By Amy Hoak

RISMEDIA, April 27, 2010—(MCT)—If you’ve been worried by the federal government’s recent advice to homeowners to remove any problem drywall, keep this in mind: If the defective material is in your home, there’s a good chance you’re aware of it by now. It’s detected by the corrosion of copper wiring and other metals, and signs of it pop up fairly quickly.

“A lot of these houses had air conditioner coils that needed replacement in the first six months or year,” said Mark Cramer, a home inspector in Indian Rocks Beach, Fla.

Since December 2008, the Consumer Product Safety Commission has received more than 3,000 consumer complaints about drywall, according to its website. The material corrodes homes’ metal components and some people have complained of health symptoms they believe are caused by the drywall. Many consumers with the problem are reporting that their homes were built in 2006 and 2007, the CPSC said on its site.

Remediation can cost thousands of dollars, Cramer said. In recent weeks, CPSC and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development released guidelines for homeowners dealing with remediation. The guidelines call for the removal and replacement of all possible problem drywall, fire safety alarm devices, electrical components and wiring, gas service piping and fire suppression sprinkler systems.

Homeowners “pretty much know they’re between a rock and a hard place if they have this stuff, and there’s not really anything they can do short of tearing it all out and throwing it away, which can be incredibly expensive,” Cramer said. While the cost will vary by the size of the house and the amount of problem drywall, some homeowners could be facing $50,000 or more to correct the problem, he said.

And it’s a problem that will need to be fixed: If a home contains problem drywall, it will be very difficult to sell or rent before it is removed and replaced, Cramer said.

Many of the homes with the defective material have been in Florida, Louisiana, Virginia, Mississippi and Alabama. Florida homeowners have been particularly hard-hit.

Claims have been filed by affected homeowners, and a court decision will eventually decide what, if any, compensation they should receive, said David Jaffe, vice president for construction liability at the National Association of Home Builders. In the meantime, HUD told cities, counties and states that Community Development Block Grant funds could be used to combat the problem. Some homeowners also might be eligible for mortgage relief as they deal with remediation.

What homeowners need to know:
Homeowners who think they might have problem drywall in their houses should know the following:

-Not all problem drywall is from China. While some of the drywall originated in China, some was manufactured in the U.S. Plus, some drywall from China is not corrosive.

-Homes often have a mix of drywall. Homes might contain drywall from different manufacturers. “You could have problem drywall on the first floor and not on the second floor,” said Cramer.

-Beware of scams. Identifying this problem isn’t difficult: Inspectors will look for signs of corrosion in electrical wiring, copper coils inside the air conditioner and any metal fittings in the house that may be tarnished. Be suspicious of anyone who wants to do much beyond that inspection. The Federal Trade Commission has also advised consumers to confirm a contractor’s references, qualifications and background before hiring him or her to test for or remove problem drywall.

-If you’re buying a home built between 2001 and 2008, check for problem drywall. Cramer advises people to hire an inspector who can perform a visual check for problems associated with the problem material.

-No long-term health effects have been confirmed yet. While some people have reported symptoms including respiratory irritation, watering eyes and scratchy throats when they’re in homes with the drywall, there is no evidence that there are long-term health effects related to the problem drywall. Testing is still ongoing as to whether the corrosion affects the durability of the wiring in the home.

(c) 2010, MarketWatch.com Inc.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Service

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