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Chinese Drywall Tests for Homeowners and Prospective Buyers

Here is a guide of simple things you can do yourself for testing for Chinese drywall (plasterboard) before attempting more or less expensive lab tests. In other words, below are suggestions and hints for a “do-it-yourself Chinese Drywall test kit”. We recommend that you try most of the recommended Chinese drywall tests and prepare a check list. If most of the testing for Chinese drywall indicate you are at risk, we highly recommend ordering specialized lab tests for confirmation.

Chinese Drywall Test Kit – “Do-It-Yourself” Testing for Chinese Drywall

Some straightforward Chinese drywall tests you can do by yourself include:

a. THE YEAR THE HOME WAS BUILT OR REMODELED: The first testing for Chinese drywall you should do is to check when the home was built and when was it last remodeled or renovated? If any of these happened in the 2000’s (2001 to present) then you are at risk of having a home with defective Chinese drywall and should proceed with the below suggested Chinese drywall tests.

b. ANY UNPLEASANT (ROTTEN-EGG) PERSISTENT ODOR INSIDE THE HOME: The next testing for Chinese drywall consists in responding to questions such as: Have you, anyone in your family, or anyone visiting your home felt a strange rotten-egg-like persistent odor anywhere within the home, but which disappears when you step outside? If the answer to this Chinese drywall test-question is yes, then the air quality inside your home may be poor with a high probability of the presence of defective Chinese drywall. The off-gassing product from the defective Chinese drywall is composed of sulfur gases such as hydrogen sulfide which could create a health hazard;

c. BLACK SOOT ON THE WIRES BELOW LIGHT-SWITCH PLATES: Another testing for Chinese drywall consists in the following: Remove all light-switch plates and look inside (BUT DO NOT TOUCH ANY WIRES!) at the wires (you may use a flash light) – if they are blackish or covered with what seems to be a black soot then you may have defective Chinese drywall; please keep in mind that the Chinese drywall may not be used in every wall of your home so you do not need to have consistent results throughout the home; even if you notice the blackish color below one light-switch plate, it is a test result indicating that you may have defective Chinese drywall in a room wall;

d. BLACK SOOT ON THE AIR CONDITIONING COILS: Another Chinese drywall test you may do involves the following: Remove the panel of your air conditioning system and look at the coils inside – if they are blackish or covered with a black soot, then you may have defective Chinese drywall;

e. FREQUENCY AND OCURRENCE OF DEFECTIVE AIR CONDITIONING SYSTEM: Here is another easy testing for Chinese drywall: if your air-conditioning system failed repeatedly or while under warrantee and you need to replace the evaporator coils, it might indicate the presence of toxic Chinese drywall even without black soot observed on the coils. Additionally, a general Chinese drywall testing you should do if you want to purchase a home is to inquire for any air-conditioning repair work or problems encountered by past owner(s);

f. BLACK SOOT ON THE WASHER AND DRIER PLUG: Furthermore, Inspecting the plug of your washer and drier is another way of testing for Chinese drywall presence. If it is blackish or covered by a black soot the probability of Chinese drywall being present is high;

g. FREQUENCY AND OCURRENCE OF ANY PREMATURE FAILURE OF ELECTRONIC EQUIPMENT WITHIN THE HOME : This Chinese drywall test refers to equipment such as: TV, refrigerator, microwave oven, dishwasher, computer, cable box, coffee pot. If any electronic equipment within the home brakes down prematurely or frequently you may have defective Chinese made drywall;

h. CORROSION OVER PLUMBING AND ELECTRICAL FIXTURES Another way of testing for Chinese drywall is looking for copper corrosion. Any observed corrosion indicate the possibility to have defective Chinese made drywall

i. RUSTER BATH DRAINS: could also be a sign of the presence of defective drywall. Checking the bath drains is just another simple Chinese drywall test you may do.

j. PERSONAL JEWELRY TURNING BLACK: if you notice that your jewelry turns black which did not happen before or if this happens faster than before, it is a sign that it might have been exposed to various sulfur gases emitted by a defective Chinese made drywall.

k. BRAND NAME LISTED ON THE HOME DRYWALLS: A direct Chinese drywall test is to find a spot in the home (basement or attic is recommended) where you may push the insulation around or cut a small hole and check the brand name on your drywall. This testing for Chinese drywall is LESS RECOMMENDED because it is hard to test every single drywall within your home. Additionally, not all drywalls may be labeled and even if you have Chinese drywall it may not be defective (because not all Chinese drywalls are defective or because your home may be in a favorable (e.g., with little heat and humidity). If you proceed with this Chinese drywall test, look for Chinese-made drywalls brands like Knauf – which was often reported with problems (about 20% of defective drywall may be associated with this brand name). Please be aware that some people reported problems with drywall made in the U.S. too, although such reporting is scarce and not necessarily confirmed. Additionally, re-labeling of original Chinese made drywall could be the culprit. Thus, what is most important is to look for any effects of a defective drywall rather than to look for the brand of drywall itself. Note that the brand identification may be however important at a later stage if you decide to sue for damages.

l. THE SIZE OF THE DRYWALL: may also be used to point out potentially defective Chinese drywalls. According to Rosen (2009), in Florida, the Chinese drywall has only ½ inch thickness and dimensions of 4’ x 12’. However, the size of drywall from an already build home may not be readily available and it is not clear if this applies for Chinese drywall in other states, too. Additionally, it is possible that potentially defective drywall exist in many other sizes, thus this Chinese drywall test may not be conclusive.

m. THE COLOR OF THE DRYWALL: Checking the color of your drywall is another way of testing for Chinese drywall potential presence in your home. This is because defective Chinese drywall (e.g., Knauf brand) was reported darker in color probably due to their higher content of organic material. This could be another distinctive trait although it does not necessary means that the opposite is true, too (i.e., drywalls lighter in color are not defective).So, this Chinese drywall test may not be conclusive by itself. However, associated with other testing for Chinese drywall, this test could be useful.

Additionally if you experience any health problems at a high frequency or for the first time since living in the home with suspected defective Chinese drywall, this is another indication that you may be at risk. For more information about drywall made in China please contact environmental pollution centers.

Reference Cited
Rosen, G. 2009. Chinese Drywall Q & A Ver 3.0 Health Allert.