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Kitec plumbing: The myth and the mystery

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Throughout your career as a real estate agent, there’s a good chance you’ve toured or listed a home that had Kitec plumbing. When it comes to this controversial piping material, reputation precedes actual performance. 

In fact, while Kitec might have a bad rap, we’ve found that it’s primarily unwarranted in our years of inspecting homes in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). 

To dispel the misconceptions surrounding Kitec and to leave your clients better informed, let’s take some time to discuss the facts surrounding this product. 

Here’s everything you should know about Kitec plumbing as a real estate agent.

What is Kitec piping?

 

Made by IPEX Inc., a Canadian company, Kitec is a brand name for cross-linked polyethylene (PEX) piping sold between 1995 and 2007. 

Kitec was used in houses, condos, and high-rise buildings, and we’ve actually seen installations as recently as 2012. With orange piping for hot water and blue piping for cold water, this piping can be easily identified by its brass fittings, typically marked Kitec, KT, or KTC.

Source: Carson Dunlop

 

 

As with many decisions surrounding building materials, money was a factor in its common use. Plumbing a home with plastic piping is less expensive compared to copper. 

To this day, PEX remains a very popular supply of plumbing material in Canada.

 

 

What are the concerns?

 

Source: Carson Dunlop

In the early 2000s, there were a significant number of failures of Kitec piping and fittings in the southwest United States. There were a much smaller number of failures in Canada. 

Despite this history, in our experience, we have seen very few failures in the GTA, with most of them connected to poor installation, unusual operating temperatures, or abnormally high pressure.

Today, Kitec piping is considered a material fact that should be disclosed during a real estate transaction, according to the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO). 

Though this is the case, it’s important to correct a commonly repeated myth related to Kitec piping’s recall. 

Despite numerous sources reporting a recall on Kitec piping, there was never a consumer-level recall. Instead, there was a manufacturer’s recall on some of Kitec’s pipe fittings in 2005.

In late 2011, a North American class action lawsuit was issued wherein claims were accepted until January 2020. 

The class action lawsuit included Kitec and other PEX piping manufactured by IPEX Inc., including Plumbetter, IPEX AQUA, WarmRite, Kitec XPA, AmbioComfort, XPA, KERR Controls, and Plombiere Amelioree.

This class action lawsuit, in short, means that there were some problems, and the manufacturer agreed to a settlement. Class action lawsuits on building products are not uncommon. 

For example, other PEX piping manufacturers (e.g. Zurn, NIBCO, Uponor, and Viega) have had class action lawsuits, as have polybutylene piping systems and virtually every manufacturer of roofing materials in Canada.

 

What should you do when encountering Kitec piping?

 

When looking at a home with Kitec piping, there are a few key aspects that should be noted. 

Look for darkening or blistering of the pipe, especially close to the water heater or boiler, as hot water piping is more likely to have a problem than cold water piping. Additionally, a white, chalky substance at the fittings can signify brass corrosion and potential build-up within the piping.

Source: Carson Dunlop

Since the 2011 lawsuit, we have seen very few problems with Kitec piping in the thousands of inspections we’ve performed in the GTA. Still, property inspectors inspect these with care and watch for homes with hot water recirculating systems, typically provided in luxury homes, so occupants don’t have to wait for hot water when turning on the tap. The constant water flow causes pipes and fittings to wear faster, no matter if the piping is PEX or copper.

Water heaters and boilers with PEX piping that do not have a tempering valve to control water temperature are also noted by home inspectors since water temperatures above 49°C are harder on PEX pipes.

As a real estate professional, advise your clients of the presence of Kitec-family piping materials and explain the potential issues (e.g. possible leaks and potentially the need for pipe replacement), but keep it in perspective as a low risk. 

Another myth associated with Kitec piping is that they always require replacement. In our opinion, this should not be an automatic assumption, even though some plumbers do recommend proactive replacements.

Sellers are often unaware when they have Kitec piping. A professional home inspector will identify Kitec piping in houses and condos and provide an unbiased third-party opinion about the condition of the piping and whether any action is recommended.

A small percentage of condominium units have had issues due to unusually high temperatures and pressure. Because of this, some condominium corporations require unit owners to replace the piping at their own expense. 

 

Kitec in condos

 

Source: Carson Dunlop

A small percentage of condominium units have had issues due to unusually high temperatures and pressure. Because of this, some condominium corporations require unit owners to replace the piping at their own expense.

While we disagree with a requirement for proactive piping replacement when the system is in good working condition, this should be brought to the attention of any condominium clients.

Kitec piping has a worse reputation than the product warrants. With this context, keep your clients informed when working with properties with Kitec. 

Utilize your property inspector’s report and advice to give an accurate evaluation. When a building material has a reputation that precedes it, relying on experienced professionals who separate the myths from the facts becomes especially important.

 


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