Discovering Kitec is easily a Realtor's worst nightmare when viewing homes with their prospective clients. Kitec is a type of piping system widely used in a span 12 years from the late 1900s to early 2000s, until it became clear it was not something you wanted in your home. This article covers what exactly makes Kitec so disastrous and what you need to know about the cost of replacing Kitec or if it's appropriate to ask the seller to replace or provide you a credit at closing.
What is Kitec?
Kitec plumbing is a polymer pipe that was used primarily between 1995 to 2007, at which point the many lawsuits finally got Kitec banned from being manufactured and installed. High amounts of zinc are contained in the brass fittings that connect the piping, which causes the first issue with Kitec. In a process called dezincification, zinc actually breaks down when exposed to water and oxygen, causing blockages in the piping and leading them to eventually burst. Unfortunately that's not where the problem ends. The actual pipes can only handle about 180 Fahrenheit, which is well below what most hot water tanks will produce. It became widely known that it is not a matter of if Kitec pipes will leak or combust but a matter of when.
How Kitec Can Be Identified
Kitec can be identified by its orange and blue pipe coverings; gray piping is rarely seen. Kitec can be found anywhere pipes are exposed such as under a bathroom sink or attached to a water heater. On the brass fittings you may identify Kitec with markings of the following; Kitec, KTC, CSA B137.9/10, or ATSM F1974. Brands such as AmbioComfort, AQUA, KERR Controls, IPEX, Plomberie Amelioree, PlumbBetter, WarmRite and XPA can also identify Kitec pipes. Do not fear if you fail to recognize the presence of Kitec in a home you are making an offer on, as any good home inspector will note its existence.
It is estimated Kitec resides in about 300,000 homes in North America. Although the settlement process continues, it is too late at this point to file a claim under the class action settlement unless something changes with the legal proceedings. The good news is Kitec can be replaced in a home. The catch is that it involves cutting into the walls and replacing the entire plumbing system in a home which on average will cost between $6,000-$8,000, although may also run much higher and, of course, depends on the size of the home. Kitec pipes were also used in radiant floor heating, so fixing the issue might also include a new heating system.
Waiting until the pipes burst could cost you much more in damaged drywall, furniture, carpet or other flooring and other personal belongings. Even if only a small leak occurs, it could lead to the growth of mold in the walls, which can be a dangerous health hazard. Most insurance companies will not cover repairs for products that were recalled, and if they do they will most likely increase rates and will still require large deductibles.
If the seller is unaware of the Kitec Piping and no one uncovered it in your initial showing, you can still negotiate on the purchase price after Kitec has been discovered in the inspection. There are a few ways to remedy the issue. First, you can ask that the seller get all of the Kitec removed, although a seller might not want the headache. Second, you can ask for a price reduction, however if you are getting a loan, that doesn't really help free up cash for the removal of the Kitec. Another option would be to ask for a seller credit at closing that will get applied to your out-of-pocket closing costs and anything remaining gets refunded to you. That way, you have the cash readily available to remove and replace all Kitec plumbing in your new home.
If your dream home turns out to have Kitec plumbing, it is by no means the end of the world, however it also isn't dismissible. It is important to acknowledge that you will have to remove the Kitec and sooner rather than later might end up saving you a lot of money in damaged flooring, drywall and other household items. Your inspection should reveal the presence of Kitec once you are under contract and then you'll have several options for negotiating on the purchase price or seller removal and replacement of the plumbing system. While you're viewing homes with your real estate agent, remember to keep an eye out for those pesky orange and blue pipes!