Join Date: Dec 2007
Location: San Antonio, Texas
Total Cats: 25
Is there a plumber in the house?! Litigation Rant
So my house is plumbed with Kitec, which is a brand of cross-linked polyethylene piping similar to the PEX brand. The Kitec is nice for all of the other reasons that PEX plumbing is nice, plus it has a thin mid-layer of aluminum that gives it more strength and helps it hold its shape when it is bent. When I built my house a little over three years ago, Kitec and PEX were the plumbing of choice. Compared to copper or iron, it is easier to install, cheaper, and more durable; it has been used for decades in Europe with great success. This is the same class of plumbing that was developed for in-slab radiant heating.
So when the plumber installed the Kitec plumbing he ran the normal main-line loop out of the wall in the garage, and a recharge drain, so I could install a water softener later on. Great, all good, right? Fast-forward to now. I finally got around to purchasing and installing a softener this week. I boght a nice GE water softener unit, their biggest consumer unit, at Costco at a good price, cheapest I could find.
Apparently between the time when I built the house and now, there were some failures with Kitec related to one particular kind of fitting. This one fitting would corrode when installed, and start leaking. It is not the connection my plumber used (whew) but a completely different type. I am not even sure it was made by the same manufacturer that made Kitec.
These failures apparently spurred a big class-action lawsuit, which from the little reading I have done on it, has basically run Kitec out of business, or at least out of the U.S. And, because of our litigious, fear the lawyers, be safe even if it is not rational society, all of the plumbing stores are now scared of anything Kitec, and carry nothing for it.
For example, I called a local plumbing store, the one that USED to be the local Kitec dealer and asked if they carried Kitec fittings. I was told, sternly, that NO, they have not carried anything Kitec related for two years. So I asked what I was supposed to do if I have Kitec plumbing and want to make a new connection. The response was basically you will have to get something else. Like, go replumb your entire house with something else and get back to us. End of conversation. You would have thought I was asking if I could come home with them after work and butt-rape their virgin teenage daughter. That was about the reaction I got.
And another thing... Kitec and PEX have different wall thicknesses. Even though they come in about the same i.d., the o.d. is different for a given size. Thus, effectively, I cannot use PEX fittings on Kitec. I was trying to get Gator-Bite or Shark-Bite style push-on fittings, but they do not come in the Kitec sizes, just PEX.
I ended up finding some fittings after scouring the plumbing section at Lowe's that sort of did the trick. They are plastic barb-to-NPT fittings that are made for 1" i.d. plastic piping (what I have) which I managed to get to work using a heat gun, some silicone lubricant, and some worm clamps (for hose). Half-***, but it is working for now, no leaks. I will at the very least eventually replace the worm clamps with something stronger, like t-bolt clamps.
So, because of litigation, even though Kitec in itself is a good product, all of us Kitec plumbed homeowners seem to be left out in the cold. ****...
Any plumbers out there that know WTF? I have researched on-line and taked to some counter guys at the plumbing stores and have only found out about what I described above. Tell me if I am off here, and you have a good solution (without buying $100 worth of clamping tooling), or confirm that I am on my own.