What is Kitec plumbing?
A part of the IPEX family of products, Kitec Plumbing, was introduced in the US in 1995, and was used in new construction until 2007. Kitec was the most common brand sold under the family of products, however, additional brands were also used:
- KERR Controls
- Plomberie Amelioree
Plumbers consider PEX (polyethylene) piping to be a good plumbing system because it is cheaper than copper, is flexible, and easy to install. Even today, PEX piping (or polyethylene) is still being used in new home construction (various types of PEX exist today). Kitec pipes specifically are made of polyethylene with a thin layer of aluminum (pex-al-pex). The system usually consists of blue and orange flexible piping and brass fittings, however, it was also available in other colors (red, blue, gray and black). In addition to the orange and blue pipes, Kitec plumbing systems can usually be identified by the brass fittings, which will usually have one of the following stamps:
- CSA B137.9/10
- ATSM F1974
Kitec plumbing was used as piping for your drinking water, as wells in for under-floor heating systems, and hot water baseboard heaters. Due to the problems with its tendency for the brass fittings to corrode (meringue/de-zinc) due to an OVER ABUNDANCE of ZINC in the brass alloy (30 to 33% - known as "yellow brass"), Kitec plumbing is no longer being manufactured was was the subject of a recall in 2005.
How is the system pieced together?
The blue pipes carry cold water, and the orange pipes carry hot water through a home. The brass fittings were used to join the pipes together.
What are the common issues associated with IPEX plumbing systems?
The most common issues with Kitec plumbing are:
- Heat. The orange pipes were only certified to run at a maximum temperature of 180 degrees Fahrenheit, but hot water tanks could run hotter than this. Although an unlikely issue for homeowners (from hot water heaters) due to scalding hot temperatures at the the piping highest rating, any presence of higher heat than rated can cause the pipes to deteriorate.
- Pressure: High water pressure can cause these pipes to fail.
Regardless of the above, the primary issue with Kitec plumbing systems lies within the fittings. Kitec plumbing fittings are made of brass, an alloy comprised of copper and zinc. When zinc is exposed to oxygen and moisture, it tends to corrode (dezincification). When this happens, zinc oxide forms blockages in the fittings that result in restricted water flow (meringue), and ultimately breaks and leaks.
Should the fittings or piping fail, they are quite likely to crack, or burst, resulting in flooding. While temperatures and pressure can be regulated to prevent issues with the piping, the brass fittings could still fracture as a result of the dezincification process.
Class action lawsuits were filed in Canada and the US and recalls began in 2005. IPEX (the manufacturer) and its insurer deny that the system is defective, however, agreed to a $125 million settlement. This settlement fund is intended to pay for repairs in homes where the Kitec plumbing systems failed. Claims can be made until the year 2020. Any funds remaining after 2020 will be distributed to those who own homes with Kitec plumbing systems that have not failed.
Kitec Fitting Failure (Meringue)
What can you do to maintain your Kitec plumbing?
Some plumbing experts say the question is not IF your Kitec plumbing will leak, but WHEN it will leak. If you have Kitec plumbing in your home, you may want to contact a licensed plumber(s) to take a further examination of the system and regulate/maintain the pressures and temperature until an eventual replacement is performed. Any suggested corrections to the presence of Kitec is recommended to be performed at the advice of a licensed pluming professional and the homeowners discretion.
What is the life expectancy?
Kitec pipes were used in homes starting in 1995. The first fitting recalls occurred in 2005, which suggests that the average life expectancy could potentially be somewhere short of 10 years. However, this life expectancy increases the longer the product is present to the home. The estimated life expectancy of Kitec systems is 55 years. There are approximately 292,000 installations/properties with the Kitec system in North America.
Will my home insurance cover Water Damage from burst plumbing?
Typically, home insurance policies include coverage for any sudden or accidental escape of water in your home, including ruptured water lines, or overflowing appliances. This is why insurance companies ask what type of plumbing you have in your home. They need to be able to accurately assess the risk in order to charge the right rates and provide you with the right coverage. Sometimes, depending on your plumbing situation, a company may not be able to insure you at all, and you’ll need to shop around, and likely pay a higher rate, if you can find coverage at all.
Don’t let this tempt you into deceiving your insurance broker. Failure to report the presence of Kitec can void your policy when it is discovered. Your best course is to always tell the truth. If you discover that the only solution is to replace your plumbing, the expense can be a lot less than finding out, after a loss, that you have no insurance coverage.
Trust the certified professionals at Absolute Inspection Services to perform your home inspection! Contact us today at (888) HME-INSP [463-4677]!