Got a townhouse in Seattle with radiant heat? Awesome! Got a townhouse in Seattle with Kitec pipes running to that radiant heart? Not so awesome.
If your townhouse was built between 1998-2005, there’s a more than decent chance the rigid pipes that run from your water heater to the heating units in each room are recalled Kitec pipes that were the subject of a number of class action lawsuits a few years ago. Kitec pipes are generally orange and color and often have KITEC stamped into the fittings (connectors) or on the copper manifolds.
These pipes were recalled because the connecting pieces (fittings) between the pipes leach zinc causing erosion of the lining of the pipes themselves and/or build-up within the pipes which cause these pipes to leak and fail… inside your walls. Not good.
The fix involves cutting pretty large swaths of drywall in nearly every room and hallway, pulling ALL of the Kitec and re-running everything in PEX (a flexible pipe) or copper. (Note: PEX is totally the way to go here! Copper would be far more expensive and required even more drywall to be removed for install…) It’s a big, messy job and at the end of it, you’ll need to repaint nearly every interior wall and ceiling.
FOR SELLERS: I estimate that you have about a 70% chance that the Kitec will be noticed by the home inspector (most but not all inspectors know about Kitec). With those odds, I recommend taking care of the Kitec before hitting the market for two reasons: 1) Quotes to replace Kitec vary wildly, as do drywall repair and painting. Your buyer could easily get three quotes all saying the plumbing portion of the job will cost $8-10,000 or more whereas when you’re not in throes of a sale you can probably find someone will to do it for $4-6,000. 2) If you’ve done any painting to prep for selling, you’re going to pay for it all over again when the Kitec job is done!
FOR BUYERS: This is *not* just one of those nit-picky home inspector issues, it is a very real problem. It’s also not a problem that you’ll eventually get around to fixing down the road because nobody volunteers to have the interior of their home torn up to accomplish a totally unsexy task like this. You would be nuts not to take care of this either through a seller concession or on your own before you move in. If you happen to get through owning the property without having a major flood or a festering moldy situation, you will most likely have to face the music when it comes time for you to sell!
I work with a great plumber who has done tons of these jobs and does it far more affordably than the other guys. Contact me and I’d be happy to guide you through your Kitec issues.