I have a confession to make. About a week before I originally sat down to write this article in 2017, I didn't know much about Kitec plumbing (pronounced k-eye-tech). I thought if I work in a market with tons of this defective plumbing and I was clueless on the risks associated, then I needed to get up to speed.
After an agent called me and was worried about floods, and thought Kitec was a "ticking timebomb" that would cost 10's of thousands of dollars to replace, I knew I had to be the adult in the room. I contacted my lawyer, Bob Aaron, and my plumber, Steve and they painted a bit more reassuring picture.
Here is what you need to know.
What is Kitec?
It was used extensively from 1995-2007 in residential applications for hot and cold water pipes. It's a flexible plastic piping that was cheaper and easier to install than copper piping. Of course, cheaper is better for builders so it became quite popular in condos during that period.
It was widely believed that Kitec was corrosion resistant but problems started to arise with premature pipe failure; especially in lines with either high pressure or high temperature.
How Do You Identify It?
Most Kitec can be identified by its bright orange (hot water) and bright blue (cold water), which were the most common colours; however, it was also sold in red, blue, gray and black. The pipe is typically marked with one of the following brand names; Kitec, PlumbBetter, IPEX AQUA, WarmRite, Kitec XPA, AmbioComfort, XPA, KERR Controls or Plomberie Améliorée.
If fittings are visible, look for Kitec or KTC stamped on them. I've found the best place to look is near the hot water tank or in the mechanical room where the pipe connects or exits the walls. Under the kitchen sink and bathroom vanities is also a good place.
I've heard of deals not closing because of Kitec which seems a bit much especially considering it was a condo. There are plumbing leaks, overflowing toilets and all that wonderful stuff happening every day in condos in this city.
You're more likely to have one of those mesh pipes under your sink burst and create a mess than to have Kitec do the same. Those mesh pipes are supposed to be replaced every 5 years and nobody does it.
The presence of Kitec should be, at the most, a bargaining chip in negotiations. With estimates to replace the piping coming in at $5,000 to $6,500 for one-bedroom units to $8,000 to $10,500 for two-bedroom and larger suites it's not an expensive fix. It's also a great excuse to get a home inspection too.
Should You Be Concerned?
Of course. You should be concerned but you don't need to panic. Kitec is more prone to premature failure than, say, copper piping. It's by no means a ticking timebomb like the agent on the phone seemed to believe.
Ideally, it should be replaced because admittedly, it did not live up to the manufacturer's claims.
If replacing the plumbing is not in the budget then monitor it for now.
Signs that can indicate a problem include a drop in water pressure, discolouration or blistering of the pipes and corrosion around fittings. As a smart precautionary step, you may want to hire a plumber to come out and inspect your Kitec plumbing so you know what to watch out for.
Should you replace it?
With the increased risk of premature failure, you may also be anxious and wondering whether you should take the step of having the Kitec plumbing replaced. The truth is that you do not necessarily need to have the plumbing replaced. As long as it is not subject to high pressure or temperatures above the 77°C rating from the manufacturer, it can last a long time without problems.
For Real Estate
For sellers, you should disclose this to potential buyer prior to them preparing an offer. Although you are not legally obligated to disclose the presence of Kitec plumbing, disclosing upfront will prevent . Most offers will include a clause for Status Certificate review and most buildings that have Kitec will disclose it in the Status. Best practice is to disclose up front.
For condo purchasers, this need not be a deal breaker for you. Your building will have insurance for the damages to the unit and your policy for contents will cover your belongings. At some point, your condo board may want to replace the piping though and you will be required to chip in. If you are dead set against this defective plumbing product, then write it into your offer that the seller warrants that 'there is no kitec plumbing on or about the property." If they agree to that, then you're covered.
Also, be sure to check with your insurer to see if they will insure the property; some will not. If they say no, find out who the Seller uses for home insurance and use them. This has always worked for me.
I've worked both sides of these deals and while you should educate yourself on any potential risks, of buying a home or condo with Kitec plumbing, it definitely should not be a deal-breaker. There are literally thousands upon thousands of condos and homes in the GTA that have Kitec and nearly all of them are just fine.
Like asbestos, knob and tube and that brutal wood paneling in your grandma's basement, 'innovations' like Kitec plumbing have not aged well. The good news is it doesn't cause respiratory issues like asbestos or house fires like knob and tube; it's not going to kill you.
Kitec can be replaced fairly inexpensively and while there is potential for pipe and joint failure, such an event is unlikely at temps and water pressure found in your home.
Comment below if you have any questions.