Problems with Chinese Drywall

August 11, 2009
Michael Sheehan

While several federal agencies investigate problems with imported drywall, homeowners are in a bind. It's either move out and attempt to sell a home with a major problem, or risk health problems by staying. More bad news: homeowners insurance generally won’t cover drywall replacement costs (an estimated $100,000 price tag).

Homeowners who bought houses that were built with drywall imported from China have been flooding consumer safety organizations with complaints about nasty smells and health problems that include rashes and upper respiratory infections. In addition, they are reporting corroded electrical wiring that causes appliances like air conditioners and microwave ovens to break down. The problem, according to some building experts, is that the drywall is emitting high levels of sulfur compound gases, which accounts for the “rotten eggs” smell and may be causing the corrosion.

An estimated 100,000 homes, mostly built in 2006 and 2007, may have drywall problems, based on the amount of Chinese drywall that was imported into the country during that time. Several federal agencies, including the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are investigating the imported drywall. In the meantime, homeowners with drywall problems are in a bind. Many owners have chosen to move out rather than risk health problems by staying. Those who stay are faced with paying an estimated $100,000, the price tag for ripping out and replacing drywall in an average home. More bad news: homeowners insurance generally won’t cover that cost. Some homebuilders are willing to fix the problem but many will not, and homeowners are left hoping for the same kind of aid that the federal government has given to victims of floods and tornadoes.

Although drywall problems were originally thought to be confined mainly to homes that were built in Florida and Louisiana after the hurricanes of 2004 and 2005, complaints have come to the CPSC from 23 different states, with most of them coming from Southern, Mid-Atlantic and Midwestern states.

To report a suspected drywall problem or to get more information, go to the CPSC’s Drywall Information Center