Although simple PEX (polyethylene, cross-linked) plastic tubing still seems to be reliable, similar tubing with an aluminum core "PEX-AL-PEX" is known to split, and installations made prior to 2007 are also prone to failure due to corroded brass fittings.
Soldered copper pipe has long been preferred as a reliable system for water distribution systems, however there is much interest in a wide variety of flexible plastic tubing that can be pulled through a house with fewer fittings, representing faster and easier installations. Unfortunately there are problems involving some of these non-metallic plumbing systems, with polybutylene (aka Poly-B) being probably the worst example of what not to use in a residential plumbing system... the plastic connectors bursts and even the tubing itself is known to develop holes!
Plastic tubing with aluminium sandwiched between two layers of polyethylene was developed to reduce oxygen and chemical leaching. These pipes have begun to leak and a class action settlement was achieved against the manufacturer which became effective in Canada on January 9, 2013. There were different settlements for the US, Canadian and separately, any affected Quebec residential installations.
Homeowners must file a Claim Form before the filing deadline of January 9, 2020 to be eligible for any benefits. No payments will be issued unless the Claim form is corrected completed and submitted on time. It will be prudent for any homeowner with Kitec piping or brass fittings to file a claim, even if they don't see any corrosion, leaks or other visible evidence of failure. Details of the class action lawsuit can be found at www.KitecSettlement.com
If your house has a Kitec plumbing system, you should keep a close eye on conditions until you can get it replaced. The first signs of failure is white residue on the fittings and blackening or bulging of the tubing, most often seen near the hot water tank. Most of these systems feature bright orange-colored tubing for hot water and bright blue for cold water.
Because PEX "remembers" how it was originally formed, the end of a tube can be opened with a special spreading tool and it closes quickly around a fitting, right after it is inserted into the tubing. Another method involves sliding a connector into the open end of the PEX tubing and then clamping it in place with a crimping tool. Professional tools are required to put these systems together, and for the most part this kind of system seems to be okay, provided the correct fittings are used with the tubing... expander-type PEX fittings for example, must be used only with PEX A-quality tubing. Lower quality tubing will not make secure PEX connections with this method
Gil Strachan is a professional home inspector, representing Electrospec Home Inspection Services in east-central Ontario since 1994.