As home and property inspectors, we are always looking out for potential major issues for our clients. Often times this results in reporting on such visible issues as a diagonal crack indicating potential foundation issues, burn marks on curtains or electrical receptacles, and missing shingles indicating a potential roof leak. While these are important to all home inspectors, we also look for other potential issues that are not so apparent to home buyers and sellers. Here is an example of a potential major issue from a recent home inspection.
To the naked eye this appears to be a group of pipes, likely for hot water due to the orange colour. They also appear to be in good shape overall: both of these observations are correct but that does not tell the whole story. Before we get ahead of ourselves, let me explain what this is and why it could be a potential financial pit for buyers, a sales obstacle for sellers and a major cost for current homeowners.
What you are looking at is the manifold for a hydronic (hot water) heating system, where it is distributed to the various zones (rooms) in the home. The system itself is well maintained and in good condition however it is composed of a PEX-AL-PEX pipe, otherwise known as Kitec plumbing.
So, what exactly is wrong with Kitec? The short answer to this is that it depends on who you talk to. Some plumbers claim that with its high failure rate, tendency to burst rather than leak when failing and that it is no longer available are all reasons to immediately replace all Kitec plumbing with a more acceptable solution such as copper or cross-linked polyethylene (PEX). Others will argue that the issue is drastically overblown and as long as it is maintained it is no riskier than any other material.
At Inside Edge, we are in the business of providing facts to our clients so they are able to make the optimal real estate decision and representing the condition of the home as best we can. On that note, here are some facts about Kitec:
It is generally recommended that a plumbing contractor evaluate any system containing Kitec due to its tendency to fail catastrophically. Any home inspector or plumber can check for visible Kitec on any home you are considering purchasing or putting up on the market and advise accordingly.