Kitec is a plastic plumbing system installed Canadian and US homes from the early 1990’s until it was initially recalled in 2005, with some installations completed as late as 2007. In addition to hot and cold water piping in homes it was also used for in-floor, and other hot water radiant heating systems.
Premature failure has led to a cross-border class-action lawsuit.
Widely promoted as an alternative to copper piping, Kitec was pulled from the market because the fittings corrode very quickly. Failure is accelerated with high pressure and high temperature, and may also be affected by the chemistry of the water supply including the water pH and the level of chlorine.
Many homes fitted with Kitec plumbing have already suffered extensive water damage due to these piping systems bursting, and failure rates are expected to increase over time. The only complete solution is to replace Kitec plumbing with copper, or another plastic piping system – and will most often require access behind walls and through floors.
Kitec plumbing can most often be identified by its orange (hot water) and blue (cold water) pipes, but it was also manufactured in red, blue, gray and black. The tubing may be imprinted with any of 10 different brand names including Kitec and PlumbBetter. Visible fittings are stamped with Kitec or KTC.
A Kitec system can be identified by locating tubing at the hot water tank or in a utility room where the pipe enters or exits walls. The tubing may also be visible under kitchen or bathroom sinks. You may also find a label at the electrical panel or elsewhere indicating the plumbing system does not provide an adequate grounding for electrical systems.
The anticipated costs to retrofit single family homes ranges from $4,000 to $8,000 depending upon the approach taken and the work required. Prices include replacing plumbing and drywall but not kitchen or bathroom tiles, or any fixtures such as shower shells which would have to be removed to access the pipes.
A class action suit concluded in 2011 awarded a settlement fund of US$125 million with US$25 million going to the lawyers in Canada and the U.S., and US$100 million being set aside for claimants who have until January 2020 to file. Final payoutswill not be settled until the expiry of the claims period in 2020, and with an estimated 87,600 claims and the cost of administration, as well as new claims arising from recent publicity, homeowners will be lucky to see $500 to $1000.
Many insurers are already denying applications for homeowner insurance, where Kitec plumbing has been identified in the home.
The Different Types of PEX Tubing (watch video)
Gil Strachan is a professional home inspector, representing Electrospec Home Inspection Services in east-central Ontario since 1994.