IT’S NOT JUST KITEC ANYMORE- some of the early pex brass fittings (pre 2012 or so) are having Kitec like symptoms
First, regarding Kitec: Kitec is a brand of pex water supply piping made by a Canadian company called IPEX from 1995 to 2005. As you may have heard, Kitec piping has been causing big (and expensive) problems. The fittings used to connect the pipes together were made of brass which had too much zinc in them. This allows the brass fittings to literally be dissolved by the water that the pipes are carrying by a process called dezincification. This effect is usually speeded up in the hot water plumbing and is speeded up even further if the house has a hot water recirculation pump; so problems with Kitec often show up in the hot water piping first. As the zinc leaches out of the brass, it begins to build up inside the fittings. This, in turn, begins to restrict the flow of water. Also, the structural integrity of the brass fittings can be lost and they can rupture or crimps can fail. Since the pipes are carrying the household water supply, which is under pressure, leaks and flooding have occurred. And if nobody is home when the failure happens, catastrophic flooding can and has occurred because the water just keeps coming until the problem is discovered and someone turns off the water.nse. Kim Christensen ACI, TREC 20358
Where is Kitec installed in Lubbock? Kitec was installed in Lubbock from 2002 to 2007; especially in 2003, 2004 and 2005; so any house built during this time could potentially have Kitec. A common area where Kitec is prevalent in Lubbock is south of 98th street in the Slide Rd area- in the Meadows South, Suncrest, and Falls At Suncrest subdivisions. Another common area is southwest of Milwaukee Ave and 4th street, in Westchester Park. Another area is southwest of Frankford Ave and 66th street, in Bacon Crest and Regal Park. Also, the Windsor Park and Highland Oaks subdivisions have a lot of Kitec. These are common areas for Kitec, but it can be present in other locations as well. Identification of Kitec is difficult. We recently purchased two inspection cameras with a probe that can be inserted behind walls to help us look for Kitec, although doing this is beyond the standards of practice required of general home inspectors. We do this because, if Kitec is present, we want to find it. However, even with the cameras, identification is not easy. For a definitive identification, a plumbing specialist may be needed, because holes may need to be cut in the walls to get a better look at the pipes and fittings.
And as mentioned: It’s not just Kitec anymore Unfortunately, and this is bad news, all of the other brands of pex water supply piping that used brass fittings are beginning to have the same problems as Kitec. There are multiple class action lawsuits against many manufacturers. Chuck Hall of Earl’s Plumbing in Lubbock, (an expert on this issue), has stated “We are seeing pex with brass fittings in Lubbock starting to clog up and leak. We are seeing it in different neighborhoods, different houses, and all brands of pex with brass fittings”. Thepicture at right shows a brand called Dura Pex. (It also happens to be what I have in my house, built in 2005). You can see the buildup of zinc. Just as with Kitec, the problems stem from the brass fittings, and almost all brands of pex piping used from 2002 to 2012 used brass fittings. A new type of brass fitting with less zinc, called “DZR” or “red brass”, was introduced around 2012 and is designed to perform better than the old fittings which were “yellow brass”. Also, plastic fittings were introduced around 2010. Most installations of pex piping today use the plastic fittings because they will absolutely NOT have the dezincification problems that the old brass fittings are having. The clogging of pipes and fittings is a big problem but an even bigger problem, perhaps, is fittings that rupture or crimps or clamps that break. This will allow the pressurized water to escape and you will have a potential flood on your hands. The picture at left shows a type of clamp that has a raised area at the top. This type of clamp is very prone to breaking. It can be damaged when the plumber installs it and tightens it with his tool. Later on, the clamp may fail and the pipe can come loose from the fitting. Obviously when this happens, water will spray like crazy, and will continue until the water supply is turned off.
There is some good news for pex homes that don’t have Kitec If you have non-Kitec pex that was installed before 2012 and it has markedly reduced water flow, you don’t have to replace the piping, just the fittings. (Home owners that discover they have Kitec will still need to replace all fittings and all piping because of a mismatch between Kitec and the replacement fittings). In the case of non-Kitec, the bad fittings should be replaced with new plastic fittings with good quality crimps. As to whether to replace all of them or just some of them; that’s a judgement call. You could replace the brass fittings one at a time as they clog or fail since loss of pressure is much more common than failure. Or you could replace only the hot water fittings, since the hot water fittings are usually worse than the cold water ones. Finally, you could be proactive and replace all fittings, but of course this involves more expense. Kim Christensen ACI, TREC 20358