Though Chinese drywall may sound harmless, for many homeowners in the southeastern United States it has not been. In fact, it is deemed an environmental health concern. So, what is it? Well, in short, it’s defective drywall imported from China and used to build an estimated 100,000 homes in 20 states between 2001 and 2009. (*Please note that not all drywall from China is contaminated)
Chinese Drywall Background Information
Drywall is a type of building material that is made when one layer of gypsum-based plaster is pressed between 2 sheets of paper, and then kiln-dried.
Generally, American homes are built using drywall made within the country. However, America was hit by nine hurricanes between 2004 and 2005, including Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The mass amounts of rebuilding that followed between 2004 and 2007 caused a shortage of drywall that was produced in America. Hence, building companies were purchasing the product from Chinese drywall manufacturers, which are far less regulated than nationally produced drywall.
An independent analysis was conducted, and it was determined that since January of 2006, more than 550 million pounds of drywall have been imported into America. This is enough drywall to produce nearly 60,000 average homes.
Why is the Drywall Different?
Lab comparisons were made between American- and Chinese-made drywall, what they found was the Chinese version contained higher levels of pyrite. This suggests that the source of the sulfur compounds being released is because of pyrite oxidation.
The issues with the drywall may be due to the presence of fly ash in the tainted drywall. Fly ash will begin to degrade when moisture and heat are present. While fly ash is also used in American drywall, the process used to manufacture the product creates a cleaner end product.
Furthermore, a laboratory study, conducted in 2010, found that 100% of the tainted drywall samples taken from homes in the southern US were positive for a sulfur and iron-reducing bacterium known as Acidithiobacillus ferrooxidans. Non-affected drywall samples contained minuscule levels of the bacterium.
Locales Affected by Chinese Drywall
Most complaints within the United States have come from Southeastern states, where a warm, humid climate is present. It’s thought that this type of climate encourages emissions. Here is a look at the locations most affected:
Florida – 56%
Louisiana – 18%
Mississippi – 6%
Alabama – 6%
How do you know if your Home is Affected?
It is important to note that there are other reasons your home may exhibit similar concerns, and it is important that you correctly identify your individual problems. There are several key things you can look for if you suspect a home contains contaminated Chinese drywall.
Many people describe strong sulfur, or “rotten egg”, smell upon entering a home with affected drywall. However, the smell is not always present. The first question to ask yourself is – was the home built between the years 2001 and 2009? If the home was not built between these years or did not undergo any renovations, it is doubtful that Chinese drywall is present. However, if it was built between these years, conducting a visual inspection is your next step.
The best place to begin is to look for blackening on air conditioning evaporator coils and/or copper electrical wiring.
If you find the presence of blackening, it is a great idea to hire an outside lab to conduct a few tests for you. They can look for things such as elemental sulfur located in the core of the drywall, copper sulfide on grounding wires, air conditioning coils, or coupons, and even elevated sulfide gas emissions being given off by the drywall.
Health Concerns of Chinese Drywall
There are many health concerns connected to contaminated Chinese drywall.
Health concerns thought to come from short-term exposure:
- Sore throat
- Eye irritation
- Chest Pain
- Shortness of Breath
Health concerns thought to be brought on by long-term exposure:
- Memory Loss
- Chronic Fatigue
- Loss of Appetite
The Centers for Disease Control released a statement suggesting that most homeowners suffered from itchy skin and eyes, persistent cough, runny noses, difficulty breathing, bloody noses, asthma attacks, sinus infections, and recurrent headaches.
The Remediation of Chinese Drywall
If your home contains contaminated Chinese Drywall, it is important that you replace the following items inside your home:
- All drywall inside the home
- All electrical wiring (both uninsulated and insulated)
- All copper pipes
- The entire HVAC system
- Most appliances (especially the refrigerator)
- Electronics such as computers and TVs
- All carpeting, hardwood, and vinyl flooring
- All tile flooring, unless it can be protected during remediation
- All countertops and cabinets, unless you remove and store them during remediation
- All baseboards, trim, and molding
- All bathroom fixtures
After all the contaminated drywall has been removed, the property must be cleaned with a HEPA vacuum, power-washed or wet-wiped, and then aired out for between 15 and 30 days. You must then have your property certified by an independent engineer to certify that the home was safely remediated.
In the end, don’t write a property off as worthless just because it contains Chinese drywall. The fact is, the home can be safely remediated and brought back to its former glory. Our drywall professionals here at Meeks Drywall have all the skills and know-how to help remediate your home of Chinese drywall from start to finish. If you are thinking about, or have recently purchased a Chinese drywall home in Cape Coral, N. Ft Myers, Bonita Springs, Ft. Myers, Naples, or anywhere else in SW Florida, give us a call today, and let’s make your home new again!