Home Inspection And The Chinese Drywall Problem

Submitted by: David Haigh

If you haven t yet been convinced how important it is to have a home inspected before you purchase it, here s one key reason: Chinese drywall. You may have heard about it on the news, but how serious is it?

Drywall imported from China, mainly between 2001 and 2007, is at the root of the problem. However, poorly made drywall in this country can be a problem, too. Though the most significant problems have occurred in the Southeast, especially Florida, the issue has been reported in 32 states, Washington, D. C., and Puerto Rico.

Heat and humidity cause this defective drywall to release gases, such as hydrogen sulfide, which creates an odor like rotten eggs. The gases also corrode copper and other metal surfaces. As a result, there may be damage to the air conditioner, electrical wiring, plumbing, and other appliances and electronics. The smoke detector may quit working. Even silver jewelry may turn black.

Chinese drywall is very friable. That means small particles can easily become dislodged with little friction. The particles get into your lungs. This can cause trouble even after the drywall has been removed. Reported health problems include difficulty breathing, headaches and nosebleeds.


Unfortunately, to date, there is no proven remediation protocol, which means there s no one good solution. One company claims chlorine dioxide will decontaminate buildings containing Chinese drywall. However, the attorney general s office in Florida warns of several deceptive practices targeted at home owners, such as bogus test kits, home inspection offers, ozone generators and chemical cleaners.

These warnings point out that the presence of defective drywall cannot be determined by testing a home’s air, or corrected by chemical sprays or ozone generators. This makes finding a qualified, knowledgeable home inspector a must for starting down the road to finding Chinese drywall and solving the problem.

Here s a bit more background. Drywall is a common building material typically made of a layer of gypsum -based plaster pressed between two thick sheets of paper. It s then dried in a kiln. The U. S. imported foreign drywall during the construction boom between 2004 and 2007. Furthermore, numerous hurricanes in the Southeast from 2004-2005 caused a shortage of American-made drywall.

The problems have been attributed to the use of fly ash in the imported drywall, which degrades in heat and moisture. American-made drywall uses fly ash, too, but the manufacturing process used creates a cleaner product.

It s possible for a home to have been built with drywall from several sources. Drywall usually has a source printed on the back. It s important to note that Chinese drywall may be marked “Made in China”, “China”, “Knauf Tianjin”, or have no marking at all.

As you might expect, the Chinese drywall problem creates all sorts of financial and legal challenges for home owners. The government is aware of the problem and has begun to take certain actions..

In late November 2009 the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued a report finding a link between Chinese drywall, hydrogen sulfide and corrosion of metals in homes. These results should make it possible for government agencies to “develop protocols that will identify homes with this corrosive environment and determine effectiveness of remediation methods. In other words, they re working on the problem, but more study is needed, including in the area of health concerns.

In May 2009 the House of Representatives passed a resolution to encourage banks and mortgage service providers to work with families affected by contaminated drywall. They re also asking the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to study the Chinese drywall problem.

Though the CPSC says not as many homes have been affected as early estimates indicated, tens of thousands of homes are contaminated. Due to the seriousness of the problems caused by Chinese drywall, it s more important than ever to have a home inspection done on the home you wish to purchase. Perhaps you suspect the problem in the home where you live now. Look to a reputable, knowledgeable home inspector for the initial steps to finding and resolving the Chinese drywall problem.

About the Author: You’ve carefully selected the home you’re buying. Make sure you’re as careful when selecting your home inspector. Don’t get stuck paying for repairs missed by a quick home inspection. Author David Haigh is a professional

home inspector in NJ

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