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Kitec Failed Fittings: Like a Ticking time Bomb

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Seattle, WAA residential plumbing system preferred by plumbers and contractors because it is less expensive, and easier to work with than copper, has a damning Achilles' heel that can be likened to a ticking time bomb: Kitec brass fittings that can fail and leak, putting a home's structure and contents at risk.

The actual pipe itself, which is known as pex pipe, isn't the problem. In fact, according to a number of plumbers and contractors contributing to a contractor's blog, the pipe product itself is pretty good stuff. Rather than a single layer of pex tubing, the Kitec XPA pipe is in actual fact two layers of pex pipe, with a layer of flexible aluminum sandwiched in between. This feature not only affords the pipe added strength, but plumbers report it is easier to work with, in that it will not readily uncoil like standard pex pipe. As well, once the plumber bends the pipe into shape, it will retain that shape.

PlumberHere's the problem: the brass fittings, which have been reported to fail over time, appear to have a higher concentration of lead in the brass formulation. This, in turn can lead to dezincification, a powdery white corrosion that can build up in the fitting, restricting the water flow and contributing to a failure—either at the fitting connection itself, or at some other point in the line impacted by the restricted flow, increased pressure, or both.

As the investigation continues surrounding homes in Washington State that may have been plumbed with the Kitec system, a class action lawsuit has been filed in Nevada (case number A493302) related to Kitec brass fittings.

As recently as February 4th of this year, the Kitec piping system was being investigated in the state of Washington—specifically Seattle, Tacoma, the East Side and Everett.

Residential plumbing has been a challenge for decades. While homes have become more expensive to build due to various code improvements, the price of labor and land acquisition, contractors have always been looking for ways to deliver services while cutting costs. Copper piping, the industry standard, was becoming an increasingly costly commodity, and labor-intensive. Translation: expensive.

PVC pipe was the darling for awhile. But PVC pipe doesn't bend. Pex does—however the single-layer flexible pipe was not well thought of either, in terms of long-term reliability.

Kitec, with its color-coded piping (blue for cold, orange for hot) seemed like an idea whose time had come.

However, the alleged failure of brass fittings is casting a pall over even that. Whether the fittings failure is a result of a bad batch, or a more systemic problem has yet to be determined. The fact remains however, that there is the possibility of homes in the US, numbering into the thousands, which could have Kitec pipe and fittings, given that the product has been around for some 10 or 15 years.

Also, unless you are a homeowner building your own home and either acting as your own general contractor, or insisting on the use of certain products, you will likely get whatever product the plumber or the contractor determines to be the least expensive pipe that will do the job. And it doesn't matter if we're talking a conservative bungalow, or a lavish executive home.

Because the bottom line is that plumbing, like wiring, is hidden. Thus, a contractor will often cut costs on those things, which are hidden. The unscrupulous contractor will cut costs to the detriment of the safety and integrity of the home. However, the honest contractor will simply seek out, and use the product that delivers the best value for the money, from a business sense. That's fair.

Plus, there was no hint as to the failure of the Kitec fittings, until they began failing. Up until that point, which could take years after installation, the pipes performed well. The contractor, assuming he is working with a reliable product, continues to install Kitec plumbing in new homes, or in the re-plumbing of renovation projects.

After all, any plumber will tell you, copper is fine when you are building a house from scratch. But with walls and floors in place, sticking to copper for a plumbing renovation is a frustration, as copper does not bend. It needs to be cut and joined in straight lines and at right angles. No curves, or snaking are possible.

Thus, if you have an older home that was recently outfitted with new plumbing, check to see what your new plumbing system is. Chances are good it's not copper. You may well have the Kitec system, with potentially unreliable brass fittings.

And if that is the case, your home could be at risk. A leak could happen anywhere, at any time. It could be a gusher or it could be a drip. Gushers are easier to detect and you can isolate them more quickly, although with a full-bore leak you stand to do the most damage to contents.

However, a slow drip could go undetected behind a wall for years. In the meantime, you could have mould growing in your home, which could affect the structure of your house, your health, your contents, or your home's resale value.

The only sure-fire fix, plumbers agree, is to re-plumb the entire house from the attic down.

That's expensive. And that means you need to consider joining a class action, or contacting a lawyer to ensure you aren't made to face that bill on your own—especially if an allegedly defective product was used in the construction, or the renovation of your home. A product that, like a ticking time bomb, could fail anytime.

Was that a drip...?

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Posted by

Is there a way to tell if you have the brass fittings that are failing? I opened up a wall but I do not know what a bad fitting looks like.

Posted by

Hi there I have just put together a website that answers a lot of these questions. My clients remove Kitec piping and it is their goal to give proper, up-to-date information so home owners are well informed. They are in the GTA but we're happy to share information so you can let your plumber or property manager know.

you can read up on our continuously expanding website

If you live in a condominium, it is important to let the Property Manager know, because they are likely unaware, if no problems have yet occurred. Usually Kitec only becomes an issue when buying or selling.

you can ask me about some of these items directly, I'd be happy to direct you.

Posted by

I bought a manufactured home almost a year ago. I found out that there had been a leak here before. I have running hot water in bathroom closest to hot water tank, but barely runs at all in other bathroom and Kitchen or the rest of house.
I cant climb under this place and find out if it has kitec plumbing, who can I call? I need hot water!!!Can someone give a free estimate and let me know what is going on?

Posted by

I am trying to purchase a manufactured home in pollock pines california and there have been 3 leaks in the house in 10 years. received a disclosure re KITEC plumbing but finding it hard to find a plumber who can identify exact condition of a property. any help or suggestions here?

Posted by

Hello , we live in Newfoundland Canada , we are about to buy a house which was built in 2012, In our survey reports it has stated there is Kitec plumbing , when was it first know that this product was defective ,
Can anybody tell me ,
Lee and Bernice

Posted by

my house was done with kitec fittings and pipe for heating
are you saying i need to rip out all the pipes and use something else?

Posted by

I have my whole house done with this plus all the radiant heating. If I were to rip it out it would be in the tens of thousands of dollars. What should I do or do I do nothing until it creates damage. If I replace all the fittings do they have a program to send you the fittings or not?

Posted by

I experienced a in wall pin hole water leak in a kytec fitting a few weeks ago. Made repairs with minimal damage and cost, around a $1000 to include a weekend plumber and closet carpet replacement. My across the street neighbor was not so lucky, the kytec line cracked and she woke up to five inches of water on the floor before they could shut the water off at the meter. Most houses in our subdivision where built in 2007 with kytec pipe and fittings. I am not sure of the next step to resolve this issue.

Posted by

Is there another fitting that will fit kitec pipe?
Like pex fitting or others
that would be safe to use.

Posted by

all the homes in my sub division in El Dorado Hills have bursting pipes from Kitec. Ou r builder Woodside Homes filed bankruptcy so there is no recourse! It is cosing us thousands of dollar as most homeowner's policies dont cover the repair!

Posted by

Unless or if- you actually have a leak it would seem a lot cheaper to simply replace the fittings instead of pulling the whole damn thing out. The pipe itself doesn't seem to be a problem.

Posted by

if i just found out that my home contains this defective piping, is there any recourse at this point in time. can i get builder/contractor to pay to re pipe?


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