July, 2009
Feature
Inspection News and Views from the American Society of Home Inspectors



Florida Inspector Shares Chinese Drywall Challenges

SANDY BOURSEAU

Photos by Mike Conley, ASHI Certified Inspector

Identifying and attributing corroded components in a house to Chinese drywall appeared to be a slam dunk to viewers of ABC’s Nightline program “Dream Home Turned Nightmare: Chinese Drywall Plagues Florida Homes.”

The Reporter turned to ASHI Certified Inspector Michael Conley, Straight Inspection Service, Anna Maria, Fla., to see if he agreed it was as easy as it appeared to be on the program.

“Yes and no,” he said. 

“There are indicators that can point to the possibility of Chinese drywall; however, some of those same indicators can be explained by other means.

“For example, recently, I inspected a house where the homebuyers suspected the presence of Chinese drywall because there were black ground wires in the main service panel.

“Upon investigation, there were no other indicators except those black ground wires in the main service panel, which was located in the garage where a golf cart was being stored and recharged. The black ground wires were the result of off-gassing of battery acid in the vicinity of the panel. The cause had nothing to do with Chinese drywall.

“It’s prudent for inspectors to be cautious about what they say.  There is no official protocol for identifying this stuff, and the general mood today is for homeowners to panic when they hear it’s in their house. We, as an industry, should not cause undue stress unless we can be sure it’s what they have.”

And, according to Conley, that is becoming even more difficult. It has been recently verified that drywall marked with the names of U.S. manufacturers is being found in homes with the same defects attributed to Chinese drywall. The rumor is that U.S. manufacturers purchased the drywall and restamped it. Meanwhile,  no such defects have been found in a few homes with drywall marked “Made in China.”

Pictured here are some of the conditions that are being associated with the imported drywall phenomenon. Photographs are by Mike Conley. Additional photographs are available in the self-assessment guide on Floridashealth.com. Go to http://www.doh.state.fl.us/environment/community/indoor-air/inspections.html.

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Photo: AC coils blackened due to Chinese drywall off-gassing. Copper normally turns a brown or green patina over time. This coil is black and rough.



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Photos: The two photos above show bare ground wire on two receptacles that have been corroded and pitted black due to exposure to sulphur gas.



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Photo: Corrosion on AC coil after one year from off-gassing of Chinese drywall



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Photo: Supply lines under a sink. The brown patina is missing and the pipes are black and pitted.



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Photo: Copper tubes of a refrigerator blackened and pitted



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Photo: Drywall stamped with “Made in China,” a telltale sign that the house has Chinese drywall.