this, if your home has poly pipe plumbing, it will bring the value of your home down considerably if  you ever decide to sell it. It’s known that a home with poly piping is extremely difficult to market in the real estate world.

How do I tell if I have poly pipe?

Poly pipe is blue, gray, or black – and generally ½ to 1” in diameter. Inside it’s usually blue, and found around water heaters, basement ceilings, and attached to sinks, toilets, and bathtubs. Outside, poly pipe is generally gray, and it’s found entering a home through a basement wall, attached to the water meter, and/or the home’s main water shutoff valve. Sometimes poly pipe was used in combination with a piece of copper piping, and it may not be immediately apparent that you do have poly pipe because of this, so it’s really best to have a licensed plumber in to inspect your plumbing system.

What do I do to fix this?

The only fix for polybutylene piping is to replace it – all of it. When a homeowner hears the word “replace,” they generally panic, but we’d like to tell you that replacing a polybutylene system isn’t as bad – or as expensive – as you think it is. Most of our customers are surprised to learn that a plumbing pipe replacement job is only about $3,000 to $4,000, start to finish, depending on your home’s square footage, floor plan, number of bathrooms, and attic accessibility.

 

Your home is your largest financial asset, and when it comes to something like this, it’s best to take care of the problem sooner rather than later, because there’s no question that you will have to deal with it at some point anyway. This is a fix that could literally save your home, not just a few thousand dollars.

Replacing your polybutylene pipe is easer than you think!

At Moon Valley Plumbing dealing with “poly problems” is one of our specialties. Replacing the pipes in your plumbing will only take about 2 or 3 days, depending on the size of your home, and we always work with and around your schedule, and at your convenience. We’ll let you know exactly what we’re doing, when, where, and how much it will cost – ahead of time.

One of the things we’re known for is our attention to detail, and the respect we have for our client’s homes. We handle all our “re-plumbs” very carefully; inside we make sure we prep your home, and cover all your furnishings to protect them against dust. Afterwards, we will fix any walls or flooring we’ve had to open, and repair and patch any drywall we’ve disturbed. Outside, we’re considerate of your property and landscaping; we restore whatever we have to move, and – of course – we always clean up after ourselves when we’re finished.

Moon Valley Plumbing has years of experience in dealing with homes that have polybutylene pipe, so we know the best and most cost-effective methods to help you deal with what was once considered a homeowner’s “nightmare.” Not only do we guarantee our work but – when we’re done – we guarantee you’ll be happy with it!

A Thumbnail History of the Art of Plumbing

It’s good to mix it up every once in awhile, and I’m always interested in how things are made and how they start, so this week I decided to take a look at the history and origin of plumbing.

It turns out that the Ancient Roman Empire had an awe-inspiring plumbing system that supplied fresh water to a city that had 1,000,000 people living in it at it’s height. Some of that system was made of lead piping, and it turned out that “plumbum” is the Latin word for lead, and so “plumber” became the title for the specialized workers in the city that installed and fixed anything having to do with this massive plumbing system.

Ancient Roman plumbers installed and repaired pipes, tubing, drains, gutters, flashing – anything that had to do with bringing water into the city, and taking waste away, which is pretty much exactly what we do today. I’ve long suspected that plumbing has to have been around for a while, but who knew it was an ancient and noble art?

Basically – creating a town or a city requires a source of water, and when you need water to come from somewhere and go somewhere else – you need plumbers, so – we’ve been around for a long time. Trying to pin down exact dates isn’t my job, but some of the most interesting high points of plumbing include:

  • 1700 BC  the ancient Minoan civilization creates complex plumbing system that includes sewage disposal and drainage for the first time; King Minos of Crete has the first flush toilet
  • 800 BC Roman Empire takes about 500 years to build more than 300 miles of huge aqueducts that bring fresh water from as far as 57 miles away, supplying a city of more than 1,000,000. Some of it actually still works today.
  • 300-1400 AD after Rome falls, civilization moves into “The Dark Ages – and cleanliness take a large hit as all things considered “Roman” are rejected by as the barbarian cultures that take over afterwards. Clean drinking water isn’t seen as a necessity, and bathing is largely viewed as “vanity” in the eyes of God, so – plumbing becomes a somewhat lost art. There are a number of dirty, smelly centuries where people are too busy trying to survive to worry about clean water.
  • 1500-1600’s Queen Elizabeth I has a flush toilet created specifically for her in 1596. King Louis XIV has a cast-iron plumbing line constructed to bring water to the palace in 1664. The idea of supplying towns and cities with clean water and taking away waste is “rediscovered,” and Boston builds America’s first “city waterworks system” to fight fires in 1652. Pipes are made of hollowed out trees, however.
  • 1700’s-1800’s The first underground sewer is installed in New York city in 1728; the smell was considered the main problem. A patent for a “flushing toilet” was given in 1775. In 1804 Philadelphia is the first city to switch to cast iron pipes; they create a complex system of water delivery that makes them the global leader in plumbing. Laws are passed that start creating public plumbing systems to bring clean water in and take waste away, as Louis Pasteur makes the connection between contaminated water and disease. Around 1850 running water indoors becomes more readily available, in 1869 Chicago installs the first “city water tower.” Private homes begin to install water heaters in 1870, though they are somewhat dangerous because of the inability to control water temperature, which led to explosions. A “high tank” toilet is on the market by the 1880’s; it uses 10 gallons of water per flush (low-flow toilets today use about 1.6 gallons). In 1890 the first water treatment system in the world is built in Massachusetts to purify water for drinking.

 

  • 1900-2000’s The “water closet” is invented around 1900, and by 1920 – toilets begin to look like the toilets we have today. Indoor plumbing is in almost all homes, however indoor toilets in rural areas are still lacking up until the 1950’s. From 1930’s to 1960’s the “golden age” of plumbing innovation and inventions explodes; regulators, faucets, pipes, fixtures, toilets, sinks – all the many household items that provide and remove water from structures see a constant flow of improvements and changes.

And innovation in the world of plumbing and plumbing fixtures continues, as the world starts to realize that our water supply is finite, and we need to make improvements in the way we use this precious resource.

One of the most important things I discovered though, was that the plumbing profession has been organized for over 125 years. The National Association of Master Plumbers held their first meeting in 1883. In 1926 we began writing a model code that established a system of ethics and behavior for our profession.

Since then we’ve created education requirements for plumbers, and a standard for excellence and best-use principles and practices that continues to evolve over the years. My company and every plumber that works for me knows how important integrity, training, and experience is, and that’s what we bring to our customers. We’re proud of our background and history, we’re proud of our track record, and we’re proud of the kind of service we’ve brought to our customers for over 20 years.

 

Travis says…. Please, People – Do Not Put This Stuff Down Your Toilets!

As a plumber for more than 20 years now, I find it fascinating that – although people pretty much know that there are certain things that shouldn’t be flushed down their toilets – one of the main calls we get in our day-to-day business is still about – you guessed it: toilets that have been plugged up with things that aren’t supposed to go down toilets.

 

Kids are one of the main perpetrators, of course, and they can be excused on the basis that:

 

  • They’re kids; they don’t know any better.
  • They’re kids; they may know better – but they just cannot help themselves.
  • A kid has got to do what a kid has got to do.

 

But kids can only take so much of the blame, and then we just have to ask the adults to step up to the plate, and own some responsibility.

 

So here’s my annual list of “What Not to Put Down Your Toilet.” This is something I write about at least once a year, and it’s become a tradition here at Moon Valley Plumbing. Some people call it “Travis’s Toilet Sermon on the Mount” behind my back, but I’m not going to call them out here [Pam].

 

So – the list really consists of three parts; we’ll start with a list of the things that everybody knows should not go down toilets, and then we’ll go to the things you may never have thought would be a problem if they went down a toilet – but they are, and we’ll finish with our very own list of – “seriously – somebody put that down a toilet?” Looking for new wild, weird, and wonderful things that have been flushed down a toilet is kind of game we play around here; we suspect there are other plumbing companies that do the same thing.

 

1)  The things you know you shouldn’t put down a toilet (but humanity apparently needs constant reminders of):

  • Feminine products: any kind, any shape, any thickness, any anything – these are kryptonite to toilets, and yet – down they go, century after century…
  • Bathroom wipes: this has been pointed out often enough that it’s beginning to creep into public awareness; now most people vaguely know that they shouldn’t be flushing these things – but still, it’s just darned confusing because manufacturer’s continue to print that they’re “flushable” on the packaging because – well, they are flushable – it’s just that when you flush them – they cause clogs…. The packaging really needs to say: “Flushable – but will cause clogs”
  • Paper towels: people – there is a reason why paper towels are kept in the kitchen. And – no – paper towels are not made of “the same stuff” that toilet paper is made out of. And no, again – they do not “break down” the way toilet paper does. Anyone who tells you they do is lying to you. Tell them to stop it. Please.
  • Disposable diapers: yes, we know, ewww, same stuff, same idea – but – these diapers are made from toxic plastic that actually expands when you put it in water. If it does go down the toilet, it’s going to stop somewhere along the way and back up traffic. This is virtually guaranteed.
  • Grease from cooking: you may be congratulating yourself because at least you’re not putting it down your garbage disposal, but trust us – it will a similar problem if you do.

 

2)  The things you shouldn’t put down a toilet that make sense if you think about it:

  • Cotton swabs, Q-tips, and cotton balls: we know, they do seem harmless, don’t they? But they don’t break down, they get soggy, they expand, and they tend to band together in the bends of your pipe. Trust us, they may look innocent, but they can be vicious in packs.
  • Band-aids & other small pieces of plastic: we know, how picky can you get? But really, small pieces of plastic like band-aids, tiny pieces of make-up packaging, condoms – these are all non-biodegradable and they “catch” other stuff and create terrific problems. The issue is that these things are cumulative, so people aren’t really aware that these items are what’s causing the problem. However, we’ve discovered this is the culprit in beauty salons, emergency rooms, and the like – so this is how we figured this one out.
  • Dental floss: dental floss? Really? Yes, really. Dental floss never degrades, it’s string, and it’s strong – it will wrap itself around things and cause problems, guaranteed.
  • Kitty litter: like the disposable diaper rationale and again – ewww – same stuff, same idea – but, no. It’s a really bad idea. Kitty litter is basically like shoveling dirt into your toilet, and that’ all we’re going to say on that. Plus – the waste it contains contaminates our water supply with toxins and parasites and other terrible things.

 

3)  The things that shouldn’t go down the toilet but not because they plug up the drains – but because they’re bad for the environment:

  • Prescription medication: there was a period of time when it was advised to flush meds down a toilet, but then it was discovered that this did terrible things to groundwater, the environment, and wildlife. One way to get rid of a medication is to mix it into old coffee grounds and seal it in a bag or coffee can; or you can just call your pharmacist and ask what to do – they’ll give you all the advice you need.
  • Cigarette butts: ok, we’re not even bothering to explain this one.

 

Finally – we come to our list of things that go down toilets that are truly unbelievable. As stated,

in addition to the regular, sort of “logical” things that regularly make our list, there are always new things that I get to add every year – things that go down toilets that are so amazing and/or unbelievable that no one would believe it if there weren’t witnesses and/or pictures.

 

Disclaimer: we understand that there are a lot of crazy things that go down toilets, but we now gather data only on the unusually odd. For example – cell phones & wallets no longer make our cut because thousands of those go down toilets daily. Also – toys aren’t unusual, the number of toys that go down toilets per year is literally astronomical, because, as noted above: a kid’s gotta do what a kids gotta do. Finally, we don’t list jewelry anymore unless it qualifies as serious jewelry; again, the amount of jewelry that goes down toilets per year is virtually incalculable, but there is data that suggests that the majority of it is wedding and/or engagement rings. We have no comment on this statistic.

 

So, for your reading pleasure, here is:

 

4)  Moon Valley Plumbing’s 2015 list of crazy things that people have flushed down toilets:

 

  • false teeth (many, many, many, many, many sets of these)
  • shark (smallish, unfortunately – expired)
  • automobile parts
  • fish (different kinds)
  • money (American, exact amounts unknown, but many instances)
  • 87,000 euros (in one lump sum, which is a bit over $96,000 American dollars, so – basically, $100,000 dollars)
  • scepter (yes – as in a “scepter” that a king or queen might use – and not a “fake” one either)
  • squirrel (fortunately – alive!)
  • 6-pack of beer
  • $10,000 14 karat bracelet (this needed it’s own entry apart from simple “jewelry”)
  • $78,000 engagement ring (this one truly needed it’s own entry)
  • Groucho Marx glasses – with nose & eyebrows intact
  • civil war cannon ball
  • alarm clock
  • bright red wig – with tiara
  • 14 pairs of men’s xl briefs (notable because all found in one toilet)
  • snakes (too many kinds & so many instances that they simply need one category)
  • training bra (this does not seem odd until you consider that it was in a men’s restroom)
  • miniature liquor bottles (again, not odd unless you consider that there were a great many bottles & they were all found in one office)
  • puppy (alive! 7 year old was giving puppy a “bath” & accidentally flushed the puppy but puppy rescued and OK!)
  • live hand grenade
  • large block of cheese (sharp & cheddar, to be exact)
  • gold bar (originally mistaken for cheese, but discovered it was much heavier)