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CPSC issues new, less costly, drywall remediation guidelines

Consumer Reports News: September 16, 2011 12:41 PM

Homeowners plagued with tainted drywall are no longer being advised to replace all the gas service piping in their homes, according to revised remediation guidance from two of the federal agencies studying the matter. Affected homeowners can also leave certain types of fire sprinkler heads if they work properly after being tested and inspected. The agencies say the changes should help lower repair costs.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Department of Housing and Urban Renewal continue to recommend replacement of the following:


  • All problem drywall;
  • Smoke and carbon monoxide alarms;
  • Electrical distribution components, including receptacles, switches and circuit breakers, but not necessarily the wiring; and
  • Fusible-type fire sprinkler heads.

The updated advice is based on studies conducted by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, which concluded that the drywall’s corrosive effect on gas service piping and certain smoke and fire detection devices did not present “a substantial product safety hazard.”

Homeowners started reporting problems with drywall after hurricanes Katrina and Rita, which sparked a rebuilding boom. The tainted drywall was imported from China during 2006-2007 following a shortage in the U.S. and used in homes at least until 2009. The CPSC has received reports of problem drywall from 3,905 homeowners in 42 states and several territories. The agencies believe there may be as many as 6,300 homes with problem drywall, most of them clustered in the hurricane-ravaged states.

Since it began its investigation, the CPSC has enlisted an alphabet soup of partners to explore problems caused by the drywall. In addition to the remediation recommendations, information provided by the agency has allowed some homeowners to claim tax deductions for their losses and, in some cases, renegotiate their mortgages. Still, most affected homeowners can't afford to cover the cost of repairing their homes and no public money has been forthcoming.

For more information, check the CPSC’s Drywall Information Center.

Mary H.J. Farrell

   

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