Kitec Plumbing: The Next Big Worry when Buying or Selling?
Photo courtesy of Meticulous Inspections
Kitec Plumbing is made up of flexible aluminum pipe sandwiched between an inner and outer layer of plastic pipe with brass fittings. Kitec was sold between 1995 and 2007 and used for in-floor heating, hot-water baseboard heating and potable water. It was sold as a cheaper alternative to copper with the added benefit of being quicker and easier to install and was widely used. It is usually bright orange and blue plastic piping. However, it was also sold in red, blue, grey and black. The piping are marked with the following names: Kitec, PlumbBetter, IPEX AQUA, WarmRite, Kitec XPA, AmbioComfort, XPA, KERR Controls or Plomberie Améliorée. The fittings are stamped Kitec or KTC.
The best and easiest place to look for this piping is the mechanical room of your house or, if you had renovations/repairs done to your home between these years involving plumbing, call your plumber and ask him/her if Kitec was what was used. Frequently, where the whole house was plumbed using Kitec, a sticker can be found on your electrical panel reading, “Caution, this building has non-metallic interior water piping. Do not ground.”
The problem with this type of plumbing is that the fittings have too high a zinc level and are corroding much more quickly than copper and can leak. As well, there is evidence that the plastic piping has also been known to split.
So, what does this mean if you are buying or selling a home?
If you are buying a house or condo built during this period, you should ask that a clause be included in the offer to purchase addressing the presence of Kitec plumbing. Unfortunately, in a market as hot as Toronto’s, this could be a problem since multiple offers abound (especially if you are buying a house) and such a clause may make the seller reject your offer. In this city’s market, where multiple offers are anticipated, I always recommend that the buyer do a pre-inspection if the seller is not providing one for prospective buyers prior to offer date. At worst you may lose the bid and therefore, have “wasted” the $500. At best, you succeed and know what the heck you are getting into.
If you are buying, or have bought, a condo built between 1995 and 2007 or underwent extreme renovations during that time period, there is a very good chance that Kitec was used in the building. Bob Aaron, a Toronto lawyer has reported a major condo development in the city built with Kitec and owners of these units are having to pay thousands of dollars out of their own pockets to remedy the situation. The reserve fund is unlikely to cover this kind of thing. You need to know when your condo was built and proceed accordingly. You cannot be guaranteed that the condo corporation has included the disclosure in their status certificate (a mistake).
You should take the time to review your insurance policy to ensure that it does not specifically exclude coverage on leakage from Kitec plumbing or any kind of water damage for that matter.
If you are selling your house with Kitec plumbing you must disclose the fact to buyers or risk a lawsuit in the future.
Most people are not aware that there is a class action settlement in place in Canada and the U.S.A. You can and should apply whether your Kitec has failed or not. If you file a claim and your Kitec has not failed you may be compensated providing there are funds left after those with claims arising from damage from failure paid. It is extremely unlikely that there will be any money left or even adequate monies for those who have experienced burst pipes and severe damage. In any case the money will not be paid out until 2020. If you file a claim and then your plumbing fails, you should file another claim. The form can be found at: http://www.kitecsettlement.com/faq.cfm. In spite of the inadequacy of the settlement you should file.
If you do have Kitec plumbing throughout your house, replacing it is not going to be cheap, since replacing it will probably involve breaking drywall open and possibly flooring. I can’t tell you what to do but your options are to replace it all, leave it alone and closely monitor for any signs of leakage, then replace sections as needed or change your insurance policy to cover damage due to water . I have to say, if I had questions about my insurance policy, my insurance company is not who I would want to talk to. I prefer to deal with insurance brokers. Some insurance companies will not insure houses containing Kitec piping and I suspect the list of these companies will grow. I can only say that I personally do have a small amount of Kitec in the house due to a small renovation we had done during the period involving some plumbing. Luckily it is local and I know where it is so we intend to take the monitor option. It is also located in an area of the basement where, should a pipe burst; the resulting water would go down the drain floor. If it were more widespread, or elsewhere in my house, I would start saving to have it replaced.
The one thing I am fairly certain about is that this issue will become more prominent in the Toronto real estate market in the future, so if you have Kitec, know you have it, and plan to sell in the future, you need to give thought about what you will do before putting your house on the market and discuss your strategy with a professional real estate agent such as myself.
Michelle Powell, Sales Representative, Right at Home Realty Inc., Brokerage