Information on Pro-fit polybutylene pipes in Western Australia
Page updated on 14th November 2023.
Iplex is aware of a number of complaints in Perth related to plumbing failures in hot and cold-water plumbing systems, where Iplex Polybutylene (Pro-fit) products have been installed. Complaints of this nature are only evident in the Perth area, despite the same quantity of pipe, produced at the same factory, using the same materials being sold nationally.
We acknowledge the frustration and difficult circumstances homeowners, and their families are facing.
Until investigations are finalised Iplex is working with builders and the regulators to provide support, understand causation and develop an efficient industry-wide solution for affected homes as soon as is possible.
As an interim measure, in order to learn as much as we can about the root cause of the problem occurring in Perth, Iplex has established a $15m interim support fund to help WA builders and plumbers to complete repairs (both plumbing failures and resulting property damage) as well as ceiling pipe replacement in affected homes.
We encourage any impacted homeowners to speak to their builders and plumbers about registering with the fund.
Iplex is also exploring innovative solutions that involve repairing pipe systems and limiting damage with the goal of limiting the inconvenience to homeowners and assisting builders and plumbers. This includes such things as leak detection technology and pipe re-lining technology.
The Polybutylene Hot and Cold Crimp System range, branded as Pro-fit™ was part of the Iplex range for more than 20 years. The product is certified to the relevant Australian Standard AS/NZS2642.2.
Iplex provides a product warranty for Pro-fit covering manufacturing defects for a 25-year period.
The pipe products in question have been sold and installed nationwide since the 1990’s. The issues being reported in Perth appear unique to that area.
Pro-Fit piping can be identified by its light grey appearance and IPLEX watermarking.
The Australian Plumbing Standards require plumbers to comply with a manufacturer’s installation guidelines. Iplex’s Pro-Fit installation requirements can be found at Pro-fitDL_2012 and outline the following:
- a minimum bend radius be 10 times the outside diameter of the pipe. If this is not possible an IPLEX Pro-fit elbow should be used.
- installation must allow for movement of the pipe due to thermal expansion and contraction.
- pipe should not be pulled tight between fixed points as this will prohibit movement if the pipe contracts, and result in excessive tensile forces on joints and fittings.
- pipe must not be used, and it must be replaced, if it has: cuts, deep scratches or gouges; kinks or crushed sections; Evidence of grease, oil, tar etc: noticeable colour fading of pipe; all damaged sections should be cut out and replaced.
- pipes in the chase shall be continuously wrapped with an impermeable flexible material.
The Australian Plumbing Standards require plumbers to comply with a manufacturer’s installation guidelines.
What is the issue?
Iplex is aware of a number of complaints in the Perth area related to plumbing failures in hot and cold-water systems, where Iplex Polybutylene (Pro-fit) products have been installed.
Over the last 2 years, 10.9% of Perth homes fitted with Pro-fit and built since mid-2017 been impacted by plumbing failures, the figure sits at 0.19% in the rest of Australia – despite the product being distributed nationally.
Failure rates in Perth appear to vary between construction companies and plumbing groups with some experiencing less than 0.6% failure rate in homes built within the time-period of concern, while some others have much higher plumbing failure rates.
What is Iplex doing about it?
Iplex is assisting all parties, including the regulator (DMIRS), builders and plumbers by providing its industry knowledge and experience. We are seeking to work collaboratively with the builders who installed Pro-fit to resolve any homeowner issues as quickly as possible.
Iplex has also undertaken investigations which have included multiple types of tests on more than 900 individual samples of Pro-fit pipe (both used and unused) at both our accredited NATA laboratory as well as multiple external Australian and global laboratories.
Iplex has implemented a significant testing regime, over and above what is required by Australian Standards.
We have also conducted hundreds of inspections of homes across multiple builders in Perth to understand if external factors are at play.
What does your testing show?
All testing and investigations completed to-date has confirmed that the Pro-fit pipe is compliant with Australian Standards and has no manufacturing defect that explains the failures. Testing by Iplex and external independent specialist laboratories instead, point to installation as the cause of the plumbing failures.
Plumbing installation investigations have also been completed by Iplex, assessing installation practices against Australian Standards, the Plumbing Code and/or Iplex’s installation instructions.
Of the homes investigated, ~96% had at least one observable installation failure and ~86% have multiple observable installation failures.
The installation failures seen are of the type that generate stress and radial cracking which is the predominate mode of failure seen in Perth.
These results are reinforced by the fact that the plumbing failures which have occurred in the Perth area have not been replicated anywhere else in Australia, even though the same pipe product, made from the same material, from the same factory was supplied to plumbers and builders nationally.
For further information on our findings to-date please see the full presentation at: https://fletcherbuilding.com/assets/5-news/pdfs/WA-Plumbing-Issues-Update-Presentation.pdf
*The remaining 4% relate to failures which are either unrelated to the issue in question (e.g. rodent chew and fittings) our plumbers not having access to pipes or the home to complete an assessment.
Is this issue specific to WA?
Significant plumbing failures are only evident in Perth, despite the same quantity of pipe being sold nationally outside of Perth, pointing to region specific installation practices as the cause of the failures.
How is Iplex helping?
Iplex has established a dedicated team on this project and a local qualified plumbing team in Perth to support builders and plumbers to establish causation.
On April 17th Iplex Australia committed $15m to an interim support fund to establish causation and to help Perth builders and plumbers to complete repairs (both plumbing failures and resulting property damage.
Click here for information in relation to the Pro-Fit Support Fund.
These are commercial proposals on a no-liability basis which do not address, nor are they based on, causation. We are seeking to play a supportive role for builders, plumbers and homeowners to get these plumbing failures fixed and to develop an industry-wide solution.
Click here for a copy of the Fletcher Building Stock Exchange Notice on the fund.
To date, >500 repairs (including ceiling re-pipes) have been completed through our fund.
The site and installation evidence that we are collecting through this cooperative approach with builders who seek to work with us, is helping Iplex to understand scope and what potential innovative solutions may work to further assist builders and plumbers.
Homeowners deserve a cooperative and timely response to this problem by all members of the building industry. We are disappointed that some builders and plumbers have to date refused to work with Iplex through the fund that we have established.
WA Department of Building and Energy Investigation
Iplex is also aware that the Western Australian Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety (DMIRS) is undertaking its own investigation which it has confirmed has not yet been completed.
The regulator has also clarified that it has shared its preliminary report with the ACCC however they are not actively involved in the investigation and it is a matter for the local regulator.
What should I do if I have a plumbing failure in my home?
Should a homeowner identify a leak, they should immediately turn off water at the water mains and notify their home builder.
Any homeowner who has any safety concern should also immediately contact their builder to rectify the matter.
Iplex recommends that homeowners contact their home builder in the first instance, especially where the home remains subject to the builders’ warranty period to ensure that their plumbing teams can respond directly to investigate any issues and correctly capture the details, obtain samples of the pipework for analysis, and then determine the next steps for the homeowner.
Concerned homeowners should contact their home builder to confirm whether Iplex pipe is used in their home and whether correct installation methods were followed at the time of installation.
DMIRS has advised that in the event that you are not satisfied with the response from your home builder, you may lodge a building services complaint with the Building Commissioner.
Photos should be taken prior to any pipe being removed. These photos should capture the point of failure and must include the manufacturing details which are printed on the outside of the pipe. Pipe that has been removed must be retained by the homeowner for testing to establish the cause of failure. Your home builder may be asked for information to assist with investigations into the root cause(s) of the failures.
Iplex provides a product warranty for Pro-Fit covering manufacturing defects for a 25-year period. The specific product warranty terms that apply will depend on a number of factors, including the date of manufacture of the Pro-Fit installed. You can obtain further details and submit a claim under the product warranty by notifying Iplex in writing by contacting us through our portal below.
Click here for further information about the Pro-Fit product warranty.
What happens next?
Iplex remains committed to identifying the root cause(s) of the issues, enabling the correct course of action, by the responsible party or parties to be identified for homeowners.