Polybutylene piping found inside the home is gray in color. This type of piping has a good flow rate, is not bothered by freezing conditions and has the advantage of having fewer connections than copper.
In some areas, highly acidic water deteriorates copper pipe. In these instances Polybutylene piping can be the answer because it is unaffected by the high acid content.
When this piping was first introduced the connectors were a metal barb, crimped with a copper band onto the pipe. The system was then changed to a plastic barb, crimped with a copper or aluminum band. These were prone to cracking and as a result, they leaked.
Polybutylene pipe connected with compression fittings does not seem to have any problems. Over time Polybutylene pipe may leak and give trouble. There have been class action law suits against the manufacturers.
Newer homes have flexible pipes (white/ red/ blue/ light grey) these are not polybutylene, check the pipe, they are probably Vanguard or Quest. They may be connected to a Manablock (similar to a breaker panel, only it is for the water feeds). This type of piping does not seem to have any draw back.
Water Mains "Big Blue"
If the incoming water supply line to your house is a light blue colored plastic, you may have a Polybutylene pipe affectionately called "BIG BLUE". This pipe was widely used during the early 1990’s. This pipe made by Shell (Oil) has a high failure rate. It rarely gets a small leak, most commonly it bursts quite unexpectedly.
The pipe is also susceptible to shearing where it penetrates the foundation wall. One suggestion is to sleeve it where it enters the foundation, a procedure that is probably a waste of money since the pipe can also burst along its length (which appears to be most common.)
NOTE: There is a class action settlement program in place for homes that have had the pipe burst. The money does not cover the water damage to the home, or replacement of a seemingly good pipe before it bursts.
For information about the class action law suit visit Polybutylene Settlement Fund site.