In our Home & Garden media obsessed society we devote an awful lot of attention to the 'shiny' qualities of house and home - like the fittings, finishes, and overall aesthetic experience.
While there is no denying the appeal of these items, home buyers would be well-advised to pay attention to what’s behind the walls as well. In a city like Toronto, where much of the housing stock is aging, you may well be up against issues that could pose a danger to your health, compromise the structural integrity of your property, and have serious financial consequences. But, as we’ll explore below, these issues are not limited to the older housing stock; newer homes are also at risk.
This - in part - is why urbaneer is continuing a series which will address some of the housing issues you can't always see, and help you understand why you might want to take a closer look. We recently wrote about air quality in your home in this handy Guide To Radon Exposure and about 'sick building syndrome' in our post called The Search for a Healthy Home. We even blog about broader life-affecting issues including What are the Real Financial, Emotional and Health Costs of Commuting?
Today we’re going to explore Kitec plumbing, which will be of particular interest to homeowners (or prospective homeowners) of homes and condos built between 1995 and 2007, where Kitec piping was a popular choice for builders and renovators.
What the heck is Kitec Plumbing?
Mostly used as piping for drinking water, and baseboard water systems, the appeal of Kitec piping initially was that it was very resistant to corrosion, and offered a good alternative to copper piping.
However, it was determined that not only does Kitec corrode, it does so at an accelerated rate. Around 2005 Kitec was pulled from the market and is no longer manufactured. Buildings fitted with this piping will likely be subject to failure long before it should, based on its age. The rapid deterioration of these pipes as well means that pipes may not just leak - but explode - meaning that damage could be widespread (and expensive). Bottom line - if you own a home with Kitec plumbing, you can expect to have to replace it.
There’s a great article from the Toronto Star about why Kitec Plumbing could be an issue, called 'Kitec Plumbing In Your Home Will Cost You'.
How do I know if I have Kitec Plumbing?
If you're curious if your condo might have kitec, look at the condo corporation number. If the number is between 1200 and 1900, it may contain kitec, as buildings are registered by date of completion.
As a prospective homeowner, your property inspector will inform you that there is Kitec Plumbing, so that you can either anticipate this repair expense in the future or request that the seller fix it.
Most of the piping is either bright orange (hot water) or blue (cold water), but in reality it was made in lots of different colours and distributed as different brands. To be sure, your best bet is to check out in the area around the hot water tank or in the mechanical room where the pipe connects or exits the walls. You’ll also be able to find them in bathrooms as well, under the sinks.
Fittings are stamped clearly with Kitec or KTC.
Yikes! What is this Going to cost me?
That depends on the amount, obviously, and the time required to fix it. The Toronto Star article refers to a midtown Toronto condo building that was built using Kitec plumbing. In the article, they suggest that repair costs in this building varied from $5,000 to $6,500 for one-bedroom units to $8,000 to $10,500 for two-bedroom and larger suites - which included piping and drywall, but not tiles.
And here’s the kicker: none of this is covered under the condominium reserve fund. Each owner is on the hook for his or her own expenses. In fact, we recently sold a unit in the aforementioned condominium just as this issue was coming to light. To offer the Buyer assurance, the Seller placed $10,000 in trust with his Seller's solicitor on closing to cover the proposed repair cost should Kitec be in the suite (apparently - as the story goes - the second of the two towers did not have it installed).
It may not surprise you to learn that Kitec piping has been the cause behind a number of class action lawsuits, with the largest having been settled in 2011 to the tune of $125 million USD (it included claims in both the U.S . and in Canada). While that may seem like a lot of money, there were so many claims that the amount that people will actually receive will be minimal - and likely won’t help much to defray their repair costs.
While Kitec is not something that is identified by law according to the Real Estate Council of Ontario, it obviously is something to ponder if you are buying or selling a home built during that time period; like with all things real estate, due diligence and the guiding hand of knowledge and experience (from a professional) will go far to protect and preserve your best interests.
Wonder what’s behind your walls (or your future walls)? With decades of experience in the market, based on constant research and a multi-disciplinary education in housing, we are not only here to help - we’ve got the expertise to be your best ally in your house hunt.