Kitec plumbing is the would-be wunderkind of the plumbing world, introduced as an affordable plumbing alternative to costly copper in 1995. Used in new homes and condos until 2007, it turns out that it wasn’t everything it was cracked up to be – in fact hundred of condo buildings across North America have reported plumbing leaks as a result of Kitec. There’s even a large class action lawsuit that’s been dragging on for years – yikes! Here’s the skinny on everything you should know about Kitec and what it means to you during the condo buying (and selling) process.
What is Kitec Plumbing?
Kitec plumbing became the go-to choice for builders as it was flexible aluminum piping with an outer layer of plastic making it affordable and easy to work with. Unfortunately, it didn’t take long before people learned the hard way that it was prone to premature failure leading to flooding and costly damage.
Although Kitec products were recalled in 2005, you can still find them in a lot of homes and condos that were not only built between 1995 and 2007, but that also might have undergone renovations or plumbing repairs during that time.
Why Kitec Matters
Although there’re many homes and condos that have not yet seen failure with Kitec plumbing, it’s the reports of flooding that have led to even more issues including not being able to get reasonable insurance and mortgage rates. That’s why it’s important to be aware of Kitec plumbing when hunting for a condo and if you’re planning to sell your condo (if it was built between 1995 and 2007).
Although there was a class action lawsuit in 2011 with a settlement for a $125 million fund to compensate those who experienced damages from flooding, you’ve got to be registered by 2020 to benefit from the funds.
Some condo management companies have tried to replace Kitec plumbing proactively, while many are taking a less aggressive approach, leaving it to the pipes to pop before anything is done. The cost for replacement for an average condo unit ranges from $5k to-$12k and it’s usually the condo owner who ends up forking out the dough. It seems there’re two ways these repairs go down. Either the owners are arranging for repairs and paying the bill, or the condo corporation is arranging for the replacement, but still sending the bill to the owner. As you can see, either way it seems the condo owner loses.
What Questions to Ask
Issues with Kitec have been so widespread that the Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA) has added a question about Kitec to both The Seller Property Information Statement (SPIS) Form #220, and the Residential Information Checklist, Form #820 asking if Kitec has been used on the property. They’ve also added two standard clauses: one stating the buyer acknowledges they understand Kitec is present and the other stating Kitec wasn’t used on the property. So, there’s that to consider before you sign on the dotted line to buy or sell a property. Keep in mind that you’ll also have to disclose that Kitec is present in your unit if you plan to sell.
That said, if Kitec does exist and is confirmed you’ll want to ask the following questions:
- Will replacement costs be charged to you?
- How much will it cost to repair?
- Is there a reserve fund to cover the replacement or repairs?
- Was the condo part of the lawsuit?
What To Look For
You can also do a quick inspection and look for the tell tale brightly coloured blue and orange Kitec pipes:
- Around the hot water tank/boiler
- Under the kitchen sink
- Under bathroom vanities
- On the electrical panel (there will be a label stating Kitec was used)
The pipes can also come in less obvious colours as many different companies made Kitec pipes including:
- IPEX AQUA
- Kitec XPA
- KERR Controls
- Plomberie Améliorée
We always recommend hiring an inspector to verify the presence of Kitec.
If you do purchase a condo with Kitec before 2020, you can register to be included in the class action here. Apparently, they advise not to do anything if the pipes are working. Just watch for signs of corrosion or blistering on pipes as well as a drop in water pressure before you call a plumber. Expect some mess as they’ll potentially have to knock out some drywall as well which adds to the expense of replacement.