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Blue Poly water lines are another name for the Polybutylene that is most commonly used for main water supplies. That is, it used to be used. Blue poly piping is no longer used, and has been out of production since 1995. It is no longer legal to install, per California plumbing code, and it is recommended to replace it, if you have it installed in your home.
Blue poly is a cousin to PVC (polyvinylchloride) and Pex (Cross-Link Polyethylene) pipes, but although all three have “poly” in their name, the similarities end there. In this article we will talk about polybutylene piping, and what to do if you have it in, or outside of your home.
A Little About Polybutylene Pipe
First of all, we are focusing here on blue poly pipe. Polybutylene also comes, however in grey and black. Usually blue were used outside (for water mains) and the grey and black versions were used indoors. The indoor versions, you may recognize by the name Qest piping.
Blue poly was introduced in 1978 as being the “pipe of the future”. It was much less expensive than copper, and much easier to install. Although the manufacturers claimed that the piping would last a lifetime, there was something that they did not take into consideration when making that claim.
The problem is not that the pipe will never fully degrade, it is that when the material interacts with minerals in water, it tends to lose its integrity. That could cause the pipe to become brittle and burst, with no warning, whatsoever.
Another problem with the pipe is that it tends to lose its shape. Picture a pipe that is soft enough to go from being round to being oval. Then it starts to get brittle, so that it can never be made round again, without breaking. Now imagine needing to make a repair to that pipe, and trying to force it onto a round plumbing fitting. It’s pretty close to impossible.
Due to these problems, as well as problems with the fittings, connection methods, and huge property damage resulting from blue poly disasters, lawsuits started filing in during the 1980s. Production was finally stopped in 1995, and a “$1.1 billion Polybutylene Pipe Settlement Fund” was set up.
What to Do if You Have Blue Poly?
If you have blue poly installed outside your home, or grey poly inside, your best option is to replace it. While some indoor poly may be able to be repaired, thanks to newer, more advanced fittings, the rest of the system is still a veritable time bomb.
If you want to replace outdoor poly pipe, you will need to do so all the way from the meter, to the point where it transitions into another material. Your options are basically copper, schedule 40 PVC, or schedule 80 PVC, but we recommend against using schedule 40 PVC, as it has its own problems.
If you are looking for indoor poly replacement, the recommended material is copper or Pex. Unfortunately, since Qest pipe is flexible, it is usually not run perfectly straight, and can dip or sag, and take all kinds of strange routes. This can make replacing it a little tougher than an average repipe, but is still very doable.
Do you have more questions about blue poly piping, or do you have some you need replaced? Make sure you call a company that is qualified and with expert level experience. In short, call Gogo Rooter Plumbing.