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Chinese Drywall.......

Suncoast Inspections is an independent residential and commercial inspection firm trained in the the detection of Chinese Drywall.  We do not do repairs, we assess your circumstances without future monetary income entering the equation. Our clients can rest assured they will receive a fair and honest evaluation.  Our inspectors will inspect your home using the Florida Department of Heath (FDH) protocol for a visual inspection. Take time to read the information below. 

Could your home have Chinese Drywall?

If your home was constructed between 2001 to 2007 you could have Chinese drywall.  Mostly it has been found in homes constructed during the height of the housing boom and shortly after Hurricane Katrina 2004 to 2007.  Materials were in short supply, Contractors and builders unknowingly used millions of pounds of abundant and cheap imported defective Chinese-made Drywall. Some estimate that approx. 100,000 homes Nationwide in 35 states have been effected, 35,000 in Florida alone. Ports of entry include Miami 85,000 tons and Tampa 69,000 tons. In Broward County (Miami area) one case dated back to 2001.The amount of boards in your home could vary from one board to the entire interior wall finish and possible the ceilings.  The Florida Building Code requires 5/8 ceiling board be used on all residential ceilings, no Chinese drywall was manufactured in 5/8" thick boards.  It was reported at the Chinese Drywall Symposium in Tampa that Chinese Drywall did get into Lowe's and home Depot which could widen the scope. 

The majority of the reports to the CPSC have come from consumers residing in the State of Florida (More than 90% of reports continue to be from Florida, Louisiana, and Virginia.) while others have come from consumers in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reports that more than 2,360 homeowners have filed complaints of possible drywall-related problems including damage to electrical wiring, plumbing, utilities, and a variety of health concerns.

Builders with Chinese Drywall:  MI Homes, Lennar Homes

What are some of the symptoms of Chinese Drywall?

  • There may or may not be and odor.  If there is the odor could smell similarly to rotten eggs or sulfur or just an unusual odor.

  • The off gassing of the sulfurs can corrode copper pipes indicated by a black, sooty coating of un-insulated copper tubing leading to and in the air handler, wiring, blacken jewelry and silver.  
  • Documented multiple failure and replacement of the air handler evaporator coils every 12 to 14 months after occupying the new dwelling. 
  • Homeowners with Chinese drywall have complained about irritated throat, itchy eyes and skin, Difficulty breathing, persistent cough, bloody noses, runny noses, recurrent headaches, sinus infection and asthma attaches.  Note, to date there is no documented health symptoms that do not clear up after the occupant has left the effected dwelling.  The FDH (Florida Department of Health) and DR. Viamonte Ros, Florida Surgeon General has stated there is no imminent health risk associated to Chinese drywall exposure. While drywall-related corrosion is clearly evident, long term safety effects are still under
    investigation.
  • Corrosion at mirrors (darkening of the corners), pictures, coins, plumbing fixtures, door hardware and appliances.
  • Intermittent operation or failure of appliances (refrigerator, dishwasher) and electronic devices such as televisions and video game systems.

What to Look For:

  • The copper tubing inside and outside the air handler will turn from a bright/dull copper to black.
  • Removed the electrical switch and outlet cover plate.  The copper will turn black.  
  • The back of the boards will be labeled.  It may say "Chinese Drywall" or "Knauf Plasterboard, Tianjin"  Tianjin is the city of origin in China, "Knauf - Tianjin China ASTM C36", "China", "Made in China".
  • Care must be taken when house shopping as this could lay dormant for years if the interior environment is controlled reducing or delaying the chemical reaction.
  • Power outrages and dimming or flickering lights without any specific cause like the air conditioning turning on.
  • Arcs or sparks, bright flashes or showers of sparks anywhere in the electrical system.
  • Buzzes or sizzles unusual sounds from the electrical system.
  • Overheating of parts of the electrical system such as switch plates, dimmer switches, outlet covers or cords and plugs.

What is CHINESE DRYWALL?

It is basically the same as American drywall but it appears to have higher levels of Iron Disulfide, Hydrogen Sulfide, Carbonyl Sulfide, Sulfur Dioxide, Carbon Disulfide and high levels of Strontium. A chemical reaction occurs and these chemicals off gas and is some cases create an odor which grows worse with heat and humidity.  

What is DRYWALL (Gypsum Board)?  

Gypsum board is the generic name for a family of panel-type products consisting of a noncombustible core, primarily of gypsum, with a paper surfacing on the face, back, and long edges.

Gypsum board is often called drywall, wallboard, or plasterboard and differs from products such as plywood, hardboard, and fiberboard, because of its noncombustible core. It is designed to provide a monolithic surface when joints and fastener heads are covered with a joint treatment system.

Gypsum is a mineral found in sedimentary rock formations in a crystalline form known as calcium sulfate dehydrate. One hundred pounds of gypsum rock contains approximately 21 pounds (or 10 quarts) of chemically combined water. Gypsum rock is mined or quarried and then crushed. The crushed rock is then ground into a fine powder and heated to about 350 degrees F, driving off three fourths of the chemically combined water in a process called calcining. The calcined gypsum (or hemihydrate) is then used as the base for gypsum plaster, gypsum board and other gypsum products.

To produce gypsum board, the calcined gypsum is mixed with water and additives to form a slurry which is fed between continuous layers of paper on a board machine. As the board moves down a conveyer line, the calcium sulfate recrystallizes or rehydrates, reverting to its original rock state. The paper becomes chemically and mechanically bonded to the core. The board is then cut to length and conveyed through dryers to remove any free moisture.

Gypsum manufacturers also rely increasingly on “synthetic” gypsum as an effective alternative to natural gypsum ore. Synthetic gypsum is a byproduct primarily from the desulfurization of the flue gases in fossil-fueled power plants.

Drywall is manufactured in sheets that vary in length and thickness.  Typically 1/2" thick drywall is used on the walls and 5/8" thick is used on the ceilings.  As of 11-2009 no Chinese drywall was manufactured in 5/8" thick boards.  The only way you could have Chinese drywall on your ceilings in the state of Florida is if the contractor improperly installed 1/2" board on the ceilings. 

What Should You do if you have Chinese Drywall?

Lawyers are circling this issue and telling people to join their class action lawsuit.  We would advise you to take this on slowly. Do not sign up just yet. The states and federal government are trying to get a grip on this problem, they are going to set the standards, no one wants to touch the issue due to the possible legal ramifications.  I would start at the your states health department and the federal level first. 

  • The most important issue is your health and safety. If you are suffering from the health symptoms described as common to the reports of exposure to problem drywall, please consult your physician as soon as possible. If you experience any of the electrical or fire safety concerns described as common to the reports of exposure to problem drywall, please consult your local gas or electric supplier and a licensed electrician or building inspector as soon as possible.
  • You should contact your State and local authorities to report your concerns and get direction on any help or resources in your area.
  • You should also report your concerns to us using the form at https://www.cpsc.gov/cgibin/drywall.aspx
  • You should also consider contacting your insurance company and homebuilder to report your concerns.
  • If you suspect you have gas or electrical problems please consult your local gas or electric supplier and a licensed electrician or building inspector, as soon as possible.

State of Florida:  

To File a complaint with the Division of Consumer Services:

http://www.800helpfla.com/complnt.html

To File a Complaint with The Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulation:

http://www.myfloridalicense.com/dbpr/pro/cilb/chinese_drywall.html

The states stance on disposal of Chinese Drywall:

http://www.dep.state.fl.us/waste/quick_topics/publications/shw/solid_waste/policymemos/SWM-19-17.

The Florida Senates statement:

Florida Senate

Florida's Attorney General:

http://www.myfloridalegal.com/newsrel.nsf/newsreleases/948E4030762178D3852575A1005823E7

The state is also referring to the federal level.  Below is a link to the Technical Symposium on Corrosive Imported Drywall (Chinese Drywall).

http://www.drywallsymposium.com

Federal Level:

HUD - Housing & Urban Development

"The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development today (Dec. 22, 2009)announced that FHA-insured families experiencing problems associated with problem drywall may be eligible for assistance to help them rehabilitate their properties.  In addition, HUD’s Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Program may also be a resource to help local communities combat the problem". http://portal.hud.gov/portal/page/portal/HUD/press/press_releases_media_advisories/2009/HUDNo.09-237

CPSC - Consumer Product Safety Commission:

"Released today (Nov. 23, 2009) is additional information from the investigation of problem drywall including the results from three preliminary scientific reports: a fifty-one home indoor air study; an electrical component corrosion study; and a fire safety component corrosion study. Most significantly, the fifty-one home report released today finds a strong association between the problem drywall, the hydrogen sulfide levels in homes with that drywall, and corrosion in those homes". The reports rough drafts are out but they have cautioned not to cite or quote so we have decided not to provide these reports until the final drafts are complete.  Below is a link to their executive summary. http://www.cpsc.gov/info/drywall/nov2009execsum

Below is a link to the CPSC Chairman's Letter to the states Governors.

http://www.cpsc.gov/info/drywall/index.html

The following offers some more detailed specifics about the health and engineering investigations to date. This information came directly from their website.

CPSC -Health Investigation

The most frequently reported symptoms are irritated and itchy eyes and skin, difficulty in breathing, persistent cough, bloody noses, runny noses, recurrent headaches, sinus infection, and asthma attacks. Since many consumers report that their symptoms lessen or go away when they are away from their home, but return upon re-entry, it appears that these symptoms are short-term and related to something within the home. Some of these symptoms are similar to colds, allergies or reactions to other pollutants sometimes found in homes. As such, it is important to carefully determine if the reported symptoms are related to the drywall and not any other environmental factors or pollutants in the home.

We are aggressively investigating whether scientific evidence exists linking chemical emissions from the drywall to the reported health complaints. At this time, however, any such relationship or long-term health effects are unknown.

We are undertaking a multi-tracked testing approach to assess the impact on human health. The data collected will form the basis for a health risk assessment.

  • In-home air sampling (field) studies - Continuous, real-time measurements of the sulfur, acid and other gases, including the presence of freon byproducts. Measurements will take into account humid conditions as well as various times of day. Testing will be done over longer time periods because many symptoms have been reported to occur after hours of sleeping.
  • Laboratory elemental characterization studies of domestic and imported drywall - Characterization of components of drywall and identification of any differences.
  • Laboratory chamber studies of domestic and imported drywall - Chamber studies to separate and isolate chemical emissions from drywall as opposed to chemicals emitted from other home products (e.g., carpets, cleaners, paint, adhesives, beauty products).

Electrical and Fire Safety Investigation

Consumers have reported blackened and corroded metal in their homes. Particularly, consumers have reported failures of certain components such as: (1) premature failures of central air conditioning evaporator coils located indoors as part of the central air conditioning unit air handler; and (2) intermittent operation or failure of appliances, such as refrigerators and dishwashers, and electronic devices such as televisions and video game systems.

To date, CPSC has not received any reports of fire, electric shock or fire pre-cursor incidents (such as discolored, overheated/burned out, or smoking components) related to problem drywall.

Visual examination of electrical wiring within affected homes by CPSC staff showed varying levels of corrosion on the exposed portions of copper wires, in particular ground wires, since they are not insulated. The presence and extent of corrosion within a house, or even within a room, however, appeared inconsistent.

We are investigating the electrical and fire safety issues in the home, including the corrosion of components such as fuel gas piping and fire safety devices, and any immediate or long-term fire and safety concerns. Particular areas of focus for this investigation include:

  • Electrical components including residential wiring, receptacles, switches, circuit breakers, panel boards, ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs), and arc fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs).

    Possible concerns with electrical components include:
     
    • Deterioration of connections such as where a wire is connected to a receptacle or where a circuit breaker is installed in a panel board. A degraded connection could develop hot spots resulting in overheating and possibly fire.
    • Erosion of copper conductors over time, reducing conductor crosssectional area and compromising its physical integrity. If the corrosion is progressively eating away at a wire, the wire would eventually lose its capacity to carry current and start to overheat or become physically weak and break.
    • Damage to circuit traces or electronic components on printed circuit boards causing failure of protective devices like GFCIs, arc-fault circuit interrupters, and smoke alarms, which can present shock and fire hazards from the loss of protection provided by these devices.
  • Gas service components including flexible connectors and copper piping. The concern is that potential gas leakage due to corrosive pitting of piping could present a fire or explosion hazard.
  • Fire safety components including smoke alarms and fire sprinklers. For smoke alarms, potential concerns include damage to electronic circuitry and degradation of the sensor. Either condition could result in an inoperable smoke alarm. For fire sprinklers that use metallic fusible elements, potential concerns are that corrosion may adversely affect activation temperatures. Failures of these devices can put consumers at risk.

The investigation into electrical and fire safety issues is a two-part engineering component test program: (1) metallurgical analysis of various components collected from affected residences to characterize the type and extent of any damage; and (2) exposure of new components to elevated levels of gases, identified in the drywall chamber studies, as part of an accelerated corrosion test program to determine long-term exposure safety implications. A metallurgical analysis of the accelerated corrosion will enable comparison with the actual collected samples from homes.

(This document was prepared by CPSC staff, has not been reviewed or approved by, and may not necessarily reflect the views of, the Commission.)

 

Information for this publication was provided by:  The Gypsum Association website, EMSL Analytical Times June 2009, The NAHI Forum Summer & Fall 2009, FABI Seminar June 2009, Division of Environmental Health State of Florida, State of Florida's Technical Symposium on Corrosive Drywall, November 2009, HUD, CDC Drywall Information Center, CPSC.


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