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We are having extension work done and noticed the builder has used Polybutylene pipe for all the cold and hot water systems.

I noticed on the label it says "Not for sale in America", and doing some reading it seems like there are issues with safety and longevity. One article on Forbes for example says:

At the time, they were easy to install and thought to be a cost-effective alternative to copper piping. However, durability and safety concerns led to a class action lawsuit, which resulted in millions of dollars in compensation to homeowners. Thereafter, production of PB pipes was discontinued.

Image of pipe label - 22BPB-25C - 22mm Polybutylene Pipe - "Not for sale in America"

I'm unclear why this doesn't seem to be recognized in the UK however. The builder insisted it was the standard pipe used by everyone.

Can anyone explain if this pipe is safe & reliable, or if I should be insisting that the builder replace this with something else (And recommendations for what should be used if this is the advice)

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  • The problems with that pipe type were 30/40 years ago and forget if it was the piping or connections. Possible they have improved the piping by now, since kind of stupid to let yourself in for another massive lawsuit. America seems lawsuit happy and might be one reason for it not being for sale, instead of being defective now.
    – crip659
    Commented Sep 25, 2023 at 20:46
  • This type of pipe is still against building code in America though, and the label on the pipe that has been used says it's not for sale in America, so I don't think it's that the type of pipe has improved. Commented Sep 25, 2023 at 20:51
  • Ask the builder to sign a paper/contract that the builder will pay to replace/repair any water damage(caused by the plumbing or not). They will sign if they trust the piping or replace the piping with something else.
    – crip659
    Commented Sep 25, 2023 at 20:56
  • It deteriorates, flakes and leaks over time due to water-soluble oxidants. Coper does not.
    – Traveler
    Commented Sep 25, 2023 at 20:58
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    It doesn't say that such pipes can't legally be used in the US, just that they don't make them anymore. If it's ok with your country they are probably fine. Those are also made in the UK, which likely makes them better than what was being used in the US at the time of the problems. Also, the UK could well have different water properties that makes it not a problem there.
    – dandavis
    Commented Sep 25, 2023 at 22:41

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It may depend on how water is normally treated in the UK. It's particularly prone to failure with chlorinated water - people on un-chlorinated private supplies in the US have had minimal problems with it. But almost all public water and not a few private wells are treated with chlorine products routinely in the USA.

Chlorine reacts with polybutylene pipes and causes micro-cracks, which eventually lead to pipe failure.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polybutylene

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