Chinese made drywall pose serious health and structural threats according to tests by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)l, and federal authorities are urging consumers to start gutting any homes that contain the harmful, sulfur-emitting material.
Problems with Chinese drywall began to surface in late 2009, and after scientific study of the problem, HUD and CPSC recommend removing the problem drywall as well as replacing all electrical and other metal-based components that could have been corroded by the drywall's sulfur off-gassing. So, along with new drywall, that means installing new wiring, gas service piping, HVAC components, fire suppression sprinkler systems, smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms.The CPSC is still working out how to help homeowners cover the cost of necessary Chinese drywall remediation, but wanted to issue this interim remediation guidance so consumers can get going with the gutting that prevents further structural problems and health threats. It's a follow-up to a protocol for identifying problem drywall in the home, and a way of offering a solid next step to those who have found that they're in that category.
"This guidance, based on the CPSC's ongoing scientific research, is critical to ensuring that homeowners and contractors have confidence that they are making the appropriate repairs to rid their homes of problem drywall," said Jon Gant, director of HUD's Office of Healthy Homes and Lead Hazard Control. "We will continue to work with our Congressional, state and local partners as they seek policy solutions based on our guidance and CPSC's scientific findings."
For now, the resources for covering Chinese drywall removal are limited to homeowners' insurance and personal finances, with possible help from FHA mortgage lenders who have been encouraged to extend relief to borrowers facing drywall removal, and from funds that cities, counties and states receive from HUD's Community Development Block Grant program.
Without remediation, however, the costs to human health and risks of home disasters can be much higher. With hydrogen sulfide emission rates as much as 100 times greater than non-Chinese drywall, Chinese drywall doesn't just emit an unpleasant rotten-egg smell but can also cause nose, throat and lung irritations and behind-the-scenes corrosion that leads to fires and other home front threats.
Chinese-made drywall came onto the U.S. construction scene a few years back during the building boom that followed the Gulf Coast hurricanes, and so far has been found in structures in Florida, Louisiana, Alabama, Virginia and Mississippi. No new shipments came into the country during 2009, and any Chinese drywall currently warehoused here is under strict watch by the CPSC.
Beware of scammers
Homeowners dealing with Chinese drywall should be wary of scam contractors looking to leverage their misfortune. According to the FTC, an "industry" of phony drywall testers, inspectors and quick-fix contractors has popped up in the midst of this Chinese drywall debacle, and the FTC has warned homeowners to be alert to such scams.
For more tips on Chinese drywall or to follow the ongoing investigation, visit the federal Drywall Information Center.
Tom Kraeutler delivers home improvement tips and ideas each week as host of The Money Pit, a nationally syndicated home improvement radio program. He is also AOL's Home Improvement Editor and author of "My Home, My Money Pit: Your Guide to Every Home Improvement Adventure."
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