Drywall in Demand


The Gulf coast was ravaged in 2004 as a result of Hurricane Katrina and other natural occurrences.  Thousands of homes were seriously damaged or destroyed and rebuilding efforts were extensive.  Building materials such as drywall were in high demand and domestic distributors couldn’t keep up.  Home builders and contractors were forced to import the supplies they needed.  In fact, 20 Chinese companies exported nearly 500 million pounds of drywall from 2004 to 2008 to the U.S.


The Problem With Chinese Drywall…

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Foul odors and the corrosion of metal components became an all too common complaint from homeowners in Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi.  In 2006, an investigation was launched to find the source of the problem.  The results of the tests conducted by Environ were that the drywall that was imported from China was emitting sulfur-based gases, which was not only causing the rotten egg smell but also the corrosion to the metals.


The escape of these sulfur-based gases, strontium sulfide more specifically, from the drywall is triggered by heat and humidity.  The damaging corrosive effects could be seen on metal picture frames, bathroom faucets, and copper piping.  In addition, the metal fans on air conditioners and heating units were also being damaged by corrosion, causing them to fail.


China’s manufacturing practices are not held to the same standard as the U.S. though they are refuting any accusations of foul play.  According to CBS news, Chinese drywall may be present in up to 100,000 homes in 8 U.S. states.


The presence of fly-ash is the most notable difference between domestic gypsum drywall and the imported gypsum.  Chinese drywall is darker in color and crumbles more easily as a result of the fly-ash.


In many instances the replacement of entire plumbing and heating systems is necessary, in addition to the drywall.  A lot of insurance companies are refusing to cover these costs and recent estimates are estimates are placing total losses in the $25 billion range.


How to Identify Chinese Drywall


There are currently no government standards for inspection or identification of Chinese drywall.  There are, however, several ways to know for sure if a home has Chinese drywall.  The first is to look for a label on any exposed drywall.  Most of the drywall imported from China was manufactured by a company named Knauf.  The most common places to find exposed drywall is in an attic or crawl space.  Some other clues include the rotten egg smell, brown or black residue on copper water piping, corroding metal fixtures or frames, and regular sinus and respiratory problems, wheezing, headaches and sore throats.