Drywall Woes Continue

By Joaquin Sapien
ProPublica

This past year, we teamed up with the Sarasota Herald-Tribune to produce a series of almost 20 stories about defective drywall that can release enough sulfur gasses to trigger respiratory problems and cause electric appliances like refrigerators and air conditioners to fail. Many of the families whose homes were built with the defective drywall say they’ve been financially devastated by the problem, since repairing a home with tainted drywall can cost $100,000 or more.

Most of the drywall was produced by manufacturers based in China, but almost 100 homeowners are alleging that some American-made drywall is causing similar problems.

Are you dealing with tainted drywall? Is it causing health problems, or damage to your home? If so, we at ProPublica want to hear your story

So far, more than 3,700 people have complained to the Consumer Product Safety Commission about defective drywall. But public records gathered by the two news organizations show that nearly twice as many homes have been affected. You can see where many of these homes are located by using our news application.

As part of that story, we reported that the government’s two-year probe into the Chinese drywall problem, led by the CPSC, was hamstrung by two factors. Federal agencies lack the authority to force foreign companies to recall defective products, reimburse people for problems those products may cause or even provide basic information about how the products were made. And no single federal agency is officially responsible for regulating residential indoor air quality or determining how it is affected by building products.

Due in large part to these gaps, homeowners have been forced to fend for themselves and many have turned to the courts for help. Thousands of lawsuits have been consolidated and are being tried now in New Orleans federal court.

But the homeowners’ chances of getting quick relief through private litigation are slim. So far, only one of the companies responsible for producing the defective drywall has participated in the federal court proceedings. That company, Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin, has teamed up with several insurers and a drywall supplier, Interior Exterior Building Supply, to participate in a pilot program to remove the drywall and wiring from 300 homes built with Knauf board.

The other manufacturers, many of whom are at least partially owned by the Chinese government, don’t appear inclined to follow Knauf’s lead.

Attorneys for Taishan Gypsum Co., Ltd. told Judge Eldon E. Fallon, who is presiding over the litigation in New Orleans, that company officials “absolutely do not understand why their high-quality drywall allegedly emitted excessive amounts of hydrogen sulfide,” Joe Cyr, the company’s attorney said. “We’re not right behind Knauf in any kind of settlement negotiations.”

In August, Lowe’s Companies Inc. negotiated a quiet deal in a separate lawsuit that provided big payouts to a handful of plaintiff’s attorneys and relatively small amounts to homeowners. Two months after we reported on the settlement, however, Lowe’s dramatically increased the amount of money it will offer customers whose health or homes were harmed by defective drywall they bought from its stores. Those customers are now eligible for up to $100,000 in cash, instead of the maximum $4,500 in cash and gift cards that was agreed upon in the previous settlement.

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2 Responses to “Drywall Woes Continue”

  1. Determining that a home or structure contains defective drywall is just the beginning; the next step is to correct the issue.

    The Building Envelope Science Institute (BESI) endorsed a remediation protocol back in October 2009 that more than exceeds the recommendations by the CPSC & HUD interim remediation guidance and is aligned with the court’s ruling in the MDL-2047 litigation case (even more comprehensive).

    The protocol offered through BESI provides (to-date) the most comprehensive remediation process and was developed based on proven science. The principal protocol for remediation of defective drywall being taught by BESI considers the following major factors: corrosion, cross-contamination of other building materials, personal belongings, IAQ monitoring program, a national warranty (not an insurance policy), and removal of the stigma from having defective “corrosive” drywall.

    In fact, the institute has been certifying qualified candidates for inspection and remediation of structures with defective drywall since October 2009. Those that have earned a designation as a remediator or consultant through the institute have attended a two-day course with a written final exam; inspectors attend a one-day course with a written final exam. There are prerequisites they have to meet, which includes being in good standing with the state if they are licensed (required for those performing remediation).

    It’s good to know that if your home was remediated under this protocol that it would not require more work in order to meet the CPSC & HUD interim guidance. The Institute has a “Nationwide Directory” that currently allows individuals to locate BESI certified inspectors and remediators for defective drywall; over 125 qualified individuals.

    More information about the protocols and requirements can be found at http://www.BESInstitute.com.

  2. Thanks for the info on the BESInstitute

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