Is Toxic Chinese Drywall in your home?

By
Home Inspector with Trace Home Inspections

Over the past few months, owners of newer homes nationwide have been complaining of drywall that smells like rotten eggs. In several cases, they have had to leave their home because the smell was so bad. In addition to the putrid smell, many homeowners have reported problems with air conditioning and other systems that are likely related to the defective Chinese drywall.  This is being called the next EIFS like disaster in the real estate market!

Many have spent hundreds and even thousands of dollars - to have air conditioning, pipes and wiring repaired. Usually, drywall is manufactured in the United States, but a shortage between 2001 and 2007 prompted many builders to buy drywall from China.

Most of the reported problems stem from drywall imported from China during the construction boom years of 2002-2006. Florida and the Gulf Coast states have been the first to report and have issue with this drywall showing up but it also showing up in non-coastal areas.

Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin Co. Ltd. of China, a subsidiary of German-based manufacturer Knauf, is the company at the focus of these drywall problems. If your newer home smells like sulfur or rotten eggs, you may have defective Chinese drywall. The problem is coming from coal ash that was mixed into the gypsum drywall compound. One source of tainted materials appears that China was attempting to get rid of their coal ash problems by mixing it with the drywall compound. When the drywall is exposed to moisture, such as high humidity a chemical reaction starts. The result of this reaction is the production of Hydrogen Sulfide and Sulfuric acid gas. This is the rotten egg smell that is present with the drywall.

The difficulty for inspectors is that walls may have been built with drywall from as many as four sources — so simply pulling one clean sample is no guarantee of safety. Many times the supplies can be tracked where they were used by licensed builders. At this time it is possible although not likely that the builders insurance may pay for the damages.

This drywall is responsible for the destruction of the copper coils in HVAC units in the homes that it has been installed in. The corrosive off gassing is also responsible for damaging many other components in the homes from the copper electrical to the nails and screws that are holding everything together in the home.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said it was investigating complaints about the Chinese-made drywall. All houses affected have shown a common symptom — blackened, scorched wiring behind switch plates, damaged A/C coils and damaged wall plugs — along with homeowner health symptoms, that's allowed research to proceed,

If you think that you might have Chinese Drywall, you should contact a reputable home inspector who is familiar with this problem. As this problem is just starting to rear its ugly head, many are not aware of this problem. If you want to learn more, just do a Google search on Chinese Drywall and you will find pages of information on it.  Information can also be found on my website

Fox TV 17 News story on Chinese drywall

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Re-Blogged 3 times:

Re-Blogged By Re-Blogged At
  1. Steve Mun 07/22/2009 09:38 AM
  2. Sybil Campbell 02/17/2010 05:09 AM
  3. Brandon Jordan 03/11/2010 09:13 AM
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Anonymous
TJ

I am living in a Newly constructed military house in Nebraska. I have been living in it for nearly a year now. The houses were built by a local company that builds houses in huge quantity on the civilian side too. They provide affordable housing for the most part and judging by the quality of the construction, they use the cheapest of products and labor, that is probably why they won the tender in the first place!  My concern is that for the last six weeks I have had headaches, dizzy spells and a little nose bleed but nothing to be concerned about. My aunt visited from Europe and whilst she was in the house for a month, she suffered nose bleeds that were uncontrolable, in fact her nose bleeds frightened both of us they were so bad. The one thing that my aunt and I have in common is silent acid reflux issues. I just find it weird that both of us have shared the same problem in the house. The house does not smell of sulphur or rotten eggs (by the way, I cannot tolerate anti-biotics with sulphur). The finishings however on the hinges etc mostly have been painted over but are now covered in a black soot that is coming through the paint. The hinges that have not been painted over look like they are tarnished. Is this normal?

Apr 12, 2009 01:56 AM #15
Rainer
130,517
Scott Patterson
Trace Home Inspections - Spring Hill, TN
Home Inspector, Middle TN

Hi TJ,

First off I would go to the doctor and explain your condition.  Next you should contact the person that is over the base housing and let them know of your concerns.  Then I would ask neighbors who are in similar homes if they are having any issues.

Many things in the home could be causing your problems.  It could be carpets, countertops, cabinets, and even paint "off gassing".  This is when the chemicals that are used in the manufacturing process dissipate in the open air. I'm sure you have heard of the infamous FEMA trailers that were "off gassing" and causing folks to get sick.

The black particulates you are seeing on the hinges could be just the metal filings from the friction of movement, it could be graphite that was used as a lubrication, it could be oil that is collecting the dirt and grim that is in the air, it could be just about anything.  The metal that is used for hinges is not a reactive metal like copper. 

In a home with Chinese drywall, copper items will turn almost black.  This is usually seen in the HVAC system and the electrical wiring. 

Your first step needs to be a visit to the doctor and then to whoever is over the housing at you base.

 

Apr 12, 2009 02:39 AM #16
Anonymous
Jill J

I live in a planned comunity and MI homes is our builder. We have several homes that have the toxic drywall. Last count was over 17 of the roughly 50 houses. We had the coils go out in our a/c units three different times. So MI had a company come to take drywall samples and have them tested. It's been three weeks and we still haven't heard a word about the drywall. One of our neighbors who does have the toxic drywall said that they only tested the homes that they thought had the toxic drywall. They are not actually taking samples from any of the other homes built at the same time. My concern is what if there was toxic drywall used in just PARTS of the house? What if the samples that were taken were from good drywall when we have it in other parts of the house? Does anyone know how to tell for sure with out testing every single piece of drywall?

Apr 29, 2009 08:27 AM #17
Rainer
130,517
Scott Patterson
Trace Home Inspections - Spring Hill, TN
Home Inspector, Middle TN

Hi Jill,

Well, first I must say that you stand a good chance of having the problematic drywall in your home if you have already had 3 A/C coils replaced.  Just sampling drywall from one section of the wall and having it tested will only tell you about that sample.  With it being ins 4'x8' sheets you can quickly see that you would need to take samples every 4' of the walls and ceilings. 

The best way or method I know of to see if a home has the Chinese drywall is the visual method.  Looking at all copper items in the home (electrical wires, A/C coils and water lines), next would be the company stamps on the back of the drywall and then you might even find some of the drywall fasteners (screws, nails) starting to corrode.  Along with this you will have an odor in just about every home I have seen with Chinese drywall.  It might smell like a cap from a child's cap gun or even like fireworks.  It will have a unique sulphur like odor.  You might not notice it simply because you have become use to it.

Once again, testing a single section of drywall is not going to tell you anything other than what that sample is made of.  It will not tell you what that rest of the home is.

Keep in mind that with a new home it would be almost unheard of for a builder to use drywall from two different suppliers or sources.  

Apr 29, 2009 09:48 AM #18
Anonymous
Jill

Scott,

Thanks for your answer. We had yet to hear back from from the lab that tested our drywall, but upon our own investigation found drywall with "Knauf" stamped on it. This company is one of the main suppliers of the Chinese drywall that is in question.

We are now waiting to see how our builder plans to deal with the issue.

Jill

May 21, 2009 03:11 AM #19
Rainer
130,517
Scott Patterson
Trace Home Inspections - Spring Hill, TN
Home Inspector, Middle TN

HI Jill,

I hope that it works out for you.  I learned yesterday that the EPA is now getting involved in it as well as congressional hearings.  I don't know to what extent this is going to go but we shall see. 

May 21, 2009 03:26 AM #20
Rainer
7,510
Eric Van De Ven
Magnum Inspections Inc - Palm City, FL

Jill,

The Knauf drywall is what you are looking for.Now that you have confirmed that you have it, along with the other symptoms you mentioned, it would be my opinion, that all of the drywall should be removed and replaced.

If you have already had three coils replaced, you are about to have number four replaced. I would also check the electrical wiring. It may require replacement.

I was talking with a representative from GL Homes July 4th and he told me that they are gutting the homes and replacing everything in one shot. They also pay for either a hotel or a rental home. At some point, they are going to have a press release regarding their policy. At least one builder is doing the right thing.

Scott,

I would question your statement about it being unheard of to use two different suppliers/manufacturers for drywall. A house I just inspected had two different manufacturers as well as two different dates. Georgia Pacific (5/13/2004)American Gypsum (6/1/2004).

Back when these homes were being built, there was a shortage of drywall which is why it was obtained from China in the first place. I know of homes that had three different suppliers and three different dates.

Jul 27, 2009 07:55 AM #21
Rainer
130,517
Scott Patterson
Trace Home Inspections - Spring Hill, TN
Home Inspector, Middle TN

Hi Eric,

Thanks for the information.  I still stand by it being almost unheard of for a builder to use drywall from multiple sources.  I'm not saying that it is impossible, it is just not that probable.  True, it has happened in a few instances as you have pointed out, but it is not a normal thing for a builder to do.

It is good to hear that some builders are taking action.  I just wonder how long they can afford to do it?  I wonder if they are being reimbursed by their insurance?

Jul 27, 2009 09:54 AM #22
Rainer
130,517
Scott Patterson
Trace Home Inspections - Spring Hill, TN
Home Inspector, Middle TN

Ramy,

You need to take the first steps!   Don't wait, get on the phone and call the builder.  Register a complaint and document everything.

Aug 05, 2009 08:40 AM #24
Anonymous
Phyllis Johnson

We just found out that we have chinese drywall in our ceilings. Our walls are made of the mold free drywall. The reason being the contractor who did our home did the walls and my husband bought some drywall from someone who was selling it cheaper so that is why we have two different kinds. We do not have a smell that we know of but have had 2 ac coils go out they were black and corroded that is how we begin to suspect chinese drywall. We had a piece of the ceiling sent off and checked and it showed higher levels than normal for sulphur. We as of right now do not have any health issues.  Our home is 2 years old. We have been adviced to take out the ceilings . All of our copper wiring and all still looks new. We have no other signs other than the ac coils at this time. We are going to take out all celings. Because it is only in the ceilings may be why we dont have as much of a smell. We dont beleive we have to take out the walls because they test okay.

Oct 02, 2009 12:09 AM #27
Rainer
130,517
Scott Patterson
Trace Home Inspections - Spring Hill, TN
Home Inspector, Middle TN

Hi Phyllis,

Not all homes will have an odor.  As for health issues associated with problematic drywall, this has not be documented and it effects everyone differently.

For now removal is the only way to get rid of it.

I have an associate in Florida who is the "go to person" for the State AG when it comes to problematic drywall.  He was telling me the other day that they are doing some "test" treatments that involve tenting the home and introducing chlorine gas.  Lab test have shown that the chlorine gas neutralizes the compounds.  Right now a few homes have undergone this treatment and they are just waiting to see the results over time.  If this works it will be the silver bullet, but it is a fairly big if at this time.

Oct 02, 2009 01:06 AM #28
Anonymous
Cynthia

<!--StartFragment-->

The U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission released a report linking Chinese drywall to high levels of hydrogen sulfide and metal corrosion in homes. Hundreds of homeowners have filed suit over defective Chinese drywall, and all pending federal cases have been consolidated in a multidistrict litigation underway in New Orleans. An agreement has been reached and victims whose homes were built with wallboard manufactured by Knauf must sign on to the omnibus class action against Knauf by December 2, 2009. This is a hard deadline that will not be amended to add additional claimants. Eligibility involves proof that the home in question was constructed with wallboard made by Knauf Plasterboard. Parker Waichman Alonso LLP is the first law firm to file a federal Chinese drywall lawsuit and is offering assistance to any homeowner interested in joining the Knauf Plasterbaoard lawsuit. Free consultations are available at www.yourlawer.com or by calling 1-800-LAW-INFO (1-800-529-4636).

<!--EndFragment-->

Nov 24, 2009 10:06 PM #29
Anonymous
Carole

Am I right to assume this drywall from China is also in apartment buildings.

I had nose bleeds often in Arizona and lived in an apartment constructed in 2002-2003

Live in Florida now but get nose bleeds if I try to sleep with windows closed and this apartment was constructed in 2003-2004.  The sprinklers in NE Florida have a sulfur smell so hard to tell if any smell is from drywall.

 

Nov 26, 2009 07:54 PM #30
Rainer
130,517
Scott Patterson
Trace Home Inspections - Spring Hill, TN
Home Inspector, Middle TN

Hi Carole,

It can be in any structure from commercial buildings to modular homes.  New homes or homes that have had repairs or additions, it makes no difference.

Nov 30, 2009 05:26 AM #31
Anonymous
Cynthia

<!--StartFragment-->

The first Chinese drywall lawsuit begins this month and here is some good information on this ongoing issue: http://www.chinese-drywall-answers.com/. Among other problems, people living with Chinese drywall have also suffered eye, respiratory, and sinus problems in addition to problems in their homes such as awful odors and metal corrosion. Some 500 million pounds of Chinese drywall were imported into the U.S., impacting about 100,000 homes. 

<!--EndFragment-->

Jan 07, 2010 12:57 AM #35
Rainer
130,517
Scott Patterson
Trace Home Inspections - Spring Hill, TN
Home Inspector, Middle TN

Cynthia; Thanks for the updates......

Jan 07, 2010 05:15 AM #36
Anonymous
Debbie

Hi Scott,

I was just reading your blog. I am beginning to look at homes in Dickson Tenn. and surrounding areas, and was wondering if homes have been found in Tenn. with the dry wall issues?

And do you know any good inspectors which work in the Dickson area?

Oct 17, 2010 11:09 AM #37
Rainer
130,517
Scott Patterson
Trace Home Inspections - Spring Hill, TN
Home Inspector, Middle TN

Hi Debbie,

We have had a few homes with problematic drywall in TN, but nothing like what they have had in FL or parts of the Gulf Coast.

I cover the Dickson TN are, when you are ready for an inspection give me a call.

Scott

615-302-1113

Oct 17, 2010 02:30 PM #38
Rainer
6,737
Josh Robbins
AirMD - Orlando, FL

Scott,

Down here in Florida we definitely took the brunt of the Chinese Drywall disaster.  You are spot on saying it is best to contact a professional to determine if you have it in your home. 

Home Mold Testing

Mar 04, 2011 08:00 AM #39
Anonymous
Faith

I think this stuff is in my home in Ohio....corrosion is obvious on mirrors, on piping, on plumbing and the a/c coil started to leak in year two....  Our house is very toxic and we just moved out.  I tried to go back and had burning on my skin and pains in my head.  I am in the process of testing and will see if I can find visual signs of the brands on the drywall itself! 

 

We are very sick and have lived in the home for years...I have been sick for years...bedridden...  The thing is this PRECEDES the dates that they have given...  I think this is underreported and worse than anyone realizes...

Jul 29, 2011 09:45 AM #40
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