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What is "Chinese Drywall" and is it a problem in Northern Virginia?

"Chinese Drywall" is a product manufactured by Chinese Manufacturer's using unrefined "fly ash," a coal residue found in the smokestacks of coal-fired power plants, in their manufacturing process. The fly ash contains "Strontium Sulfide," a toxic substance commonly found in fireworks. In areas of hot and wet climates, this substance becomes gaseous, turning into Hydrogen Sulfide, Carbon Disulfide, and Carbonyl Sulfide, and begins contaminating the home's air supply.

Most reported incidents have been reported in Florida and other southern states that are known for their higher levels of heat and humidity. Of the homes reported to be affected by this phenomenon, most were built between 2004 and 2007, especially those following Hurricane Katrina when domestic building materials were in short supply. It has been reported that an estimated 250,000 ton's of drywall was imported from China during that period of time, because it was cheap and plentiful. Approximately 100,000 homes in the United States were built using this material, during the construction process.

It is believed by many that the use of this material has led to some serious health problems, as well as property damage; although there is currently no scientific proof that Chinese Drywall is responsible for the allegations against it. Although not thought to be life-threatening, exposure to higher levels of airborne Hydrogen Sulfide and other sulfur compounds from the contaminated drywall can result in ailments such as:

  • Sinus Flare-ups
  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Sore Throat
  • Headache
  • Eye Irritations
  • Respiratory Irregularities, and etc.

Because of the newness of this problem, there are currently no government or industry standards for inspecting contaminated drywall in homes. Further, there are no agencies that offer certification for inspection of this product, and homeowners should be aware of con artists attempting to cash-in on this widespread scare, by claiming to be certified inspectors of this product. 

As a general guide, concerned homeowner's can follow these tip's, and we at Best Choice will now include these practices in each home inspection we perform:

  • Does the home have a strong sulfur smell; similar to rotten eggs?
  • Is the kitchen silverware in the home beginning to corrode or discolor?
  • Is the exposed copper wiring in the home darkened or corroded?
  • When possible, a check of the manufacturer's label on the back of drywall can be used to link it with manufacturers who are known to have used contaminated materials.

Known manufacturer's of this product are:

  • Knauf Plaster-board Tianjin
  • Knauf Gips
  • Taishan Gypsum

The tests earlier mentioned, are simple tests that can be used for the possible detection of Chinese Drywall, although they are not foolproof and should not be treated as such. The best method, however, for identification of this product, is in the gathering of drywall samples for testing by qualified labs for dangerous levels of sulfur. This method, however, is also the most expensive method.

To this point, there have been no known reports of Chinese Drywall found in the Northern Virginia area, and because of this point, Best Choice is not offering lab testing of this product at this time.

Contaminated Chinese Drywall cannot be repaired, and homeowners who have identified the product in their homes, are being forced to either replace it, or suffer with bad health, and endure reductions in home values. In addition, many insurance companies are refusing to pay for drywall replacement, and because of the high cost of this job, many of their clients are facing financial ruin.

There have been recent filings of Class-Action lawsuits against various homebuilders, suppliers, and importers of contaminated Chinese Drywall. If identified in your home, you should contact a lawyer as soon as possible, as the cut-off's for some of these suits are to be coming very soon.

For a thorough evaluation of your potential new home purchase, or an evaluation of your current home, to get it ready for market, Call Best Choice, Your Home Inspection Professionals, at 540-898-8188!      


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