Monday, January 12, 2009

Chinese Drywall Cited in Building Woes

The Wall Street Journal - Some home builders already struggling in Florida's dismal housing market are facing another headache: The Chinese-made drywall they used is causing unpleasant odors and possibly leading to electric problems in dozens of homes constructed during the housing boom.

Some homeowners are concerned about possible respiratory problems, but the Florida Department of Health says tests show that the levels of emissions from the drywall pose no "immediate health threat." The affected homeowners also worry that the drywall problems will reduce their already decimated property values and hamper their ability to resell, even when the market recovers.

A handful of builders and environmental consultants are investigating whether the drywall, a wide flat board used to create interior walls, is emitting sulfur-based gases that may be corroding air-conditioner coils, computer wiring and metal picture frames.

"My biggest fear is we'll be stuck with a house we can't sell," said Marty Smith, whose air conditioner in his home near Tampa has had repeated problems. His builder, Lennar Corp., recently tested the air and drywall in his house and expects the results in a few weeks. Lennar's previous tests in other developments have found no health threats.

Although officials are still investigating the drywall from China, the complaints about drywall follow a rash of safety problems with other Chinese exports, ranging from toys to pet food.

Lennar, the nation's second-largest builder by volume, has tested air quality in at least 50 houses and has relocated several homeowners in order to rip out and replace the drywall, a costly process. It is trying to find less-intrusive ways to fix the problem. Lennar is continuing tests in a dozen of its Florida developments and has shared results with the state health department.

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