Seattle Home Inspector's Blog


Chinese Drywall: or the Sky Is Not Falling

Glenn, makes some really good points with his post and I thought it deserved to have another look.  I hope all my readers will venture on over to Glenn's blog and leave some comments there.  The reality is that as big as the drywall problem is----it is still a small percentage of the total housing stock.  I realize that doesn't make it any easy for those that have to deal with it----we will survive it though.

The sky is not falling or Chinese drywall is not a nail in the financial coffin of the real estate industry.

In This Post

Chinese drywall: A different perspective.


In a post by Lenn Harley on Chinese drywall she wonders how much more the  American homeowner can take. In a follow up post she states the US Consumer Safety Products Commission has received 3,082 reports from consumers with drywall problems. OMG! And we can be sure that the problem goes deeper than that.

But for some perspective on the issue I looked up the American Housing Survey for 2007 and found these facts:

There were 128,203,000 housing units in the United States in 2007. Approximately 110,692,000 were occupied as regular residences and 17,511,000 were vacant or seasonal.

Approximately 75,647,000 or 68.3 percent of the occupied units were owners in 2007.

Approximately 35,045,000 or 31.7 percent of the occupied units were occupied by renters in 2007.

The American Indian tribes of pre-colonial days felt they owned vast tracts of land, and they roamed this land reaping the bounty and fighting off other tribes who encroached on their supposed territory. With the arrival of white settlers land was purchased from the natives, sometimes for a few beads.

Kings granted lands to faithful lords and with westward expansion the desire to own property continued with land rushes and land grants of many kinds. Piece by piece the country has been divided up because people want home ownership. Even during the Great Depression, while many people lost their homes to banks, others found ways to become the owners of that property. The financing of land is not about to be buried. It has survived many such setbacks and will survive the onslaught of cheaper (but costly) products because we think that is what we want. We want homeownership more.

Since I started in real estate we’ve had plenty of cases where bad materials in the home make for financial surprises and we’ve dealt with them. In the seventies it was urea formaldehyde and then lead paint. A while later it was the unused oil tank threat. Remember the Louisiana Pacific siding recall and what about ongoing problems with radon?

Maybe it’s because I’m blessed to live someplace where Chinese drywall hasn’t shown up. But let’s keep it in perspective. I’d like to close with a quote from Charles Buell’s recent post The recovery will not be televised on a different but related topic.

The problem I have with most people’s concept of recovery is that not only do they hope that recovery will get them back to where they were previously but also on some level they have the idea that they will be “reimbursed” for what they have lost.  This concept of “entitlement” is epidemic in our country.  The idea that if I suffer, if I lose ground, if I drop below some self-defined “standard,” that I am entitled to be compensated for my losses.


Glenn Roberts
Lake and Company Real Estate
Seattle Residential ~ I Do That 

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Licensed broker since 1985 offering spectacular service to buyers and sellers in greater Seattle, with particular interest in Green Lake, Ballard, Phinney Ridge, Wallingford, Ravenna, Bryant, and View Ridge.

Referrals from past clients and other agents always make me smile.  



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Comment balloon 14 commentsCharles Buell • April 19 2010 04:08PM


I don't think we have even begun to see the breadth of this issue.  The majority of the country doesn't even know about it.  Much of the self reporting is a result of the manifestation of the symptoms -- corrosion, most notably -- and those symptoms are exacerbated by heat and humidity.  It is then no surprise that Florida has been the epicenter thus far.

We have been in several homes in Florida that currently show no symptoms but tested positive for Chinese drywall.  How long until the symptoms show up?  Who knows...

We know of a neighborhood in Arizona that is affected and there are very few signs...

I think the uncertainty coupled with the grand scale of the problem is what is shocking.

Posted by Joseph Weissglass, Chinese Drywall Testing (Certified Chinese Drywall Testing, LLC) about 9 years ago

Well they surely know how many board feet came into the country----they should be able to extrapolate from that how big the problem is.  How much is commercial, how much is residential etc.

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) about 9 years ago


I am pleased that we do not seem to have any of it here, regardless of how big a deal it might be in the world perspective.

Posted by Steven L. Smith, Bellingham WA Home Inspector (King of the House Home Inspection, Inc.) about 9 years ago

Big problem here in SW Florida. I've see too much of this stuff and it's nasty. The smell permeates everything. It ruins A/C, wiring, mirrors, hinges. The devastation to the new homeowner can't be put into words. Even one home built with this stuff is one too many.

Posted by Jay Lloyd, Allpro Home Inspection (Cape Coral Florida) about 9 years ago

Steve, we better keep our fingers crossed:)

Jay, I remember what a concern urea formaldehyde was----lets hope it fizzles like that did after a while.

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) about 9 years ago

Charlie - I have read Glenn's article twice now and I am not sure I understand the point.  That problems with "stuff" come and go? He's a bit ho hum about it.

Well, Twain said, "There's lies, damn lies and then there's statistics!"  Surely true!

I think UFFI only affected about 2% of all people who had it, and currently have it, in their homes.  And it gets weaker with time.  And Lousiana Pacific was an American concern, not foreign.  So there was some recourse.

This drywall stuff is getting huge and huge-r.  Right now they are estimating upwards of 600 million cubic feet installed in people's houses.  It seems to grow each month.

Unfortunately I think the problem will ultimately fall back on the poor home owner.  Who's responsibility should it be anyway?  Even as innocent as they are in the purchase and inheritance of this monster, it's still the home owner's responsibility.

It will fizzle because they stopped using it!  But some of the stuff installed still hasn't come to a head!  You gotta wonder how much of it is still sitting in a building somewhere!

I thought my skeleton key blog would turn you on!  No?

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 9 years ago

Jay, I want to know why there is only an "estimate" of amounts---some bean counter somewhere know "exactly" how much of the stuff came into the country.  Jay, AR has been so wonky I have not been able to get around as much as I like----and I have been really busy.  Will take a look though----if I can get by the skeletons in my own closet :)

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) about 9 years ago

Charlie - I don't know why there are estimates.  None of the reporting has analyzed that, or the CPSC. 

Skeletons?  I would think maybe a skull* here or there, but no skeletons!

* With a few missing teeth...

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 9 years ago

Jay, MAN you hit hard :)

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) about 9 years ago

I'm confused by Jay not getting what I meant. I meant that in the big scope of things, the number of homes with CDW and the number of homes/homeowners affected by CDW, is going to be very small compared to the number of homes in the country. Lead paint and lead are much bigger issues. There are a lot more homes pre 1978 with lead than there are homes 2001-2007 with CDW. Is the government helping people abate lead paint by throwing money at the problem. No, they are fining people who don't take action to remediate the issue. Dear Mr. President, I have an unused oil tank in my yard and it's been unused for about 20 years now. Please send me $12,000 so I can have it removed and the soil tested and removed if necessary. Is that going to fly. No way. Does anyone with CDW expect some higher power to give them money because they have CDW? It sure seems like there is a bandwagon driving around asking for that. Lenn Harley called the problem a nail in the financial coffin of real estate. I don't know what she means. But a)houses will still be financed and there will always be exceptions, and b)There will always be profits to be made from wise investments in real estate and there will always be exceptions and mistakes made there too.

Posted by Glenn Roberts (Retired) about 9 years ago

I have not heard of any CDW in Connecticut. I think Glenn's point is a good one. The sky is not falling, unless you happened to be one of the unfortunate people who have this garbage installed in your home.

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) about 9 years ago

Glenn, I am reasonablly sure we are on the same page :)

Jim, the problem with any "sky is falling" theory is that we are all under the same sky----so unless it is falling for everyone what happens to the individual should be called something else :)  I will see if I can come up with something.

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) about 9 years ago

If I purchased a brand new home, and found out I had this horrible stuff in my home,....believe me the sky IS falling and my world has crumbled. Drywall was in huge demand in Florida and New Orleans after the hurricanes. Couple that with the building boom, and our government felt it necessary to import drywall from China. Our government should have made sure it was a safe product, but they didn't. Homeowners have had to leave their homes and all their belongings...their children's toys, jewelry, you name it ruined by this stuff. It may not affect as many homeowners as other pollutants, but it makes a brand new home unliveable.

Posted by Jay Lloyd, Allpro Home Inspection (Cape Coral Florida) about 9 years ago

Jay, it is a sad state of affairs for those unlucky enough to win this "negative" lottery.

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) about 9 years ago