Chinese Drywall Frequently Asked Questions from Potential Homebuyers

The following is provided for informational purposes only and should not serve as a substitute for a home inspection conducted by a trained professional.  The extent of information you will be able to obtain on a home will depend whether the home is occupied or vacant, and whether or not you are able to contact the builder.

The Virginia Department of Health has received numerous calls from realtors and homebuyers asking what to look for before buying a home that may have been built with Chinese drywall. Below is list of items that potential homebuyers should consider:

Determine when the home was built or remodeled. (Reason: Most homes in Virginia built or remodeled with Chinese drywall were constructed between 2003 and 2009)

Ask the existing or previous resident if the air conditioner ever failed or needed replacement.  Also find out if there have ever been any problems with electrical outlets, switches, or appliances, etc(Reason: The gases emitted from the Chinese drywall have been reported to corrode metals including air conditioning coils, ground fault wires, jewelry, and cause appliances not to work correctly)

Determine if the home has a “rotten egg” smell. (Reason: Chinese drywall emits sulfur gases that have been described as smelling like rotten eggs, a burnt match, or chemicals with the smell dissipating after being exposed for a short period of time)

Ask neighbors if any of the homes in the neighborhood have been identified as having Chinese drywall. (Reason: the builder may have used drywall from the same supplier for other homes built in the development)

Look for markings on the backside of the drywall indicating the drywall was made in China. (Areas of the home such as garages, attics, and unfinished third floors are a good place to look for markings on the backside of the drywall)

Ask the builder about the source of the drywall. (There are many suppliers of Chinese drywall. Venture Supply was identified as a major supplier in Virginia. For a list of manufacturers click here)Have a trained individual inspect the ground fault wire for corrosion. (Reason: ground fault wires are copper wires that may turn black, chalky, or sooty in appearance when exposed to the gases emitted from Chinese drywall)

What protection does a homebuyer have against a seller of home with known defective Chinese drywall?

The Virginia Consumer Protection Act and/or the Virginia Residential Property Disclosure Act require disclosure of the fact that a home contains Chinese drywall where the current owner knows of that fact.

Who should I do if I bought a home and the seller failed to disclose that it contained defective Chinese drywall?

If anyone has information indicating that a property has been sold, where the owner had knowledge at the time of contract that the property contained Chinese drywall and failed to disclose this fact to the purchaser please contact the Virginia Office of the Attorney General at 900 East Main Street, Richmond, VA 23219.

Where can I find more Chinese drywall frequently asked questions and answers?

More frequently asked questions and answers can be found here.

Prepared by: Dwight Flammia, Ph.D. Public Health Toxicologist

November 8, 2010

Chinese Drywall for Homebuyers