Abstract: West Vancouver home inspector notes on Kitec plumbing, its troubled history, how to identify it and what to do about it if you have it in your house.
Photo: Kitec plumbing is typically bright orange for hot and blue for cold water service.
Failure of Kitec Plumbing
Kitec was a brand name for flexible plastic water pipe that was subject to spontaneously bursting. The extent of the subsequent water damage was only limited by when the unfortunate homeowner returned the residence and shut off the main water valve. This product was in use from 1995 to 2007, when it was discontinued due to performance concerns.
The water lines were rated for 180 F operation. Hot water systems can exceed this limit and operated above the limit, accelerated the degradation of the piping.
The zinc fittings used for splices, elbows and connectors also experienced unanticipated corrossion. The resulting zinc oxide precipitate tended to clog the water lines and created pressurized pockets within the piping, further stressing the plumbing.
Class Action Lawsuit
IPEX, one of many manufacturers, and who are still in business to this day, set up an account to deal with claims for damages. However the settlement date (January 2020) has now expired and there are no longer any funds available to deal with future claims.
How to Identify Kitec Piping
Kitec is a flexible piping material. It is an aluminum tube surrounded by a plastic polymer material.
Colours are orange and blue are most common, but red, white and gray were also prooduced.
The most reliable way to ID the piping is to check the labelling on the pipe itself. Manufacturers have to label all piping with their brand and standards to which they they were built and under which they could be installed.
The brand names included: Kitec, Plumbetter, IPEX AQUA, WarmRite, Kitec XPA, AmbioComfort, XPA, KERR Controls or Plomberie Améliorée.
The piping was built to these standards: CSA B137.9/10 or ATSM F1974.
How to Identify Kitec Fittings
The brass fittings are shiny and gold coloured. The metal will be stamped Kitec, KTC or XPA.
Action Plan for Kitec
Our recommendation is to budget for its replacement in less than 1 year.
Alternate Action Plan
However, there is also a risk assessment that could be performed on the keeping it in-place for longer. Here is one possible scenario.
Your insurance company is made aware of the presence of Kitec plumbing and may choose to severely limit or exclude water damage liability from your policy. If you live in a one story rancher built on a crawl space, then a burst water line may have less consequences or damages compared to a multi-story house.
Although not ideal, knowing the extent of potential damages may be comforting and acceptable under some circumstances. For example, a renovation is planned in the future and water damages to floor finishes are not that important. Or, money is tight and there is no budget for this to replacement at present.
Regardless of circumstances, if Kitec plumbing replacement is not an immediate option then there is one add-on that should be considered, that is, a wireless and or wifi enabled leak detector sensors placed strategically around the house and crawl space. Well worth the investment for the 24/7 monitoring they provide.
As well, many home security installations have leak detectors as optional extras too, that will be fully compatible with the installed sytem.
Smart Leak Detector
Here is an example of a good leak detector… Moen 920-004 Flo Smart Water Detector. It’s battery powered and will alarm to your smartphone.