Chinese Drywall

By
Home Inspector with All Star Home Inspections

The other day I was asked about Chinese drywall.  Although I have not run into any I thought that I would take a moment to pass along some information as I know it and was able to research.

 Chinese drywall as it is commonly known was manufactured by a company called Knauf a German company by one of its subsidiaries in China.  The defective product was believed to have been imported as early as 2001 but most federal and shipping data seems to indicate that the bulk of the product in question was shipped to ports in Louisiana and Florida between 2004 and 2007 when US manufactures could not keep up with the sheetrock demand due to housing boom created by the hurricanes in Florida and Louisiana.

The problem with the Chinese product appears to have resulted in the Chinese using a different production process than US companies use that allowed contaminates to enter into the drywall.  These contaminates particularly unrefined Ash are alleged to be causing the following issues:

            Foul, sulfurous odors coming from your walls.

            Metal in contact with relatively new drywall is corroding quickly.

            Copper, in particular, will corrode rapidly in contact with bad drywall from China. Green corrosion is normal; black corrosion is not.

            Black corrosion on wiring.

            Appliances and electronics inexplicably failing (they have copper wiring, which can corrode).

        In some cases there are have been reported medical issues such as headaches and bleeding noses that may or may not be linked to the drywall issues. 

So what can the homeowner do if they suspect that they have the defective product? They can go into their attic and look at the back of the sheetrock from the ceilings and see if there is Chinese lettering or the words Knauf or KBT and also look for the above symptoms.  It is also recommended that a Home Inspector be hired. However, the real problem is what if you do have it what can you do?  Unfortunately, the only solution is to remove all Chinese drywall from your home and replace with good drywall. Remember that drywall is friable or easily broken into small fragments and creating dust, so it could be risky for you to remove the material yourself. Unlike air-borne hazardous materials like lead-based paint and asbestos, phosphogypsum-based drywall cannot be "sealed" with a coat of paint.  So, removal and replacement is not the real question; that is a given. The real question is who will pay for the work. Many homeowners are joining class action lawsuits. 

See the below excerpt from a New Orleans newspaper;

"New Orleans, LA: A federal class action lawsuit was filed on December 9 in the US District Court in New Orleans against Knauf Plasterboard Tainjin Co. Ltd. (KPT), one of the primary manufacturers of Chinese drywall. New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton is the lead plaintiff, along with about 2100 people who registered their complaint by the deadline. 

Meanwhile, the federal government says it will unveil a plan to help homeowners with Chinese drywall. According to Tampa Bay Online, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) will make an announcement soon about federal money that can be used to help remediate homes with contaminated drywall. HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan wrote a letter to Florida Sen. Bill Nelson, stating that HUD will issue guidance, "making it clear that actions to remediate drywall can be eligible for assistance under the Community Development Block Grant program." 

In the mean time if you suspect that you have defective drywall you should document and contact your insurance company and builder although as of right now the insurance companies are denying the claims under their pollution exclusion and keep up with what HUD will be doing.

It is my opinion based upon the information out there that there seems to be a problem of about 100,000 homes in 32 states possibly having the defective sheetrock in it and that there will be much publicity once the trials start and will be on such shows as 20/20 just like mold in homes were that were built using EFIS stucco systems in the late 80's and early 90's.  Of couse, as usual, as of right now the homeowner appears to be left holding the bag and having to prove there is a problem.

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Ann Allen Hoover
RE/MAX Advantage South - Hoover, AL
CDPE SRES ASP e-PRO Realtor - Homes for Sale - AL

We are hearing more about this in Birmingham and I have been doing research too.  A scary thing.....just because this sheetrock is not found by inspecting what can be seen from the attic doesn't mean it may not be in another part of the home.  The contractor may not have gotten all the sheetrock from the same source.  What about an older home that had some renovations......could have used Chinese drywall too.  What is mess this is going to be.

Dec 13, 2009 01:37 PM #1
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Chuck Tolbert

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