Kitec Plumbing: Why Is It Problematic?

Date Published: March 14, 2024

Plumbing material is one of the most important components of a residence. Even though most of it is hidden underneath floors, and behind walls and ceilings, it is constantly “working” hard for us, supplying fresh water, draining waste water, and contributing to the functionality of our heating systems. It follows then that having good quality and reliable plumbing materials is crucial.

Throughout history, the plumbing industry has found out through trial and error which plumbing materials work and which ones just don’t. Materials such as lead, galvanized piping and Orangeburg, proved to be prone to corrosion, susceptible to damage, or even toxic. All of these types of piping have long been discontinued and replaced.

But there was a much more recent style of piping that turned out to be a big problem – Kitec Plumbing. During home inspections, we still come across this type of plumbing on occasion; and we always call it out. Let’s talk about why.

What Is Kitec Plumbing?

Kitec plumbing is a flexible, polymer piping that consists of a thin layer of aluminum that runs in between two layers of plastic. It can generally be identified by its recognizable orange, blue or gray coloring. It was primarily used for water supply lines and boiler piping. This material was popular in the late 90s through the mid 2000s. It was initially said to be a cheap, durable, and easy-to-install alternative to traditional copper lines.

blue and orange kitec plumbing

Image sourced from: https://therealtydeal.com

However, after a short period of time, it proved to be severely problematic. Corrosion, leaks and even pipe bursts became commonplace in homes with Kitec pipes. As as result, we began to see Kitec recalls starting in 2005. And production of the piping was altogether discontinued by 2007.

Why Is Kitec Plumbing An Issue?

Corrosion

The Kitec product was marketed as being highly corrosion-resistant, but it ironically turned out to be quite the opposite and was highly susceptible to corrosion.

Kitec is connected together with brass fittings. Brass contains zinc, which is prone to corrosion when exposed to oxygen and moisture – a reaction called dezincification. The reaction results in corrosive buildup, leakages and blockages. The pressure will build behind a blocked pipe until the water has nowhere to go but…outward.

Spontaneous pipe bursts were an all-too-common occurrence with Kitec, leading to costly water damage and flooding. Even if the zinc buildup does not completely block the passage of water, it could still affect its overall flow and pressure throughout the home.

Additionally, the aluminum components of the pipe can start to corrode when in contact with zinc. Aluminum will also corrode when in contact with acidic or alkaline water. So if the water supply is not neutral, aluminum corrosion can be accelerated.

corrosion on kitec plumbing fittings

Corrosion at brass fittings. Image sourced from: https://www.plumbwize.ca

Temperature

Kitec pipes were built to withstand up to 180ºF. That originally seemed reasonable, because it is not recommended to exceed 120ºF in the residential setting. However, most water heaters or boilers can exceed 180ºF. In the cases where this would happen, the prolonged exposure to high temps would put too much stress on the piping, thus resulting in leaks or bursts.

Lawsuit

Kitec issues took such a toll on homes that a lawsuit was filed in 2011 against IPEX Inc., the manufacturer of Kitec. The company finally settled, and established a fund of $125 million to be distributed to home owners who incurred Kitec-related damage. Although claims are no longer accepted, we still always inform our clients about this relevant lawsuit.

Insurance, Resale, and Mortgage Concerns

There are still plenty of homes out there with Kitec piping. Some of them may have been lucky enough to avoid any serious water damage issues to date. However, Kitec’s class action lawsuit and known problems makes it a tricky material when it comes to real estate transactions.

It can be difficult to acquire reasonable home owner’s insurance for homes with Kitec plumbing. Some insurance companies might charge a higher premium due to the material’s high liability factor, whereas other insurance companies might even refuse coverage completely. Similarly, mortgage companies will often be wary about granting loans for Kitec homes.

Kitec could also negatively affect the the resale value of the home. A good home inspector will recognize the piping and make note of its potential issues. Even if there are no apparent defects at the time of inspection, prospective buyers may still be wary of the problems that could occur in the future. Consequently, it might be a struggle for someone to sell their home at an optimal price.

kitec piping

Image sourced from: https://www.squareone.ca

Inspecting for Kitec

As we’ve discussed, Kitec is a very era-specific material. So whenever our inspectors have jobs at homes dating from around 1995 to 2012, they always keep a keen eye out for this type of plumbing.

If we do come across Kitec onsite, we will be examining as much of the piping and fittings as possible for any damage or defects. Regardless of whether or not we identify any issues at the time of inspection, we always recommend further evaluation from a plumbing specialist. 

Our inspectors will also check if any Kitec piping is being used for the boiler. There are generally fewer brass fittings in these types of configurations. Instead, long sections of piping are bent back and forth in curved “S” shapes. Fewer fittings means less susceptibility to corrosion. Furthermore, boilers are generally low pressure systems, which will put less stress on the piping.

boiler manifold with kitec piping

Boiler manifold with Kitec piping. Image sourced from: https://heeleyinspections.com

Because of these factors, Kitec in boilers systems isn’t usually quite as concerning, as long as there are no apparent defects present. Having said that, we will still make the client aware of the Kitec; and we always recommend a thorough evaluation by a heating or plumbing pro, as it is likely that the system will need to be replaced in the near future.

Book With Scott Home Inspection Today!

When purchasing a home, there is no telling what problems it may have. That’s why it is always the right decision to get a home inspection! Here at Scott Home Inspection, we have been providing inspection services to the CO Front Range for over 15 years. So we are equipped to give you the highest quality, most thorough and unbiased assessment of your dream home. Rest assured that you will have a comprehensive evaluation of the property from exterior to interior (and yes, that includes the plumbing)!

Visit us online to learn more about our services. Or contact us to book your inspection today.

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About the Author: Chris Kimmel

Chris Kimmel worked as an Associate Home Inspector for two years, handling numerous services including sewer scope inspections, pest inspections, mold air sample testing, radon testing, and water quality testing. Chris now works with Scott Home Inspection as a Content Writing Specialist.

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