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Kitec plumbing guide

In the never-ending quest to improve home plumbing systems, Kitec plumbing was a bit of a misstep. Kitec pipes were introduced to Canada in 1995, and quickly started causing problems in people’s homes. Here’s everything you need to know about this problematic plumbing, including how to identify it.

What is Kitec plumbing?

Kitec was the most common brand it was sold under, but the plumbing system was also available under these brands:

  • AmbioComfort
  • AQUA
  • KERR Controls
  • IPEX
  • Plomberie Amelioree
  • PlumbBetter
  • WarmRite
  • XPA

Plumbers liked Kitec piping because it was cheaper than copper and, being made of flexible material, it was easy to install. The pipes are made of polyethylene with a thin layer of aluminum. The Kitec plumbing system usually consists of blue and orange flexible piping and brass fittings.

Kitec plumbing was used as piping for drinking water, as wells in for under-floor heating systems, and hot water baseboard heaters. Due to its tendency to corrode rather rapidly, Kitec plumbing is no longer manufactured.

The Kitec plumbing class action lawsuit and recalls

In fact, Kitec plumbing was recalled by the manufacturer in 2005. In 2011, courts in Quebec, Ontario, and the US approved a settlement agreement in a class action lawsuit, and homeowners who suffered Kitec plumbing leaks could receive a share of the $125 million USD settlement.

Claim submissions for this case officially ended on January 9, 2020. However, the administrator is still processing claims and a final distribution plan for the settlement funds is still in progress. Presently, only those who experienced actual failure of their systems are eligible for compensation, but anyone who has Kitec plumbing in their home was encouraged to file a claim.

If you have Kitec plumbing and you didn’t file a claim under the class action settlement, it may not be too late. You’re encouraged to keep checking the settlement administrator’s website as the settlement process continues.

What can you do to maintain your Kitec plumbing?

Some plumbing experts say the question is not IF your Kitec plumbing will leak, but WHEN it will leak. If you have Kitec plumbing in your home, you may want to call in a licensed plumber or certified home inspector to take a look. A qualified plumber might determine that your Kitec pipes aren’t under pressure and aren’t carrying hot water, and thus stand a better chance of surviving without issue.

Unfortunately, rare is the home plumbing system that doesn’t carry hot water. In the end, you may have to replace all your piping and fittings.

How does it work?

The blue pipes carry cold water, and the orange pipes carry hot water through a home. The orange pipes are also used in radiant heating systems. The pipes were made from polyethylene and a thin inner layer of aluminum. Brass fittings are used to join the pipes together.

When was it used?

Kitec plumbing was in use from 1995 through 2007, so any home built in or around this period could have Kitec pipes or fittings. It’s estimated that nearly 300,000 homes in North America had Kitec piping installed.

Even though Kitec plumbing was recalled in 2005, some contractors continued to use it until at least 2007.

How do I know if I have Kitec Plumbing in my home?

There are several methods you can use to figure out if your home holds any Kitec plumbing.

Kitec pipes come in distinctive orange and blue colours. While Kitec isn’t the only type of pipe to use these colours, if your plumbing system is purely orange and blue, it could very well be Kitec. At the very least, you’ll want to take a closer look.

Orange and blue kitec plumbing in a house

Look near the hot water tank, or under your kitchen or bathroom sinks—wherever there are exposed water pipes. Kitec piping might literally say “Kitec” right on it, making your job easy. It could also be stamped with one of the following brand names:

  • AmbioComfort
  • AQUA
  • KERR Controls
  • IPEX
  • Plomberie Amelioree
  • PlumbBetter
  • WarmRite
  • XPA
Close up of kitec plumbing in the roof

Aside from the pipes themselves, you can also identify Kitec plumbing systems by the brass fittings, which will usually have one of the following stamps:

  • Kitec
  • KTC
  • CSA B137.9/10
  • ATSM F1974
Different fittings for kitec pipes

Kitec pipes come in distinctive orange and blue colours. While Kitec isn’t the only type of pipe to use these colours, if your plumbing system is purely orange and blue, it could very well be Kitec. At the very least, you’ll want to take a closer look.

If your home has Kitec plumbing, you may also find a yellow sticker on the inside of your electrical panel door. These stickers say: “Caution: This building has non-metallic interior water piping.” Metal piping is commonly used to ground home electrical systems, but Kitec plumbing doesn’t work as a ground—hence the warning sticker.

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What should you do when something goes wrong?

The three most common issues with Kitec plumbing are:

  • It can’t take the heat. The orange pipes were only certified to run at a maximum temperature of 82 degrees Celcius, but hot water tanks can run hotter than this. The higher heat causes the pipes to deteriorate.
  • Deteriorates under pressure: High water pressure can cause these pipes to fail.
  • It will dezincify. Kitec plumbing fittings are made of brass, an alloy of copper and zinc. When zinc is exposed to oxygen and moisture, it tends to corrode (dezincification). When this happens, zinc oxide forms blockages in the pipes that result in restricted water flow, and ultimately breakage and leaks.

One of the problems with Kitec plumbing is that the pipes won’t just leak, but are quite likely to burst causing water damage. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear as though there are any actions a homeowner can take to prevent the pipes from rupturing. The only solution is to replace the entire system.

What is the life expectancy?

Kitec pipes were used in homes starting in 1995. The first fitting recalls occurred in 2005, which suggests that the average life expectancy is somewhere short of 10 years.

What will your home insurance company want to know?

Home insurers definitely want to know what kind of plumbing you have in your home, especially if you plan on buying a home with Kitec plumbing. If your plumbing is of a leak-prone variety, they may refuse to insure you.

Otherwise, they may insure your home but increase your deductible or decline to cover losses caused by a malfunction in your plumbing system. Determine what type of plumbing you have in your home and be honest with your insurance agent. You don’t want to have coverage denied in the event of a loss because incorrect information was supplied at the time of application.

Square One can insure most homes that have Kitec plumbing, particularly if the system has no history of leaking. However, a higher deductible will apply to any losses resulting from the Kitec system. This special deductible can be remove if you ever replace your Kitec plumbing.

Will my home insurance cover water damage from burst plumbing?

Typically, home insurance policies include coverage for any sudden or accidental escape of water in your home, including ruptured water lines, or overflowing appliances.

That’s why insurance companies ask what type of plumbing you have in your home. They need to accurately assess the risk to charge the right rates and provide you with the right coverage. Sometimes, depending on your plumbing situation, a company may not be able to insure you at all, and you’ll need to shop around—and likely pay a higher rate—if you can find coverage at all.

Don’t let this tempt you to tell a little white lie to your insurance broker. Such misrepresentation can void your policy when it’s discovered. Always tell the truth! If you discover that the only solution is to replace your plumbing, the expense will be a lot less than finding out, after a loss, that you have no insurance coverage.

When you have a policy in place, remember that there are always exclusions and limitations. Always read your policy wording, with an emphasis on any water exclusions. You can contact your insurance agent or broker if you have any questions.

In most cases, there is a requirement that you either shut off your main water supply, or arrange to have your home checked daily, if you are going to be away more than a few days during the winter.

If you fail to do this, damage caused by frozen or burst plumbing may not be covered. The requirements differ from one company to the next, so before you go away on vacation, give your broker a call to make sure you know what’s expected of you.

Other tips to prevent water damage inside your home

Know what type of plumbing you have

Know exactly what type of plumbing you have, especially if your home is older. Life expectancies vary, and as mentioned above, your insurance company will want an accurate picture of the risk they’re taking on. If your plumbing is past its “best before” date, you could be at risk of leaks, or even worse, bursting pipes.

Inspect grout

Check the grout in your bathroom. Water can leak through any small cracks, resulting in dampness behind the wall. This can lead to rot or mould, which is never a good thing!

Consider a leak detection device

Think about installing a leak protection device on your plumbing system. Some of these can actually shut off the water, when it senses an inappropriate flow.

Check your basement

Scout out any water in the basement after a big rain. If you see water anywhere, it could be because your foundation has some small cracks. You may need to make some repairs, or it could be time to install a sump pump. Maybe your window wells aren’t draining properly, and water has come in through the basement windows. This can be a fairly simple fix, so add this to your maintenance checklist.

Replace brittle water supply hoses

Check any water supply hoses on your appliances, such as washing machines or dishwashers. They usually come with rubber hoses that get brittle and crack as they get older. These can be replaced with stainless steel braided hoses, even if you haven’t yet spotted any cracks or other signs of wear. Keep in mind that all hoses have a life expectancy, so check with the manufacturer.

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Other commonly asked questions

How much does it cost to replace kitec plumbing?

The cost to replace Kitec plumbing depends largely on the size of the home, and how much of its plumbing system is Kitec components.

It will cost between $5,000 and $15,000 to replace a Kitec plumbing system, plus more if you need to tear up floorboards or break open walls to access the pipes.

Should you buy a house with kitec plumbing?

If you’re in the market for a new home, Kitec plumbing shouldn’t be a dealbreaker on an otherwise suitable option.

Instead, the presence of a Kitec plumbing system would be a bargaining chip. For example, you might get a cost estimate for replacing the system and deduct that cost from your offer.

Either way, if you’re looking at buying a home with Kitec in it, you should have a plan to address the issue before you make an offer.

Is kitec plumbing the same as PEX?

PEX is an abbreviation of cross-linked polyethylene, a type of plastic often used to make pipes. Kitec plumbing is made from layers of aluminum and PEX sandwiched together, but there are other forms of PEX plumbing that are perfectly acceptable for modern homes.

To put it one way, all Kitec pipes contain PEX, but not all PEX pipes are Kitec.

Do you have to disclose kitec plumbing when selling a condo or home?

When you’re selling your home, you have a duty to disclose any material defects. Since Kitec plumbing is known to be defective (and the manufacturer recalled it), having such a system in your home can certainly be considered a material defect.

Accordingly, you should absolutely disclose Kitec plumbing when you’re selling your home.

It would be uncovered during potential buyers’ inspections anyway.

If you have any other questions, you can always contact Square One at 1.855.331.6933 for more information or to get a home insurance quote.

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