Advocate: Drywall woes may affect several hundred thousand homes

MANATEE — The leader of a national consumer advocacy protection group believes the problem of tainted drywall could plague a couple hundred thousand homes nationwide.

“The new revelation is it’s much bigger than we thought. It has grown to about 25 states,” said Thomas Martin, president of America’s Watchdog.

Besides Florida, states where the tainted drywall has been found include Alabama, Arizona, California, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Washington, Martin said. He is awaiting confirmation for a few other states.

Martin said his group is looking at homes built as far back as 2003 that may have the problem. And home remodeling companies may have been using defective drywall for years. Tracing home remodelers is much harder because they are cash buyers and many are no longer in business, Martin said.

Statewide, the number of complaints continues to grow. The latest report this week by the Florida Department of Health revealed that more than 90 complaints have been logged from Manatee, Sarasota, Hillsborough, Lee, Dade, Palm Beach, Highlands, Broward, Citrus, St. Lucie, Collier and Martin counties.

In Manatee County, affected neighborhoods include GreyHawk Landing, Heritage Harbour, Crystal Lakes, Greenbrook Terrace in Lakewood Ranch and Fairways at Imperial Lakewoods north of Palmetto.

Michael Foreman, a construction consultant in the area who has been offering preliminary testing free of charges, said he believes 30,000 to 60,000 homes in Florida will eventually be identified as having a problem with defective drywall.

The defective drywall was manufactured in China and imported into the United States. Not all Chinese drywall is bad, Foreman noted, adding that some American-made drywall may also be suspect.

It’s a “high probability” that some components of some American drywall may have been manufactured in China and shipped to the United States.

In addition to determining what drywall is defective, Foreman has been working to establish a protocol to resolve the out-gassing of the odor and corrosion of metal components within the homes.

Foreman said there is going to be a “silver lining” for the depressed construction industry to do repair work on the number of homes affected.

“The question is: Who is going to pay? Where is the money going to come to fund the repair work?” he said.

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