Chinese Drywall Syndrome and what You Need to Know

Chinese Drywall Syndrome is an issue that occurred with certain imported drywall from China beginning in 2001 going through 2009 and was first investigated by the CPSC and identified as a problem in 2008. During this time there was a huge increase in demand for drywall not only from the housing boom of the mid 2000’s but from all the hurricanes that rattled the Gulf Coast during that time. Rebuilding efforts diminished domestic supplies even further and home builders, contractors and suppliers began to import drywall from China by the millions of sheets.

What’s the Problem with Chinese Drywall?

It wasn’t long after the drywall began to be used that problems in the home began to arise. The first thing most homeowners noticed was a strong smell of what was described as being like rotten eggs or like when matches flare up. Namely, a sulfurous smell. Many times there is no noticeable smell. Often, home-owners are unaware they have a Chinese drywall problem until they go to sell and it is uncovered during the buyer’s inspection. Sometimes sellers are aware and attempt to cover up by cleaning evaporator coils and exposed copper wires, etc…

And these homeowners were onto something. Sometimes within just a few short months of moving in and running their AC units, the systems would fail. As the techs came in to fix the problem they noticed that the coils had become completely corroded with a black color. Sulfurous compounds are the only thing that can corrode copper to black like that.

At first, people could not figure out where the sulfur was coming from. Was it in the water? Was there a gas leak? Some natural source? Soon, it was discovered that the drywall was the culprit. The drywall cores contained large amounts of hydrogen sulfide, carbonyl sulfide, carbon disulfide, and strontium. This drywall would offgass these sulfurous compounds into the atmosphere of the home, giving it its characteristic smell, and corroding any exposed copper, and some other metals.

Homeowners had appliance failures, corroded electrical wiring, smoke alarm failures, and HVAC system trouble. Even if the coil in the HVAC system was replaced, it would quickly fail again. Word quickly spread and the problem became well-known.

In order to diagnose your house as having the problem drywall first a threshold inspection of a smell and visible corrosion on exposed copper must be done. After that a home inspector will issue corrosion testing strips and take a look at the back of the drywall for manufacturers markings. This step is called the “Corroborating Evidence” step in the event the “Threshold inspection” is positive for possible problem drywall and when legal action by the home owner is initiated. (Note: not all problem drywall will have markings on it.) If those are positive hits then they will send off samples of the drywall cores for further testing.

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How to Prevent Your Pipes from Freezing this Winter

Cold winter temperatures have the potential to cause pipes to freeze in your home. When pipes are exposed to freezing or below freezing temperatures, the water inside the pipes can become frozen as well. To avoid damage to your home, it’s important to take precautionary measures that will help you and your home get through this cold weather hassle free.

7 Ways to Keep Your Pipes from Freezing

Frozen pipes can be an extreme hassle that often costs quite a bit of money and effort to fix. Below are steps you can take to keep the water in your pipes flowing freely.

1. Insulate Your Pipes

Use fiberglass insulation over any water pipes that are poorly protected. The insulation will protect the pipes against cold moving air and will keep the pipes dry. While this is a good first step, it alone doesn’t prevent freezing. There are other important measures to take as well.

2. Turn Up Your Thermostat

If your home has an uninsulated crawl space, increase the temperature inside the crawlspace by turning up the thermostat. The warm air will project heat energy through your floor and inside the space. Ideally, you’ll want to insulate and air seal your crawlspace for a long-term solution.

3. Use Heater Tapes or Use a Heated Reflector Lamp

You can wrap heater tape between the insulation and the pipes. Some tapes can’t take insulation covering them, so be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Alternatively, you can use a heated reflector lamp in an enclosed and dry area. Check the lamp on cold nights to ensure it’s working.

4. Turn on the Faucet

If you lose power, or if the power is unavailable, turn on the faucet just enough that it constantly drips. Turn the hot side on first, and then a slightly faster drip on the cold side. You don’t have to run a lot of water to make this trick work, just enough that the bathroom isn’t freezing.

5. Use a Space Heater

Place an electric heater near your unprotected pipes to keep them above freezing. Make the room just warm enough to keep the pipes from freezing, as there’s no need to make the area toasty warm.

6. Open Your Cabinet Doors

Kitchen walls that aren’t insulated are vulnerable to freezing. You can lower the chances of these pipes freezing by opening the cabinet doors along the inunsulated walls that contain the vulnerable pipes. Doing so will project heat into the area.

7. Turn Off Your Water

If you’re pretty certain that your pipes might freeze and there’s nothing you can do about it at the moment, turn off your main water valve when you think you won’t need it. If a pipe freezes and then breaks while you’re sleeping or away from home, the spillage from the pipe will only contain the water that is already in the pipe.

There are also products you can have installed that help protect pipes from freezing, such as a ReadyTemp, which monitors the temperature inside the pipes; a hot water recirculation valve that continually recirculates warm water as needed; and an ICE LOC, which fits inside the pipes and prevents them from rupturing.

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