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 1 yr old home-PEX Nightmare
Author: Anonymous User

Hello

My story is too long to tell the whole thing. Suffice it to say that we (family of 5) have been through hell because of Plumb-PEX RTI and Oetiker Ear Stainless Clamps/Crimps

We had a flood that destroyed drywall, base board, marble floors etc. We have a 1 year old 4997 SQ FT 2 story home. The builder used Plumb Pex by RTI and Oetiker clamps and brass insert fittings. The plumbers must have been paid by the clamp! We have hundreds of splices and connections. The manifold is a joke. It had duct tape as the pipes came through the slab, instead of the proper sleeves.

Any advice or info?? We need facts and knowledge of other pex failures like ours. The company, UPONOR WIRSBO has a scientist "checking it out". She wanted samples of our concrete slab, our studs and our water. Clearly, they are going to try and blame someone else. We feel this way. It is our opinion

UPONOR took over for RTI who is going out of biz. So, they are responsible for the warranty.
I don't know how Oetiker fits in, but they do make the clamps.

We are re-piping the house this week ( a plumber is) with K Copper. We are paranoid. Obviously... ! The flood caused unbelievable damage. We have had to move from our home. The new plumber opened another wall yesterday and found another one that was about to blow. It was leaking. It would have been another flood.

Here are photos. the link is www.skinrxclinic.com/original_plumbing_that_burst.htm

The builder is in denial, the plumber is in denial, the insurance company )ours) won't pay for the re-pipe. And the pluming was severely compromised adter the first flood...by the original plumber. They cut the pex right down to the slab and then had to jack ahmmer 8 inches so they could make YET ANOTHER splice/connection.

Any tips or past info of these horrible systems???? Please advise. I sincerely appreciate it.

Thanks
Julie

Post Reply

 Re: 1 yr old home-PEX Nightmare
Author: Dunbar (KY)

Just this week I said NO to a customer who was trying to find someone to replace his 3 year old shower faucet in a townhome piped in pex, figuring instead of spending $100 on a non-returnable for a simple job, he would hire a plumber to do the job that already has the tool.


The homeowner was shocked to see it, along with the fact that he mentioned that he can do copper or cpvc, but he didn't have a clue the house he bought had this type of system in it.


I advised him to look on the inspection sticker on the water heater to find out who the plumber was that did the plumbing. The only plumber in the area that works with this material.


Guy also mentioned that he had called over 9 plumbers, all giving the same answer that they won't touch it. I was #10, guy was being comical/good spirited about the situation, I'll give him that.



Your situation looks really horrible, looks like a patch in job from all the leftover pieces they had from other jobs, and you were the unlucky one that ended up with the scraps.



I would say workmanship is the culprit on this one that has created the huge mess.


I expect more of these to follow, especially if the makers of some of this product is already going out of business already. Can't sue a company if they don't exist, almost like it is planned. frowning

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 Re: 1 yr old home-PEX Nightmare
Author: packy (MA)

i an sincerely sorry for what you are going thru. i'm a plumbing contractor north of boston and being that pex is not legal in massachusetts,yet, i don't have alot of experience with it. i took a couple of classes in proper installation methods and the usual do's and dont's. two things i learned. those oetiker type clamps do not tighten 100% around the 360deg circumference of the pipe. they are tighter closer to where they are pinched. all products must be approved by a state agency before we are allowed to use them and have them pass inspection.i suspect the leaks were more caused by poor workmanship than inferior products. secondly, i was told that you never wrap duct or electrical tape around pex. something in the glue attacks the pex and will damage it. so not only was that shoody work but the plumbing inspector should have picked up on it and failed the job. in mass, we have to have an underground inspection with all the proper sleeves around the piping before the slab is poured. your state either has different regulations or proper procedure was not followed.
i have been thru nightmares similar to this when a customer has had their heat go out in the winter and all their pipes froze and burst. ceilings down, floors destroyed and furniture ruined. it is not a pleasant experience. keep your chin up and remember that the sun will come up tomorrow. i do believe that there is a special place in hell for contractors, who thru their sloppy work, cause innocent, well meaning homeowners to go thru what you are going thru. some day this nightmare will be over and you'll have a place that you'll be proud to call home. good luck.. packy.

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 Re: 1 yr old home-PEX Nightmare
Author: hj (AZ)

Whether Uhonor will be responsible for RTI's warranty work will depend on whether they agreed to assume all Uponor's obligations or just their assets. The idea behind a material like PEX, and I personally would not use it under the slab floor, is that it can, and should, be installed in one piece from point to point with no connections or fittings under the floor. I do not know why you would have found additional clamps under the slab unless an error was made in the original installation and the pipes had to be extended to the proper location. At this point I think you need legal representation against the installer, since the manufacturer is probably going to come back and say the installation was defective and they do not guarantee the installation, nor do they cover "incidental" damages caused by failure of the material, if that should be found to be a contributing factor. In other words, they will give you a bunch of new pipe and fittings, but it will be up to someone else to pay for installing them.

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 Re: 1 yr old home-PEX Nightmare
Author: Anonymous User

Julie,

Sorry to hear of your disastrous experience with your new home and its plumbing system. Here is a post I made not too long ago about my experience with the oetiker clamps.

[www.plbg.com]

It is truely terrible that a building contractor, plumbing contractor, and plumbing inspector could allow such a terrible installation of PEX or any water distribution system.

These are just my opinions, but first I would suggest you retain legal representation because I have a feeling you are going to need it if you don't want to pay for the repipe and damages yourself. Your info on Uponor may be a little off, because it was my belief that RTI did not just go out of business and Uponor decide to cover warranties for them. But RTI was probably a subsidiary (one of many) of Uponor and there outlet for PEX-c tubing and fitting systems (Plumb-Pex). In mid to late 2004 Uponor decided to close several of its smaller companies to put more focus on their #1 company Wirsbo (PEX-a tubing and fitting system).

As for pex companies going out of business, I don't know of any company that was a major supplier or had any substantial market share and distributions that has gone out of business yet. (Plumb-Pex never was available in my area except from a small hardware stores and on ebay.) Of course there are those smaller companies that started up but never found their niche in the market and have or will soon fold, but that is no different with any tube and fitting manufacturer / distributor wether it be pex, pvc, copper ect...

From what I seen in the photos I can understand if Uponor will not cover any of the leaks with their warranty because of faulty installation procedures. First of all the plumbers should have notified Uponor before attempting repairs so the system could be inspected and investigated by Uponor. Still yet after attempts of repair the system does not meet any manufacturers required installation procedures. As Packy noted, the tape adhesive on the pipe should of been removed and the pipes sleeved. Not to mention bad placement of the crimp rings, unsquare cut tubing, and fittings not completely inserted into the tubing.

I'm sure that if the same plumber installed a copper distribution system with the same reckless abandon it too would be in a state of disrepair now.

I do hope something good does come of your situation. I'm sure you will be happy with the new copper water system. Hopefully a building contractor, plumber or his licensed contractor, and the plumbing inspector will be properly reprimanded. And I wish there could be an eye opener for the manufacturers to take the oetiker clamps off the market.

EDIT: I believe RTI released the oetiker clamp system sometime during 1997 and I also think that was when the business joined or was created by Uponor.



Post Edited

Post Reply

 Re: 1 yr old home-PEX Nightmare
Author: Anonymous User

Point the finger at the contractor is my best advice and is there home owners insurance to assit you. Im in cali and i wouldnt put plastic or clamps to hold anything other than sprinkler systems. When it comes to water supply for houses or buildings they have yet to even challenge copper. These other products they have came out with are to reduce costs do to copper demand. When something is good the cost shouldnt be an object. Stick with copper and have the new plumber pull an inspection on his repipe have them pump it up and hold on test untill inspector clears final inspection.

Post Reply

 Re: 1 yr old home-PEX Nightmare
Author: Scott D. Plumber (VA)

I too am sorry for your problems. I have used loads of PEX with no problems, but I do not use or really like the RTI system. I use the more expensive system by Rehau most often.

That said, It looks to me like you have as many issues if not more with poor workmanship as you have materials. Anyone who can hack up a job that bad with PEX is sure to do poor work with any material.

I wish you luck.

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 Re: 1 yr old home-Plumbing Nightmare
Author: Deb (ID)

This is not necessarily a PEX problem. A bad install of ANY material will cause plumbing nightmares. At this point, you do not really know whether you had a product (PEX) failure or whether a bad installation caused the failure. It certainly sounds as if you had a bad install.
Deb
The Pipewench

Post Reply

 Re: 1 yr old home-PEX Nightmare
Author: Anonymous User

Guess I am in the boat with Scott and Deb.I have done prob 10 houses in the last year with pex and had no problems,so looking at your pics first problem looks like installation was the plumbers on a work program from a local pre-school? Second I just the look of those crimp rings give me the creeps they look nothing like what I have been using.Hope everything works out in the end.

Post Reply

 Any tips on these horrible systems?
Author: Uni R

I certainly hope you aren't implying that PEX or Uponor are what you mean when you say "horrible systems". PEX is an excellent material and Uponor is an excellent company. You bought a house built by a crappy GC who contracted crappy tradepeople that installed the cheapest PEX they could find and the cheapest fittings they could find. It is never wise to mix one manufacturer's tube with another's fittings. No manufacturer could nor should have to test their product with everyone else's fittings. The tubing and fittings are developed together as systems. GM does need need to test that BMW brake pads work on their cars. This may sound harsh and I truly appreciate your frustration and how much inconvenience this must have caused you and your family yet I would blame your lack of due diligence in finding a quality builder more of a factor than I would blame either PEX or Uponor. Caveat emptor.



Post Edited

Post Reply

 Re: Any tips on these horrible systems?
Author: hj (AZ)

I challenge your assertion that they "picked" a crappy builder. If that was a subdivision, then the same buider built all the houses, and if that was the house and location and price they wanted then they had to use him. Normally the fact that the builder constructs dozens of houses each year would be enough to give one confidence that he knows enough about building to construct a "good" house. In this case that assumption may not be true, or it could be that he just had a bad plumber and that is the only deficiency in the house. Since the plumbing passed initial inspection and lasted a year, that implies that the defects were not immediately apparent, even though the job "looks" mediocre.

Post Reply

 Re: Any tips on these horrible systems?
Author: Uni R

hj, challenge away. You are very astute but keep in mind that my point was that she was slamming PEX and also slamming Uponor as well and neither was the cause of her catastrophe. She bought a very large and very expensive house that was built by a GC that she would agree is definietly to be avoided.

"The company, UPONOR WIRSBO has a scientist "checking it out". She wanted samples of our concrete slab, our studs and our water. Clearly, they are going to try and blame someone else. We feel this way. It is our opinion."

Well, should Uponor be responsible for someone's shoddy workmanship and using someone else'e fittings? Is PEX at fault here?

Post Reply

 caveat emptor?
Author: Anonymous User

Please, caveat emptor for a newly constructed house? Even plumbers have to take update courses between code changes in most areas to be able to renew their licenses.You really expect a prospective homeowner to be knowledgeable in every trade and all the technology used in building a modern day residence? That is the reason why most if not all states have laws to require warranties on new construction. That is why there are rules and regulations that every new building must be built to meet or exceed the requirements of. Also a 3rd party to approve said building and make sure that it is built within the guidelines of not only the adopted codes for that area, but also to any manufacturers requirements if they are more strict than those codes. So there is really no reason why a buyer should beware especially when puchasing a home in a large housing addition that has many homes already complete and occupied and many more still underconstruction. There was a failure in the system I would say starting with the plumber, then the inspector, and maybe even the product.

As for being resposible for using a different manufacturers fittings. How do you know they used someone elses fittings? I didn't see it stated in the post. RTI tubing is designed for use with the brass insert fittings and s.s. oetiker clamps. Most manufacturers of PEX-b and PEX-c use the same style of fittings with either the copper ring or s.s. clamp. A few of those companies have changed the wording of their warranty to allow the use of other manufactuers fittings and crimping system as long as they meet the same ASTM standard that their own fittings do. Partly this is to allow the installation of specialty products of companies like Sioux Chief and be able to maintain the original warranty of the system. Although the Tube manufacturers warranty doesn't cover the fittings and vise versa. Much the same as if I were to use Nibco sweat fittings with Mueller copper tube. There are ASTM standards in place that regulate the wall thickness, inside and outside diameter, and pressure ratings of all tube and each style of fittings and their method of connection/crimping. With these standards there isn't many reasons why you can't interchange fittings and tube from different manufacturers. Although there are exceptions and you should only do it if each manufacturer states it is ok to do so. Some exceptions would be trying to use one of the PEX-a connections on a PEX-b or c tube. Since PEX-a is so much more flexible and has better memory. Or trying to use a propex sleeve on an everlock fitting or vise versa.

If you will notice when you look at the specs. for PEX-b fittings of most manufacturers, it will say they are compatible with all SDR9 tubing and most fitting components of other manufacturers.

Post Reply

 Re: caveat emptor?
Author: Uni R

Yes, the buyer must always be aware, and this situation illustrates that. It's sad but it's true. You make some excellent points but I really only wanted to make two points. There is nothing wrong with PEX and there is nothing wrong with Uponor. I read the related links about shingles flying off the roof and other issues she had with the GC.

In the grand scheme of things the GC is to blame. She shouldn't have to go after the plumber, the GC contracted the plumber. Out of the next items, who/what would you say is the most responsible for what happened:
A. PEX?
B. Uponor?
C. The buyer?

I would argue that the buyer is in the unfortunate position of being above Uponor or the use of PEX in general in this situation. The PEX was poorly installed and why should Uponor have to cover crappy workmanship? BTW, I was completely unaware of any PEX manufacturers willing to guarantee the use of their product with another manufacturer's fittings.

Do you think the comments directed against Uponor were fair? I don't and that was what prompted me to respond. Our viewpoints really don't differ by much, but the blame in this case just seemed too far reaching. It needs to stop at the GC and if you spread the net she needs to consider the fact that people need to be prudent on purchases; even on new homes. The only other party possibly sharing blame is the inspectors but I am not sure that they could ever be held accountable for anything but I could be wrong there.

Before I would buy any new house I would want to know the quality of the builder. A home is both a huge expense as well as a significant investment. If the quality isn't there, even if you can collect from the warrantee, the resale of your home may still be compromised.

[www.nachi.org]

[www.skinrxclinic.com]



Post Edited

Post Reply

 hmmm, I choose B.
Author: Anonymous User

I always thought the use of caveat emptor was to mean "buyer beware" or in other words "to buy at your own risk", not to just be aware. Used when a person buys something when they have little or no recourse if it turns out not to be what they wanted or what they paid for. I realize this isn't grammar class but feel free to correct me if I'm wrong. Of course everyone should "be aware" when they purchase anything especially something of value like a car or house. Certainly when buying a new car you want to look it over for scratches, dings, coolant and lubricant leaks, any unusual noises, and make sure everything works properly. Although there is no way that the prospective buyer would know that in 6 months hundreds of those cars would have the back tire blow out and cause an accident. When that does happen here in the wonderful US, with all the courts and lawyers, there is recourse. There are rules and regulations to keep this from happening as often as it could without such safeguards in place, and to protect citizens and give them an avenue to pursue retribution so that they do not have to "buy at their own risk". There is no way it was the fault of the car buyer for purchasing a car that wasn't built to the standards and safety regulations in place to protect them. How could they have done research to know the quality of the manufacturer and that this car would have disasterous problems in 6 months even though the manufacturer has a good reputation? This is not much different for Home buyers. They have this same right to recourse when thier house starts to fall apart and they find out it wasn't built to the rules and regulation set forth to protect them. It is no way the fault of the buyer to buy a home not built to code when thier tax money, permit fees, ect.. are used to enforce a law that says the house will be built to code.

PEX can not be blamed for anything as it is an item and can not create an action by itself. I seriously doubt there is anything wrong with the pex or its fittings but I think those clamps are very questionable. I would think Uponor will handle the situation properly as they are in my opinion the most technologically advanced manufacturers in water distribution systems and the #1 PEX manufacturer in the US and Europe. I'm sure they don't want to be making a bad impression in the PEX industry.

Yes you are correct the civil problems are between her and the GC. However she could pursue the plumber and inspector as well because of their actions to put her into distress. It probably wouldn't be too hard to show that they knowingly did an unapproved installation. Unless this is their first job and they are unlicensed and the inspector is an independant contracted by the state or municipality. However, unsleeved pipe and tape adhesive will not create broken oetiker clamps and connections blowing apart, or will it? The unsquare cut tubing and improperly placed oetiker clamps can play a role in that, but i doubt that is the main cause. Uponor may end up taking all the blame for the actual joint failure even though it wasn't properly installed. Hopefully Uponor will find something wrong with the oetiker style clamps. Maybe they can not handle the thermal expansion and contraction of the brass fittings or there is something metallurgically wrong with the stainless steel. But then again maybe something such as to much variation in tube wall thickness or brass fitting diameter. What ever it is I do hope to hear the results of their testing, As other manufacturers have released their versions of the Oetiker clamps for their tube and fitting systems that already use the copper rings.

No matter who is at fault for the leaks and damages, the plumber broke a state or municipal law by not installing the plumbing system correctly. It is his duty as a licensed plumber to install everything to code or to the manufacturer recommendations if they are more strict, and to learn how to do it if he doesn't already know. He is subject to penalties and or fines. The inspector failed his duties to the municipality or state as a law or code enforcement officer and should be reprimanded. Just my opinion, and you know what they say about those.

As much as I love a good discussion I believe this one has gone quite beyond the scope of this board. It has it's place on the link you provided or one of the code boards. Thanks again for that link, was some interesting reading there.

Post Reply

 Agreed...
Author: Uni R

This is well beyond the scope here but it was interesting sharing views on this. I'm not sure about where you live but new construction with buyer protection meaning everything can be taken for granted with the related expectations of everything being perfect usually diverge on the date of possession and a a few basics in plumbing should be something people understand either directly or through their home inspector or a realtor if they have a purchasing agent. The norm here is copper and nearly all new houses built around here do not have shutoffs at fixtures. People are always surprised when they buy a new house that they have to use the main shutoff for any repairs. These people have often spent all kinds of time and dollars getting "upgraded" fixtures but they don't realize that they should have invested $x and insisted on shutoffs at every fixture. Likewise if PEX is prevalent, people must ensure that it is all home run, expecially with slab construction. Oh well... I guess this sort of slips in the gammut of "Dynamic Plumbing, Kitchen and Bath, Information, Advice and Sharing". Take care...

Post Reply

 Re: Any tips on these horrible systems?
Author: hj (AZ)

Not likely, but they have the "biggest pockets", so they will probably try to get something from them also. The point is that the average buyer, going into a major housing tract, is going to assume the builder is "top notch" and will seldom check the credentials. And even if they did, prior to this, everything could have been perfect. The contractor might have changed plumbers when this house was built. And, unless the builder and inspector had an "arrangement" by which the builder filled out his own "green tags", any obvious deficiencies should have been found prior to pouring the concrete or closing the walls.

Post Reply

 Re: caveat emptor?
Author: hj (AZ)

How about D, none of the above, but in the "grand scheme of things", A, B, the builder, and plumber will probably all be named in a suit and have to defend themselves.

Post Reply





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