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Home Inspection and Safety Blog

Evaluating a home, and special interest info for home owners

By Philippe Heller | Home Inspector in San Diego, CA

Is Chinese Drywall Making Your House Sick?

As if there weren't enough things to worry about in your home. Now it appears that imported drywall is causing foul odors, damaging copper components, and making people sick. So is this a case of mistaken identity or a true concern?

During the 2004 - 2005 building boom, home builders had trouble obtaining enough drywall for all of the houses they were building. They searched for other sources and sure enough, they found suppliers in China. The price and quantity were right, so it was installed in many homes. But the problems started showing up over the last year or so. Air conditioning units started to fail, plumbing was corroding, and people complained about foul sulfur odors.

When the AC coils were opened the copper tubing inside was black. According to Trane, a manufacturer of AC equipment, the coils looked like they were 20 years old, not two or three. Upon further investigation, the same black scale was found on the copper plumbing and electrical wiring. All of these findings were coupled with that same sulfur smell.

Tests are still underway, but it is assumed that the Chinese drywall contains ash from the many coal-fired power plants in China. China has low quality coal that has high sulfur content.  The ash from the plants may have been mixed with the gypsum used to make drywall. The sulfur leaks into the air as a gas and combines with the moisture on air conditioning coils to create sulfuric acid, which appears to be dissolving solder joints and copper tubing — creating leaks, blackening the coils and even causing the system to fail.

This issue appears to be limited to the Southeastern part of the United States and in particular Florida and Georgia. The high humidity may be contributing to the problem.  The humidity is absorbed by the drywall which releases the sulfur gas. The humidity also causes condensation to form on pipes and AC coils, and when the gas is mixed with water if can create sulfuric acid. The odor is not immediately apparent until the drywall becomes damp, so the problem went un-noticed until after it was installed.

So how can you tell if you have Chinese drywall installed in your house? You need to look at the back of the drywall. This can be done by going into your attic and moving some insulation. You will see a stamp on the back of the drywall. Look for the manufacture code KNAUF. If you have it, contact your builder. The issue has yet to be resolved, but as you might guess, lawyers are lining up in droves.  

If you are buying a house please note that your home inspector will not report on the type of drywall installed in your home. It is beyond the scope of a standard home inspection.

Philippe Heller

The San Diego Real Estate Inspection Co.

www.sdinspections.com

Comments

By John Griffith,  Mon Jan 5 2009, 09:14
So it’s been established that the sulfuric gas is a copper corrosive and is having a negative impact on some air conditioning coils. What about the fresh water piping behind the drywall that’s also being exposed to this gas? For homes that have copper piping for example, it would seem that this piping is also corroding as a result of the exposure to the same sulfuric gas. If the home has a plastic piping system with metal fittings or connectors then it’s possible that these metal components are also corroding prematurely. Anyone have any comments or experience with this?
By Philippe Heller,  Mon Jan 5 2009, 10:08
John, your assumption is true. From what I have read, copper throughout these houses has black scale on it. Including the plumbing and wiring. Plumbing fixtures are also starting to corrode prematurely. This may end up being a big problem for the builders who's sub contractors used this stuff. Of course, more testing is required before a final conclusion is reached.
By Martin L,  Tue Jan 6 2009, 16:53
Sulfuric acid will corrod the heck out of almost any metal it comes in contact with. Now just think of how it affects a persons lungs.
By Toxified,  Sun Jan 11 2009, 09:30
I can tell you how it affects a persons lungs. You start getting tuberculousis /asthma type symptoms. No fun having your lungs fill with fluids, coughing, headaches and loosing your voice all the time. My neighbors are also now getting nose bleeds from breathing this stuff in. The worst being found in this junk from china is hydrogen sulfide. Add to the mix, brain damage, memory loss, central nervous system damage and optic nerve damage. It's also causing new computer hardrives to fail within a year. It's a nightmare. Worse, pretty much everyone with it, bought new from a builder and signed to a mandatory, binding arbitration clause in their sales contracts. There will be no class action suits on this.
By Steelermom,  Thu Jan 15 2009, 18:26
We are investigating problems with Chinese drywall in Florida homes. For more information, please visit: http://www.defective-chinese-drywall-lawsuit.com/
By Philippe Heller,  Thu Jan 15 2009, 19:49
Dear Steelermom, Do you know of this Chinese Drywall in any other states? People have contacted me to see if Lennar used it in California.
By Gordon Berken,  Mon Jan 26 2009, 15:08
I was a production home builder during this time in Florida. We were delivering over 1000 homes per year. Drywall was very difficult to obtain. I can remember complaints about “yellow drywall”. Apparently it was Chinese Drywall. There was a severe shortage of drywall and cement at the time. We had homes just sitting and waiting for drywall deliveries. Typically the home builder subcontracts the drywall in what is called a "Turnkey" relationship. Turnkey means the subcontractor furnishes all of the labor and material for their trade. This is a customary practice in Florida. This drywall was UL rated. Who could have known? I wonder how folks will be able to determine if they have this defective drywall in their homes. I’ve heard the drywall smells like sulfur. I now own an insurance restoration company and one of my top Project managers also came from the homebuilding industry. He worked for a very prestigious high end builder at the time. He commented that he too had deliveries of this drywall and he had rejected it because it had a foul smell. Paul Davis Restoration of Broward has helpful advice at
http://restorationofbroward.com/cm/Reconstruction/Defective%20Chinese%20Drywall.html
By Lollygag,  Fri Feb 6 2009, 23:46
Our home also has Chinese Drywall. We settled in 2006 and our punch sheet which we found has smell written on it.

Also during our punch sheet the mirrors had turned black, and drains were also black. The builder Taylor Morrison took care of this under the warranty, however they did not think there was a smell.

We only use this home in the winter, but that does not make it any less important to us. We try and come as often as possible, and it was our "happy" place. Two days ago after confirmation of Chinese Drywall, we vacated our home.
The smell is not so much like rotten eggs to me. It was more like a wood burning or maybe a varnish smell.
I kept thinking something was dead in the walls.

When we returned this Oct. the smell was as strong as ever, and our mirrors had all turned black again, our drains all pitted again, and our new TV and computer had gone bad.

We left to return in Dec. and when company came over, she said, you had better check for Chinese Drywall.
Because I had never heard of it, I decided to call the builder. After three calls none of which were returned, I went home for a few days, and returned in January, and called the corporate office. We had all been noticing scratchy throats, burning of the eyes, and also nasal drip and headaches.

Taylor Morrison sent out three men on the morning of the 2nd of February. They said it was their first complaint, however this is not true. There is a girl who complained some time ago, only to be told they would put in a air purification system.

These three men said they had never heard of it, and they only use good materials. Read their web site, FALSE ADVERTISING at its best.
I told them my daughter and i needed to be relocated immediately. Taylor Morrison has many empty homes that should not be effected.
Taylor Morrison then called me and said they had no proof it was a health hazard and did not believe i had Chinese Drywall. They told me they had not used it.
I then called the Health Dept to find out that there was a simply way of testing to verify you may have it.
That is to pull off an outlet and if the cooper wire is black, chances are very good you have Chinese Drywall.
The outlet was pulled the wire black.
The fact the air conditioner had failed also pointed to a problem.
After finding a black wire, I called Taylor Morrison with my findings and told them to come look. I had company, and I will tell you they were simply appalled at the statements made by their company rep
Birch from Taylor Morrison said he smelled it but that it was again probably not Chinese Drywall. My friends told him we were being poisioned. I contacted the law offices I saw who were handling cases. Ultimately I chose Richard Serpe of Virginia.
I again contacted Taylor Morrison this time calling the CEO directly. This time i got her assistant who while having a sympathic ear, said she could only relay the messages. She said the CEO of the Southwest Division would call me.
HE did not . I told Dawn the assistant we needed to be relocated. She said she would again relay it.
I also then got a call from the CEO of the SW division who said that it was not dangerous. I hung up.
Taylor Morrison does not care, their web site is false, and they left me in harms way. Anything that shuts down TV's, ruins mirrors, and pits metal can not be good for you.
Further, I believe the state of Florida should condemn all of these homes until proven they are SAFE! Why are we waiting to prove they are not.
Two days ago, an investigator with my attorneys office and an engineer came and spent six hours in my home. He is an expert and immediately identified the smell. However being a scientist, he pulled samples from outlets and the AC.
After gaining much of his evidence, labeling it, and taking photos and videos, the said he really needed a piece of drywall. Knauf Tianjin was making much of what was being found to be defective. After cutting into the wall, and putting his scope in, he found a big piece with the name Knauf Tianjin very big on the boards.
I cried and am still in shock. I am worried about my health and my families health. We immediately vacated the premises. We are now in Naples at friends trying to find a rental in high season. I need to be here to move our things out, and to be available . We have friends with plane tickets coming and we have no home. My business is internet out of my home and I can not work. I have lost sleep and am writing this at 2 am. I am worried about our health, and do not know what to do next.
Our homes, all of us with Chinese Drywall have a very big problem. They need to be plowed to the ground. Their value is nothing. Even if the unit is gutted out, forever we must disclose if we sell that the homes have Chinese Drywall.

The state needs to step up. Our builder Taylor Morrison has treated us as if we are a thorn in their side, and has done nothing. In fact they said it would be two weeks to be tested something I had done within in 24 hours. They would not have anyone call who did not say they did not use Chinese Drywall.
The CEO Sheryl Palmer would not return my calls. Her assistant said she knows about it, and can not help me, because they have to help anyone the same.
What I know is the engineer who is testing daily said he had never seen it that bad.
I hope we all get help, and someone helps us.
Taylor Morrison used sub standard materials and then told me to deal with it.

Now the attorneys get rich, all around the country, but at least they protect us.
By Doug,  Tue Feb 10 2009, 13:57
It's pretty much a given that drywall imported from China made it's way to other states in the country. Since January 1, 2006, 51,934,137 pounds have entered California according to the Port Import Export Reporting service (PIERS). As noted in another reply, 2004 through 2006 saw a demand for drywall especially in Florida who too was experiencing a building boom. Along with the aftermath of Hurricane rita and wilma the demand was high. I have found that the price of the drywall wasn't necessarily the reason it was used. It was more for the availability of the Drywall. The Florida region has much more humidity then California. The humidity its been reported, when mixed with the Hydrogen Sulfide reacts in a way that corrodes copper and other metals. That is the black color these materials have on them. Personal items like jewelry and other metal artifacts have also been reported as turning black in color. In many of the tests performed on the subject drywall three types of sulfide gases were found after testing: carbon disulfide, carbonyl sulfide and dimethyl sulfide. These tests showed no presence of Hydrogen Sulfide. Other independent tests have shown the presence of the Hydrogen Sulfide.

Samples reviewed were found to contain a marking for an outdated standard:  “ASTM C36.”  The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) is an international standards organization that develops standards for products and materials. The C36 standard was replaced over four years ago with “ASTM C1396.”  The interesting thing here is the C36 drywall was produced in March 2006, two years after that standard was changed. And yes the attorneys are all over the place letting America know about the dangerous and serious problem. They're even on YouTube helping us "pick the right attorney".
I'm more curious as to when it's all going to hit the fan. Home owners with any kind of cough or respiratory ailment who lives in a house built during this time I'm sure will insist that they too have the drywall in their house. This could end up being the "new mold" issue that took us over in the early 90's.
By Sharonp,  Sun Apr 12 2009, 05:43
My home was built by Associated Homes in 2005-2006. Has anyone found that they used this drywall?
By Philippe Heller,  Sun Apr 12 2009, 17:06
Sharop, where is the house? Please don't list the exact address, but city and state would be helpful.

Thanks!
By Concerned Mom,  Tue May 19 2009, 13:23
I'm thinking my home in the Orlando, FL area has the drywall from China. My son is 4 and has health issues such as severe bronchitis, allergic rhinitis (getting horrific nose bleeds out of no where), and he is sick every time you turn around. His lung specialist has told us to remove him from the home; which we have done. We've noticed silver jewelry turned black, ac pipes black and both my husband's parents and mine have always smelt something in our house. We could not pinpoint where the odor was coming from, but now we know why. Our home was built in 2004 by Palmer Homes.
By Johna185,  Thu Oct 15 2009, 23:41
Im just wondering if any houses in Louisiana had any complaints....My husband and I had our house finished in Sept. of 06, and our builder did a really shoddy job. I wouldn't be surprised if he used this drywall.
By Cynthia111,  Tue Nov 10 2009, 04:20
Chinese drywall manufacturer, Knauf, has agreed to accept “service of lawsuits” for one month, an unprecedented move that eliminates many of the obstacles claimants have been facing, and a huge breakthrough for plaintiffs who have suffered the unpleasant and potentially harmful odors and fumes and metal corrosion associated with defective Chinese drywall. Claimants with KPT drywall need to file on to the suit no later than December 2, 2009, with the suit filed by December 9, 2009. Homes must be inspected before the December deadline so that claimants can submit proof that their house was built with Knauf Drywall. This is a good place to get information on filing a suit: http://www.yourlawyer.com/articles/read/17221 and includes a toll-free number for claimants looking to join the lawsuit. Knauf Plasterboard (Tianjin) Co., Ltd., is alleged to be a subsidiary of the German-based Knauf Gips KG and is one of several Chinese companies accused of manufacturing and importing defective drywall from China into the U.S.
By Cynthia111,  Wed Nov 25 2009, 04:01
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 http://www.yourlawer.com or by calling 1-800-LAW-INFO (1-800-529-4636).
By Star,  Tue Dec 22 2009, 21:36
Does anybody know if the Chinese Drywall was used to build homes in the North Fresno, CA area?
By Philippe Heller,  Wed Dec 23 2009, 05:45
So far no Chinese drywall has turned up in California as far as we know.

Philippe Heller
The San Diego Real Estate Inspection Co.
http://www.sdinspections.com
By Jenn,  Fri Aug 20 2010, 20:43
BY Jenn, Friday 20 2010, 11:45
does anyone know if the chinese drywall was used to build majestic homes in florida
By Bonnie,  Thu Sep 2 2010, 11:37
We just made an offer - which was accepted - on a house subject to inspections. It was professionally inspected and at least 5 sheets of drywall were found in attic marked "Made In China". No others were accessible to inspector. No corrosion was found in electrical sockets, no strong odors present. Interior of HVAC was not inspected as part of this inspector's routine. No copper pipes in house that we could find.
The seller said he wants to fix the problem. He has already moved and wants desperately to sell the house. The sale is due to close in 30 days and I cannot see how it would be possible for him to remove all the sheet rock and replace it in that time frame.
How can we determine that all of the Chinese drywall was removed and not just the easily accessible sheets.
The Ormond Beach house was built by ICI builders in 2006.
We were told that "not all Chinese Drywall is tainted".
How do I get out of this contract? Was told that I have to allow seller opportunity to make it right. Is this correct?
By Philippe Heller,  Thu Sep 2 2010, 13:55
I'm not familiar with Ormand Beach. Is that in Florida? Anyway, the only way to confirm is through testing in a lab. Google it and you will find companies which test for Chinese Drywall contamination.
By Bonnie,  Thu Sep 2 2010, 18:33
yes, Ormond Beach is in Florida, just north of Daytona Beach.
By Airmd Mold Tester,  Tue Feb 1 2011, 11:17
When it comes to your health, don't delay. If you think you have a problem with any toxins in your home have a specialist look at.
http://www.airmd.com/mold-testing/mold-testing-naples/
http://www.airmd.com/evaluations/chinese-drywall/
By Concerned,  Wed Feb 29 2012, 20:26
I live just north of Ormond Beach and my home was built by ICI. Although I have noticed strange things in my home, it never occured to me that it could be the result of Chinese Drywall, however, in the past 2 days I have researched the effects on the home and health and was shocked at what I learned and am convinced I have Chinese Drywall. I plan to have this checked for confirmation asap. First, both AC units in my home have kept giving me problems, light bulbs blow sooner that expected, chrome in tub drains and around light fixtures in bathroom have been corroding(I have never had this happen in any home I've lived in, just thought it was a Florida thing). Also, the hinges on my bathroom door are corroding which I thought was really strange since not all have corroded(never had this happen). I've noticed dust like particles in the air which I kept saying could not be healthy to breathe(thought it was coming from A/C). TV's and electronics have stopped working. The list goes on. And most important, health issues. I was concerned when my child continued to have headaches and nasal like sinus problems. We were all having these symptoms and they started after we moved into this home. I kept thinking it had something to do with the home but the thought of Chinese Drywall literally never entered my mind. Finally, I was diagnosed with nasopharynx cancer and have read that it has been confirmed that being exposed to the toxic drywall can cause this. I doubt that there has been many diagnosis with this but I suspect we will see a sharp rise for anyone living in a toxic home for any length of time. I have lived in my home since 2005. It was a new home. It is only my stronge opinion that I have this toxic drywall and also my strong opinion that if you have it, you should consider relocating before the health issues get worse
By Philippe Heller,  Thu Mar 1 2012, 06:27
Wow please keep us posted. Thank you for sharing.
By Lisa,  Sun Mar 4 2012, 10:13
Is there any chance that you can live in a home with Chinese Drywall and NOT have any ill effects from it? I have fallen in love with a house in Florida, and can get it at a decent price, but they have disclosed that it does have the defective drywall. My thought is to buy it, move in and go room to room replacing the drywall, which could take a while for the size of the house. I was curious though if this could be done without my family or pets getting sick and my appliance and electronics being ruined. Any thoughts out there on this? I'm close to putting in an offer so I need input quickly!!! Thanks!!
By Philippe Heller,  Sun Mar 4 2012, 11:10
That is a huge job! Think about the ceilings, insulation, cabinets, electrical fixtures, etc. When they remediate these houses, they are stripped to the studs. I think you are taking on a huge project.
By Helen Oliveri,  Sun Jan 12 2014, 11:48
Great blog!
By jhaketurner,  Tue Mar 25 2014, 07:19
Molds are part of the natural environment. In outdoors, molds play an important part in nature by breaking down dead organic matter such as fallen leaves and dead trees, etc. But indoors, mold growth should be avoided and prevented. Molds reproduce by means of tiny spores; the spores are invisible to the naked eye (only on microscope) and float through outdoor and indoor air and contaminate areas. Mold may begin to grow indoors when mold spores land on surfaces that are wet or areas with moisture. There are many types of mold, and none of them will grow without water or moisture. So, moisture plays a great part of it.
They attack usually on foods but they also attack non-food items like leather, wood and porcelain. Do you notice your allergic reactions are worse when you're at home but you feel better when you go out? Well, expect it. If so then it's especially likely you could have mold. Don’t go weary of staying in one place. Find a way for mold detection

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