Around 1996, the local builders found they could reduce the plumbing costs by using plastic instead of copper. Contractors were brought in from out-of-state to install this new product. The first plastic water pipes were a brand named Kitec, which is now at the center of a lawsuit.
Kitec is a plastic pipe that originates from Canada. The product is aluminum, which is sandwiched between layers of plastic. The product is much cheaper than copper and easy to install, as it bends, unlike copper, which needs to be cut and soldered. However, it is not the plastic pipes that are defective, but the fittings used to connect these pipes.
Why the fittings? Kitec is a material which is based on the metric measuring system. The only fitting available had to be purchased from Canadian suppliers and they were of a low quality brass. Brass is a combination of copper and zinc. The cost of these fittings can be substantially lowered if a greater percentage of zinc is mixed in with the copper. It is known that only about 14 percent of the zinc can actually bond and be locked-in with the copper. Any additional zinc above a 14 percent mixture will not bond with the copper and can be leached out of the fitting.
The cheaper, low quality fittings are a mixture of approximately 44 percent zinc. This means that there is about 29 percent of the fitting that will literally dissolve away. When this occurs, the interior of the water line first becomes corroded, which can significantly restrict the water flow and eventually lead to water leaks. The cause is believed to be the high ph content of our local water supply. This seems to be somewhat isolated to the Clark County area and the leaching of the fitting is actually called “dezincification.”
Since Kitec is based on the metric system, there are no high quality fittings which can be used on this system. This means that homes will need to be re-piped at a cost of about $600 per fixture, if a plastic replacement pipe with high quality fittings is used. This estimate is higher if copper water lines are used. It is important that high quality fittings be used (bronze C314) and not just a re-pipe.
For more on this or other home care subjects, contact Scott at www.scottsauer.com.