Chinese drywall? Do you take time to inspect products you're buying to see where they were made? Do you understand the quality controls needed to insure that products you bring into your home are safe?
We take most things for granted – that the food we eat is safe, the cars we drive are safe and that someone is making sure that anything we buy is safe to use in the way it was advertised. Where does this feeling of security come from? From experience and knowing car manufacturers notify us when they're ready to correct known safety problems and the US Consumer Product Safety Commission monitors product safety and publishes recalls on their website (see current product recalls).
We lead busy lives and might feel like we don't have time to research what we're buying, so we simply expect things to work … until they don't. This story is unusual as the product isn't one you bring home from the store and start using. The product is one of the many materials used in home construction, drywall. The challenge has been determining who's responsible for the Chinese drywall problems with many players involved as raw materials get transformed into houses. The chain starts with suppliers of rawl materials, i.e. the gypsum? The manufactures in China? The US distributors who bought Chinese drywall? The builders, remodelers, handyman or homeownerswho bought Chinese drywall for houses they were working on?
Chinese Drywall: How Safe Your Home Is?
The following story might be extreme. It shows how easily silent problems in our homes can lurk for months, and often years, before they become visible in some way that can't be ignored. Probably the only good news here are the odors home owners could smell, and the corrosion to appliances which caused them to fail quickly.
The Chinese drywall problems surfaced in 2009, due to large amounts of defective drywall imported into the US following Katrina and due to the housing boom. The faulty drywall gave off a “rotten egg odor” and caused wiring, plumbing and appliances in a house to be ruined.
Drywall isn't something home owners think about until it needs to be repaired or replaced. Drywall is a key component of most homes, used to construct ceilings and walls throughout a house. Drywall is made of gypsum plaster pressed between 2 sheets of paper and kiln dried. As the paper is a food source for mold growth (think plumbing and roof leaks, along with flooding), newer products are being introduced which use fiberglass instead of paper.
The Chinese drywall problem illustrates the complexity of home contruction. Hopefully we can all learn from this problem, and take steps in the future to find and resolve problems with our homes quickly, so costs don't escalate.
- Accountability – begins with the manufacturers of the faulty Chinese drywall. There's been lots of litigation against these manufacturers and others involved in the supply chain – builders who bought the defective Chinese drywall, sub-contractors involved in the installation, and others like insurance companies. Quoted by the Wall Street Journal, Justice Near for the Prisoners of Chinese Drywall?, the judge involved in settling at least one lawsuit, wrote “… they will be held responsible for total repairs caused by this horrendously inferior product.”
- Repair costs – the repairs needed to address the Chinese drywall problems is significant because of the amount of drywall. Can you imagine dealing with …
- Moving all your furniture out of your home, and putting it into storage.
- Removing the trim around doors, windows and baseboard.
- Ripping out all the ceilings and walls.
- Repairing /replacing anything behind the walls, i.e. wiring and plumbing.
- Hanging drywall, taping seams and 3 coasts of mud.
- Priming and painting the ceilings and walls.
- Re-installing the trim that was removed.
- Cleaning and moving your furniture back.
- Temporary relocation and housing – Consider how long it takes to build a house, and you realize this isn't a project that will be done in 1 to 2 weeks. Homeowners with Chinese drywall problems often left their homes for health reasons and the costs of relocating families can get costly when you consider staying near the home so children can remain in their local schools.
The Chinese drywall repair costs start at $80,000 according to the Wall Street Journal, and then you have to add the costs of relocating families. The article also touches on the costs if the home owner pays retail versus settlements being made to the builders at wholesale costs.
Hopefully this one story shows how important it is to monitor the safety of your home. While the government is continually upgrading building codes to improve safety, home owners play an important role. We're used to smoke alarms but they don't help if you don't replace the batteries. There are carbon dioxide alarms, and sprinkler systems are coming. The EPA's new Renovate, Repair and Paint rule for homes built prior to 1978, is meant to eradicate lead poisoning (learn more about lead problems similar to defective Chinese drywall) which is another silent problem so we hope you realize, smart homeowners take time to learn how their homes are built and need to be maintained.