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4specs Discussion Forum » Ralph W. Liebing, RA, CSI, CDT » Specs and Chinese Drywall-- A Lesson « Previous Next »

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Ralph Liebing, RA, CSI, CDT
Senior Member
Username: rliebing

Post Number: 1107
Registered: 02-2003
Posted on Wednesday, December 02, 2009 - 07:07 am:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

by Ralph Liebing, RA, CSI, CDT
Cincinnati, OH

The continuing dilemma primarily in the south and southeast U.S, regarding the installation of drywall made in China is a sad, and yet perplexing situation. Could good specifications have prevented this problem?

While most of the problems are occurring in residences, where specifications would have been used on a rare if-at-all basis, one must think of what might have taken place IF specs were at hand. For all intents and purposes, I seriously doubt if specifications could have prevented this situation. Sad to say, but the best of our efforts are still AND ALWAYS open to circumstances that arise in various forms and which have varied solutions.

The news articles about the situation usually get to the point that the damage/disaster is something that came out of Hurricane Katrina and the widespread devastation she thrust upon that area of the country. With thousands of homes damaged or destroyed, the situation almost had to arise in the normal sequence that the ready supply of drywall would be used up in short order. When you have to strip homes of all drywall because of the paper facing and soluble core content, you have created a new “industry” very quickly and very ominously—it all had to be done in short order.

In coming to agreement with what insurance carriers were about, the solution was to quickly repair the houses and reinstate the families to their homes—not a bad scenario-- EXCEPT! The exception is twofold—first legitimate suppliers and contractors who sincerely tried to resolve the problem ASAP, and the sinister shysters who took quick advantage of a bad and deteriorating situation. Suddenly the Chinese became a ready resource for the very product required to ameliorate the problem, and quick fix storm damage-- so why not use it?

Chances are no one would have checked any spec at that time anyway, as most of the homes were up and finished, so even if specs existed [and been thrown away upon completion] the errant drywall would have appeared, unchallenged and been met as savior of the day-- quick fix, restoration and closure of claims!!

Of course, this would, almost surely, would occur in any in-progress construction that was underway. No specifications would have been checked for a situation that was a disaster in need of quick fix-- a thumb in the dike. AND who would stand tall and have guts enough to challenge and refuse the faulty Chinese drywall when it appeared! Few!

From this, we can, though, take a lesson. Primarily is that specifications still do have a meaning, and have a function and even extend to “public health, safety and welfare” issues [building code stuff]-- a method for protecting owners and occupants in the finished projects [but they are not omnipotent!. Will we get some legislator trying to enact a bill to somehow examine this situation and result in a provision about foreign products, illegal products [according to U.S. law] and the use of the same even for emergency construction use? Likely, but actual circumstances and “quick fixes” will still prove powerful in any event!

We may not eliminate possibility of such a situation from reoccurring, but a little preventative enforcement of sound specs still is one of the better ways to establish a standard and set a place of reasonability, so the fix does not become even worse than the problem! We must/need to at least try-- our public duty!
John Bunzick, CCS, CCCA, LEED AP
Senior Member
Username: bunzick

Post Number: 1142
Registered: 03-2002
Posted on Monday, December 07, 2009 - 12:10 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

And if specifications were in place, would this board have met the specifications, and thus been an acceptable product? And, what if they claimed it met the specs, but really didn't? Can we require project-specific tests for everything? (Who'd pay for that?!) Only test stuff from China?

I don't think even the best of specs can prevent stuff like this from happening, even when we try.

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