Environmental Protection

How to Take the Stress Out of Replacing Chinese Drywall

The words Chinese drywall are enough to get homeowners to break out in a cold sweat. But expert building contractor Ken Flanz of Terre Neuve General Contracting, based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., says that those whose homes were constructed using the tainted drywall need not feel held hostage. “I know that’s easier said than done,” Flanz commented, “but affected homeowners can take the offensive by doing a few things differently.”

First, “Try speaking to your builder directly.” When the first cases of the damage caused by the Chinese drywall surfaced, some builders were reluctant to replace it. “That’s not the case anymore.” Residential contractors like GL Homes, upon discovering that the drywall had been used in some of their projects, moved to replace it immediately. Any builder worth their salt should do that, according to Flanz.

Second, “Contact your state and local representatives.” Federal, state and local officials have begun to discuss taking action due to the number of complaints. Several months ago, the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency completed studies on the contaminated drywall. The Commission spent more than $3.5 million, the most expensive study to date. Research showed that there were, indeed, higher levels of chemicals, but not the chemicals that were first thought to be the main culprits. “More studies need to be done, and keeping the pressure on our elected officials is one way to do it,” he said.

Third, “Hire someone competent to replace the damaged drywall.” Flanz said that people aren’t quick to do this because they think they may have to “foot the bill themselves.” But there is help. In the near future, federal grants will be available to help victims complete the repairs and the government is exploring ways to allow homeowners to borrow money via low-interest Disaster Relief Loans. Insurance settlements also may be the way to go, he said, adding “We have been told by a leading law firm that several insurance companies representing general contractors involved with installing contaminated drywall are now willing to pay cash to settle homeowner claims.”

If you choose this route Flanz added a word of caution: “Make sure you hire an experienced General Contractor who can manage the project from start up to clean up. This is not a do-it-yourself job.”

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