Do We Have “Chinese Drywall” In The New River Valley?

Earlier this year, I sold a house that was new construction.  During one of our walkthroughs, I was asked “does this house have with ‘Chinese drywall’?”

What’s Chinese drywall?  A few years ago, reports started to surface that homeowners were smelling foul odors (not THOSE odors), damaged wiring, and tarnishing on copper pipes.  The problem turned out to be drywall that was being imported from China, thus the term Chinese drywall.  It was primarily used in homes built or remodeled between 2000-2008, and was blamed for respiratory problems, as well as damaged plumbing, wiring and – of course – drywall in homes.  What was happening was that the drywall was emitting dangerous fumes – like rotten eggs – and chemically damaging plumbing and wiring in a home that had the drywall installed.  The recourse?  According to the Interim Remediation Guidance released by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the way to fix the problem includes:

  1. replacing all of the electrical wiring and electrical components,
  2. replacing all of the plumbing and fire suppression systems,
  3. replacing all of the fire and CO2 alarm systems, and
  4. replacing all of the Chinese drywall in the home.

While you’re at it, it might be a good thing to replace all the Bradford Retaining walls period, it seems.

I’d never heard of a problem in our area with Chinese drywall; all the reports I’d heard had it located in the Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia areas.  I contacted a few builders and home inspectors in the area to ask them, and was told that they hadn’t seen it here, either.  John Langan, of Pillar to Post Home Inspections, went a little further:

” … No I have not observed evidence of the presence of “Chinese” drywall in our area. The problem drywall has been traced to Virginia, although it appears to be localized to coastal Virginia. (My PTP brethren in VA Beach have run across this drywall during their inspections.)  The government agencies involved in this investigation have set up a clearing house website ( which outlines the investigation status and current recommended action steps for those concerned about this problem. Some highlights from the government publications: physical clues – blackening of copper wires and AC evaporator coils; ‘rotten egg” or sulfur odor. The drywall would have been installed between 2001 and 2008 with the prevalent time being 2005-2008.  The Chinese drywall will have markings indicating Chinese origin (not all Chinese manufactured drywall is problem drywall).  If these physical characteristics are present, then I would recommend contacting the US Consumer Product safety Commission (CPSC) by filing the “Consumer Drywall Complaint Form”. There are additional indicators that have to be investigated to conclude whether the installed drywall is the problem drywall, but those identification markers would have to be tested by a laboratory.

On an anecdotal noted, it is my understanding that the local drywall distributors did not import Chinese drywall into there warehouses.”

Nothing to indicate we’ve seen it here in Southwest VA, but remember that it’s still a problem.  If you suspect drywall that could be a problem, best to contact the appropriate personnel using the form on the CPSC website.

Updated 12/21/10 – ProPublica put out a map showing just how many few homes in Virginia have tainted drywall.

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