Business

Reports of corrosive drywall on rise

EAST MANATEE — Homeowner reports of Chinese drywall — associated with a foul odor, a corrosive effect on mechanical devices and health concerns — are on the rise.

The Florida Department of Health has received about 39 complaints from homeowners around the state, including in Manatee, Sarasota, Pinellas, St. Lucie, Collier and Lee counties.

So far, two developers, Taylor Morrison and Lennar Homes, have been associated with having homes built with drywall imported from China.

Of about 80 Lennar homes in southwest Florida believed to contained imported drywall, 23 are in the East Manatee neighborhood of Heritage Harbour, according to a statement released this week by Darin McMurray, Lennar’s Southwest Florida division president.

An additional 40 homes will be tested and monitored to determine whether they have problems with defective drywall. The homes were built between November 2005 and November 2006.

A homeowner in the Greenbrook Terrace neighborhood of Lakewood Ranch has also complained that she has the imported drywall in her home. The home was constructed by Taylor Morrison.

Lennar, which discovered the problem through the monitoring of home repair requests, said that many customers experienced problems with air-conditioning systems. A closer look showed that the problem was linked to the drywall, which emits a sulfur compound that can react with AC coils and copper, causing corrosion or failure.

Along Montauk Point Crossing, where several homes have been affected, residents were packing up to move into temporary housing provided by Lennar.

Talk of problems with the homes became common among neighbors when they got together for driveway parties, said resident Beth Branch. While other neighbors have dealt with the problem for more than a year, Branch didn’t initially suspect that her home had defective drywall.

“It became the topic of conversation. We didn’t think we were affected by it because in two years we hadn’t had to replace anything,” she said.

Within two or three months of moving in, however, she had trouble with her air-conditioning. She decided to consider the possibility after she adopted her daughter Ciani from Guatemala.

Across the street, Maryna Haiduk and Tomas Vapsva were growing concerned about the problems with the drywall.

Strange things began to happen. Belt buckles, jewelry, mirrors and picture frames became tarnished, and their computers had to be repaired. Air-conditioning units experienced mechanical problems.

Since moving into the home in 2006, Haiduk and the couple’s two-year-old son, Leonardas Vapsva, also have been having health problems.

She had headaches and Leonardas, who lived in the house since birth, had a runny nose and respiratory problems.

“None of our family members have respiratory problems,” Haiduk said. “He was wheezing all the time and to recover from a regular cold it would take him two months.”

While the couple said that Lennar is working to help them relocate until the house is repaired, they fear that the odor will cause long-term health conditions and that they may not be able to sell the house.

“For this house, I paid a lot of money,” she said. “Right now, this house makes me sick and I cannot get rid of my house.”

They also are wary of the testing done by Lennar on the air quality.

Despite the health concerns of the residents, Lennar, which hired ENVIRON International to conduct testing, said that the sulfur compounds inside the home are “far below even the most stringent government health and safety standards,” the Lennar statement said.

But residents have been unable to view the information and believe more testing should be conducted.

It’s a concern for Michael Foreman, construction consultant for Foreman & Associates, who has clients who experienced problems with their drywall.

Foreman also warns homeowners not to allow repair work to be done until the scope of the problem is identified and they know they aren’t signing away the right to future claims.

While the defective drywall has been reported to have come from China, Foreman believes that the drywall comes from multiple sources, increasing the likelihood for widespread problem.

Homeowners in other states, including, Georgia, Mississippi, Texas and California, have also reported problems with drywall.

“It’s not just here locally. This is a very large problem and it’s growing,” Foreman said, adding that he believes few builders will escape having an issue with the imported drywall.

Jessica Klipa, Herald reporter can be reached 708-7906.

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