We recently had a guest on “The Future of Real Estate” Video Show who opened my eyes on how to effectively test for Chinese drywall, and shed some interesting facts on the subject.  To clear up a few myths, not all Chinese drywall is defective, and not all American drywall is good.  Most of the problems associated have come from China though, thus the term Chinese drywall.

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Most people don’t really care how a car engine works, they only care that it works, and it gets them where they want to go.  I won’t go into a lot of detail about how drywall is made, and that the tainted drywall was made with fly ash, a residue of coal combustion more commonly used in concrete mixtures.  This scrubbing of the smokestacks emissions creates calcium sulfate, or gypsum, which can then used to make wallboard.  American manufacturers gather the gypsum from the smokestacks after the scrubbing, which produces a cleaner product.

There are no set standards by the Federal government, so it’s hard to even use the word defective in the proper light as there is no standard.  People are concerned that defective wallboard gives off fumes that can corrode copper pipes, blacken jewelry and silverware, and possibly sicken people.

Shipping records indicate that imports of potentially tainted Chinese building materials exceeded 500 million pounds during a four-year period of soaring home prices. The drywall may have been used in more than 100,000 homes, according to some estimates, including houses rebuilt after Hurricane Katrina.

The drywall apparently causes a chemical reaction that gives off a rotten-egg stench, which grows worse with heat and humidity. The Chinese drywall is also made with a coal byproduct called fly ash that is less refined than the form used by U.S. drywall makers.

Most of the drywall in question came into the country in 2006, following a series of Gulf Coast hurricanes and a domestic shortage brought on by the national housing boom.

We found an innovative inspector who has been able to successfully test for a compound called Strontium using an X-Ray gun.  This X-ray gun can test each board in a home which is important because a home may have some defective drywall mixed in with acceptable drywall.  In the past, inspectors were forced to remove drywall or inspect air conditioner coils, plumbing, mirrors, etc.  None of these inspections were guaranteed or scientific because at lower temperatures the effects of the drywall can be masked to some degree.

Chinese Drywall Laser Gun
Chinese Drywall Laser Gun

Visual inspection of corrosive metals and the unique odor of Hydrogen sulfide (H2S) are certainly signs of bad drywall in a home. However, Drywall Science LLC is able to scientifically identify, using portable X-Ray technology (XRF), “defective” drywall from acceptable drywall by revealing high concentrations of strontium (Sr). This unique Sr signature for defective drywall was first reported by Unified engineering and later confirmed by the EPA and CPSC.

Chinese Drywall Laser Gun Results
Chinese Drywall Laser Gun Results

There is also concern about “Off-Gassing.”  Off-Gassing occurs when infected drywall releases chemical compounds and infects otherwise good drywall.  The good drywall literally absorbs the bad chemical compounds associated with the defective drywall.  Insulation and other materials may also absorb unwanted compounds, if the installation is not done right. So why not try these out to ensure that everything is smooth so simply removing a few pieces of defective drywall in a home may not cure the problem.

Some experts say to effectively remediate a home, all drywall, insulation, and porous materials, should be removed and replaced with the owens corning blown in insulation process.  The bottom line is it’s essential to determine if a home actually has bad drywall before considering remediation options.

We’ve included a few photos so you can see what the gun looks like, and what the test results show on the gun.  We are by no means inspection experts; however we were very impressed with this new technology and how it can scientifically look for defective drywall.  If you’re purchasing a property, especially one built 2004-2008, or an older home that has been recently remodeled, we recommend an inspection.

You can watch the gun in action.  We have video segments posted in our “Best Of” section on the “Future of Real Estate” which can be found at www.Topagent.com

Jack Frost of Drywall Science LLC contributed to this article and has a patent on this X-Ray gun.  While we are excited about this new technology, the Ellis Team, RE/MAX Realty Group, and the News Press in no way guarantees the accuracy or claims of this product.

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