Chinese Drywall Repair: Ready, Set, Sue!

Posted on Posted in General Article

“Don’t anticipate there’s going to be some magic paint… that’s going to fix this problem,” announced David Kraus, a state toxicologist with the Florida Department of Health.  Damnit!  Now what am I going to do with all this paint I bought from those lying magicians!  If your home smells like eggs and your appliances have stopped running, you may want to get in touch with a professional liar- in other words, a lawyer.

What is it?

Chinese drywall repair refers to the repair of drywall that has been imported from China which is emitting gases that corrode copper, reek of rotten eggs, and worst of all, can make you sick.  This is not to imply that all Chinese drywall is tainted, though recent reports have primarily targeted several Chinese drywall manufacturers.  It is still unknown, however, if any of the contaminated drywall was originally manufactured in the U.S. or made in China and later rebranded in the states.

This specific type of drywall is alleged to contain high levels of sulfur, which causes corrosion in copper piping and wiring within houses, as well as within electronics and appliances such as air conditioners, washing machines, and refrigerators.  There has not been much conclusive evidence to pinpoint the reason for the drywall’s toxicity, although a popular theory is that the drywall became tainted from being manufactured in gypsum mines, which used coal fly ash, a waste by-product from power plants.  When coal fly ash leaks into the air, it can potentially emit sulfur compounds.

While it is unknown how many U.S. homes contain Chinese drywall, most reported cases are developing in Florida, with a smaller, yet significant amount in Alabama and Louisiana.  This is most likely due to the humidity and heat of these areas, which causes the sulfur in tainted drywall to migrate into indoor air, creating a noxious odor. However, some attorneys involved in Chinese drywall class action suits believe that the problem may be larger than the scope of the three states in question, claiming that the humidity of these areas is what’s exacerbating the foul smell and corrosion of copper.  Likewise, the head of construction consulting firm Foreman & Associates claims that in 2006 and the early months of 2007, the United States imported enough drywall from the Chinese manufacturers in question to build at least 50, 000 homes.

Who needs it?

The tell-tale signs of tainted Chinese drywall are foul odors (especially noticeable when first entering the house), corrosion of household appliances and electronics (most evident through blackened wires) which causes them to break down (especially if they’re fairly new), and the onslaught of health ailments, primarily headaches, sore throats, and irritation of the eyes.  So if you’re experiencing at least two out of the three (be mindful, it is allergy season), you should probably contact a local inspector.

Most of the homes affected were built between 2004 and 2006, when post-hurricane reconstruction forced a U.S. drywall shortage, which in turn caused builders to look abroad.  However, it has been reported that any home built or remodeled as early as 2001 to the present could be at risk.

Benefits/Risks

There are no real benefits to Chinese drywall repair because there is no state or federal government mandated remediation protocol, most likely due to the ongoing investigation of the seriousness of the drywall’s toxicity.  In fact, even after Chinese drywall has been removed from a home, traces of the toxic particulate may still remain and continually enter the homeowners’ lungs.

Furthermore, the removal of Chinese drywall is anything but cheap.  Florida attorney Ervin A. Gonzalez confirms that, “It would cost a third of an affected home’s value to fix the dwelling.”  Not only would you have to more or less gut the home in question, but you would also have to continue paying mortgages as well as pay for temporary housing. And yes, temporary housing would be wise considering that prolonged exposure to found compounds in Chinese drywall could potentially present serious health risks.  Better safe than sorry.

THE BOTTOM LINE

If your house smells like rotten eggs and it’s not Halloween (or Easter for that matter), if your household appliances are breaking down when they never used to, and if you’re experiencing chronic headaches, then get a certified inspector to check your drywall.  If you indeed have tainted drywall, it’s best to shack up someplace else, contact a lawyer, and get your class action suit on, so to speak, as many Floridians have started doing.  Unless you have money to burn, avoid Chinese drywall repair until more information is available on the matter.