The Problems With Kitec
Kitec was used in the early 2000’s as both potable (drinking, showers, toilets, etc.), and radiant heating applications (baseboard registers, in-floor, and staple-up hydronic heating). In 2005 KITEC/IPEX pipe production was halted due to a class-action lawsuit being filed. The court ordered KITEC/IPEX to finance over $125 million to pay for replacement in homes and buildings with Kitec failures. The claim filing deadline was Jan 9th, 2020
The trade term for Kitec is PEX-AL-PEX, which indicates the 3 layers in the pipe. The thin outer and inner layers are made of PEX, the middle layer is made of aluminum. Kitec is currently in production under different names/labels and is still used in some potable and hydronic heating applications. Potable Kitec is typically red, blue, or orange – while Kitec used in radiant heating is typically orange only.
Builders embraced Kitec because the aluminum layer made the pipe appear to be indestructible. It could also be bent into a shape that would hold throughout the install process. Kitec was and is sold under a number of brand names including: Ambio Comfort, Aqua, IPEX, KERR Controls, Kitec, Plomberie Amelioree, Plumb Better, WarmRite and XPA.
Three Ways We See Kitec Fail
1. Brass is composed of copper and zinc. The brass alloy fittings that complete Kitec connections contain more than 15% zinc and are therefore susceptible to a process called “dezincification”, where the selective removal of zinc leaves a relatively porous and weak layer of copper and copper oxide when exposed to an electrode (water). Corrosion of similar nature continues beneath the primary corrosion layer resulting in gradual replacement of sound brass by weak porous copper, leaving a ‘birdbone’ type fitting.
2. These fittings also react negatively when they come into contact with the aluminum layer in the Kitec pipe. This process is called “Galvanic Corrosion”
(See ‘Galvanic Series of Dissimilar Metals’ Table Below).
A less noble metal – called an anode – deteriorates at an accelerated rate as it deposits portions of itself onto the the more noble metal – called the cathode. The anode is essentially trying to return to its original state, before it was refined. In this case, the aluminum layer (Aluminum 1100) acts as the anode, and the brass fitting acts as the cathode. This process leaves visible corrosion on the brass fittings, causing failure such as leaks or bursts.
These two photos illustrate what occurs when the aluminum layer in the Kitec pipe is pressed against the seat of a brass fitting – in this case, a popular and often used SharkBite fitting. Notice the separation of the thin inner layer of PEX.
3. The third failure method we see relates to handling during installation. If the pipe was ever kinked (Picture 1) by bending into a tight radius or crushed by weight, the aluminum layer will tear or perforate (Picture 2), and eventually penetrate the inner or outer layer of PEX – or both. Also, the aluminum layer is slightly overlapped to form the circumference (Picture 3), and we have seen this overlapped area separate time and time again. We see such perforations, tears and overlap separations leak behind walls, in ceilings, concrete hydronic heated floors, heated driveways, and sidewalk slabs ruining foundations and caissons.
How To Identify Kitec
Kitec pipe can be identified by its blue, orange, or red color. Look for one of the following brand identification marks on the pipe: Ambio Comfort, Aqua, IPEX, KERR Controls, Kitec, Plomberie Amelioree, Plumb Better, WarmRite and XPA. Also look for the trade classification such as
PE-AL-PE, or PEX-AL-PEX.
The following picture gives a few examples.
The following table illustrates both ends the cathodic and anodic table of dissimilar metals. The farther apart the metals lay on the illustration, the greater the galvanic corrosion.
Buying A House With Kitec Piping?
We recommend negotiating the Kitec replacement with the seller during the home inspection. This mitigates risk of water damage and increases the value of the home. Your real estate agent should be able to walk you through the necessary steps.
How We Can Help You Replace Your
Family owned, the Team at Replumb Specialties Inc. has replaced Kitec, Polybutylene, Copper, Galvanized, Entran, and other failing plumbing systems across our service area Since 1992. We are the original pipe replacement contractor for the Polybutylene Class Action Settlement. We’ve successfully replaced systems in 20,000+ homes, condominiums, apartments, and hotels – including over 2,000 hydronic heating applications.