Chinese Drywall: What It Is, Why It’s Bad and How to Avoid It
Drywall is just as important in modern construction as wood and cement. Every wall in virtually every home in America is made of drywall; It provides a smooth, insulating surface that homeowners can apply texture to, paint, hang pictures, and much more. Drywall is a major improvement over previous wall construction methods such as hand-applied plaster, but there is something threatening its ubiquity: China.
A significant portion of the drywall used in America is made in China, where manufacturing costs are low and raw materials are plentiful. For nearly a full decade, drywall manufacturers in China have been sloppy about regulations, and the drywall installed in residential homes during that time poses significant risk to homeowners, contractors, and others close to them. As a result, Chinese drywall has has had a significant impact on the real estate industry, particularly in some regions of the country, since its manufacturing defects and health effects were discovered.
Homes built or remodeled between 2001 and 2009 could contain Chinese drywall. This means the following:
What is Chinese drywall
Drywall is usually a gypsum-based plaster that is oven-dried between two thick sheets of paper so that it forms flat and smooth. Gypsum is safe and easy to work with, which makes it an ideal building material. Typically, American manufacturers produce enough drywall to meet the country’s demand. Unfortunately, during the construction boom of the early and middle aughts – as well as the increased demand for drywall after Hurricane Katrina – and Chinese drywall were imported into more than 20 states and installed in more than 100,000 homes.
Soon after construction, homeowners complained of strange smells and corroded metal in homes that had Chinese drywall installed. Often times, Chinese drywall homes suffer from plumbing, power, and HVAC issues, and homeowners may notice silver and copper jewelry tarnishing quickly. In addition, many residents of Chinese drywall households suffer from respiratory diseases such as asthma and chronic cough, as well as chronic headaches and sinus problems.
Early enough research revealed that the drywall was giving off several volatile chemicals, including carbon disulfide, carbonyl sulfide, and hydrogen sulfide. Laboratory tests revealed that the foreign drywall contained a number of other strange constituents, including higher levels of pyrite, fly ash, and a bacterium known as Acidithiobacillus ferroxidans. Any of these components can release excess sulfur, causing the problems listed above.
How to fix the Chinese drywall problem
Brokers can hardly venture into houses affected by drywall in China and replace the affected components themselves. However, there are steps that brokers and brokers can take to ensure that their clients are protected from this threat. For example, a group of real estate agents in southwest Florida – an area hit hard by Katrina and suffering severely from Chinese drywall work – is campaigning for drywall made in China to be included in the disclosure list, along with radon gas and mold. Since inspectors cannot visually distinguish Chinese drywall from American-made drywall, the mandatory disclosure would ensure buyers have all relevant information about problems in their potential home. It might be advisable for all brokers to work for this disclosure to keep their clients safe and property safe everywhere.
Realtors should also be able to help homeowners identify Chinese drywall in their homes and make suggestions on how to remedy the situation. First, realtors should be able to tell home buyers if there was any construction on the property between 2001 and 2009. Then brokers should look for blackened copper cables, AC coils, or piping with the help of a qualified inspector. Then samples of the corroded copper and the disruptive drywall should be sent for laboratory tests.
If a home is found to have dangerous drywall, it may not be an instant deal breaker. Brokers should provide the contact information of drywall repair companies in Phoenix – or those in the area who have experience repairing damage to drywall in China. Also, given the presence of such a potentially hazardous building material, brokers should be able to negotiate a much lower purchase price.
Chinese drywall is a construction problem as much as asbestos or lead, but few buyers are aware of the dangers. A good real estate agent should be able to calmly and competently explain and address concerns so that buyers and sellers feel more confident and secure.