Kitec plumbing is a problematic system that was installed in Canadian homes beginning in 1995. This ultimate guide will help you learn everything you need to know about Kitec plumbing, including what to do if your home has Kitec plumbing and why you should beware of buying a home with this type of piping.
What is Kitec Plumbing?
If you have ever seen bright orange and blue pipes running from your water heater, that is Kitec plumbing! This product became extremely popular for plumbing and heat piping in the US and Canada from 1995 to 2007.
This composite plumbing material was manufactured by IPEX Inc and has five layers of plastics, metal, brass fittings, and resin adhesives. Kitec plumbing is easily identifiable because of its bright orange and blue pipes. The orange piping is used for heating systems and to move hot water throughout your home, while the blue pipes carry cold water in them.
Since Kitec was a cost-effective alternative two traditional copper piping, it became a favorite for home builders across North America. It was also much easier to install since it was made of flexible materials.
The materials were also sold under names like XPA, Kerr Controls, PlumbBetter, IPEX Aqua, and WarmRite.
However, in 2005 the pipes and fittings began to fail. Hundreds of thousands of homes across Canada experienced catastrophic water damage and flooding as a result of defects in the Kitec heat piping and plumbing.
What Are the Problems with Kitec Plumbing?
So, what caused the problems with Kitec plumbing?
About ten years after installation, many of these Kitec plumbing systems in Toronto began to experience major failures and defects. Even though the pipes had several protective layers of resident plastic, the aluminum and brass fittings started corroding.
These fittings were made with high levels of zinc, and the chemical composition of Kitec reacted with it. These minerals then started to seep into the piping, which resulted in a buildup of zinc oxide. Eventually, the buildup restricted the flow of water and caused more problems.
Normal temperature changes cause the aluminum and plastic to expand and contract, but the issues described above weaken them to the point where they would burst after a certain amount of time.
These defects resulted in millions of dollars of damage in just a few years. Affected individuals not only had to pay significant sums to replace their plumbing, but they also had to spend additional funds repairing water damage, structural deficiencies, black mould, and electrical problems.
All Kitec plumbing in Ontario was recalled in 2005, but, unfortunately, some builders continued to install it through 2007.
How to Check If Your Home has Kitec Plumbing
If you are not sure if your home has Kitec plumbing, you can perform a simple inspection to find out.
The color of the piping is the easiest giveaway. Do you see a bright blue cold-water line or a bright orange hot water line? If so, you likely have Kitec plumbing in your home. Another way to confirm this is to check the label printed on the outer layer of every pipe. The label will read ASTM 1281 if you have them.
Check the pipes that come from your water heater or are under your bathroom and kitchen sinks since these will be the easiest to find.
Although those are the most obvious ways to identify this type of plumbing, the installation timeframe can also help. If construction on your home began between 1997 and 2005, there is a good chance that the plumbers used Kitec piping.
The best way to confirm, however, is to contact a plumber. A professional can determine the extent of Kitec piping in your home and give you a better estimate of the replacement costs.
The official recall did not occur until 2005, and some contractors continued to use Kitec through 2007. If you are not sure whether your home has Kitec plumbing, you should have it inspected to confirm that you are not at risk for expensive flood damage.
When you are buying a home, be aware of a property that still has Kitec plumbing. The time frame to claim funds from the settlement with IPEX has passed, so the cost of replacement and damage will now be on the homeowner. Try to have the seller replace this plumbing system before you close if you do want to move forward with the purchase. Failure to do so could cause your mortgage to be denied, and it could be extremely difficult to obtain insurance!
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The Cost of Replacing Kitec Plumbing
At this point, you may be wondering what you should do if you find Kitec plumbing in your home.
The first step would be to contact a plumber to determine if there are any immediate risks of flooding or water damage. They will also give you a timeline for any necessary repairs or replacement. In the meantime, be prepared to turn off your water main in case a pipe should burst - this will help prevent more extensive damage.
Kitec plumbing replacement costs vary depending on the size of the home, but you can generally expect to spend upwards of $2,000 in repairs.
There is a wide range of possibilities when it comes to problems with Kitec plumbing in Ontario, so only a professional plumber will be able to give you an exact cost for replacing it. If you did not submit a claim as part of the class-action lawsuit before January 2020, you could end up paying for these costs out of your own pocket.
Even though it may be costly to replace, failure to do so can result in catastrophic flood damage that will cost you much more in the long run!
How Does Kitec Plumbing Impact Home Insurance?
Since many insurance companies will gauge risks based on their claims experience, some larger companies may be willing to insure you even if you have Kitec plumbing. Companies may deny your insurance request altogether if they are trying to avoid taking on any additional risks.
Depending on the insurer, the presence of Kitec piping may lead to increase deductibles, higher premiums, or denial of claims related to the plumbing system. Simply put, if your plumbing is defective and at a higher risk of leaking, they may refuse to provide you with home insurance.
If your specific plumbing system does not have a history of leaking, you will likely be able to get insurance. You should expect to pay a higher deductible for any losses that result from the Kitec system, though.
The best way to reduce your home insurance premium and ensure that your property is covered is to replace the existing plumbing. The worst thing that could happen is for water damage to occur, only to find that your insurance company will deny the losses due to Kitec plumbing!
It does not make a difference if your home insurance claims were denied for Kitec plumbing damage or not. You may still be eligible for compensation from the manufacturer.
Should You Buy a House with Kitec Plumbing?
Buying a home is one of the most important purchases that you will make in your lifetime. When it comes to finding your dream home, it is important to look at every detail - including whether the house is equipped with Kitec plumbing.
Work with your realtor and lawyer to request that the seller certify that there is no Kitec piping used for plumbing in the home. If the house previously had the problematic plumbing installed, the seller should warrant that it was professionally removed and replaced with something that is up to date and safe.
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What to do if there is Kitec plumbing in the home?
If everything in the home is perfect besides the Kitec plumbing, it does not necessarily have to be a deal-breaker. Knowing that it is expensive to replace and that a home insurer may require you to do so before purchasing the property, you can use this as a bargaining chip with the seller.
Consider contacting a plumber for a cost estimate to replace the entire system, then deduct that amount from what you are offering for the home. At the end of the day, what's important is having a game plan to address the issue before you move forward with closing.
When you perform your inspections and walkthrough, look for things like discoloration or blistering on the pipes. Corrosion around Kitec fittings or inconsistent water pressure could indicate that the system is failing - or likely to fail soon.
Another thing to consider is that some mortgage lenders are not willing to offer loans on homes with Kitec plumbing. Since some home insurers will not provide coverage for homes with this type of plumbing, lenders may not be willing to assume the additional risk.
Be sure to work with your realtor and lawyer before you move forward with an offer, and if you decide to move forward, discuss the specifics with the seller before finalizing your financing.
Do you have to disclose Kitec plumbing when you sell your home or condo?
Whenever you sell your home, you're legally required to disclose any existing defects to the buyer. Kitec materials have a manufacturer recall and are known to be defective and having the system in your home is considered a material defect.
The buyer’s inspection would likely have uncovered this type of plumbing regardless, and failure to disclose its existence could cause the sale to fall through.
Typically, your real estate lawyer will include specific language in the agreement of purchase and sale that will clearly disclose these details.
For example, it will state that you have Kitec plumbing and have not fixed it replaced it. If you have corrected the issues, you can warrant that the system has been professionally removed and replaced with plumbing that is safe and up to code.
Compensation Available for Kitec Plumbing
There may be compensation available to you if you experience damage as a result of Kitec plumbing. Aside from the Kitec lawsuit, you may be able to make a home insurance claim to cover water damage caused by a leaking or burst pipe.
Many home insurers are willing to cover some or all of the cost associated with replacing your Kitec plumbing system since it will minimize the risk of a claim in the future.
Not all home insurers will do this, though, and some companies may threaten to drop your coverage if you inform them that your home has Kitec piping. They may require you to replace the plumbing at your own cost to keep your coverage, while some companies may increase your premiums to cover the additional risk.
Kitec Plumbing Lawsuits in Canada
Three class-action lawsuits were filed in 2011 to address the major defects and catastrophic damage caused by Kitec plumbing. One of these lawsuits was in the United States, another in Québec, and a third that covers the remainder of Canada.
The Kitec lawsuit was brought on behalf of everyone who owns - or had previously owned - a home that was installed with this defective material. A settlement was reached in 2012, and IPEX was ordered to fund a settlement account of $125 million US Dollars to compensate the defendants.
Although the settlement was effective January 9, 2012, individuals had until January 9, 2020, to file a claim against IPEX. If the claim was filed in this time frame, homeowners with problems resulting from Kitec installations we're entitled to money from that settlement.
Unfortunately, you can no longer receive compensation from the Kitec lawsuit if you did not file the claim before the settlement deadline.
Kitec plumbing became a popular alternative in the early 2000s because it was easy to install and very cost-effective. However, these pipes could not withstand the test of time and quickly corroded and failed. This led to costly water damage for homeowners across Canada, and a class-action lawsuit was filed so that they could receive compensation.
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