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Reuben Saltzman

Chinese Drywall In Minnesota?

A few times each year, I have a friend or family member ask me about Chinese drywall.  Drywall imported from China during the big building boom after hurricane Katrina had high levels of elemental sulfur, which caused problematic hydrogen sulfide emissions.

What?  You don’t know what that stuff is?  That’s OK, I don’t either.

What I do know is that these emissions have a very strong rotten egg odor, cause major damage to homes by destroying copper, and cause health problems in the form of allergy-like symptoms, as well as headaches and nose bleeds.  Homes that have Chinese Drywall are being completely gutted, because the repair requires replacement of the drywall and replacement of the copper in the home – plumbing pipes, electrical wires, electrical panels, air conditioners… etc.

Most of the tainted drywall ended up in Florida and the surrounding states, but wasn’t limited to just those areas.

Do we have Chinese drywall in Minnesota?

Should we be worried about Chinese drywall in Minnesota?

To my knowledge, no.  As of 1/7/11, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has received two reports of Chinese drywall in Minnesota.   There are no confirmed cases of this stuff in Minnesota, and I don’t think we’ll get any.  Why?  Because it’s so bulky.

I don’t think it makes sense to import drywall from China, then transport it all the way to Minnesota.  At the time I’m writing this post, a 1/2″4’x8′ sheet of drywall is selling for $4.40 at Home Depot.  This sheet of drywall weighs 54 lbs.  That comes out to about $0.08 / pound.  I’m no expert on transportation, but I do know that the heavier and bulkier something is, the more it costs to transport.

So what about those two reports of Chinese drywall in Minnesota?  All it takes to file a report with the CPSC is to fill out a form on their web site.   I sent the CPSC an email asking about this, and they responded by sending me a 1.3 megabyte text file that contained database information of every case reported since 2005, along with a few other documents I assume were supposed to help interpret the data, but I found them to be quite useless.  If you’d like to see the files yourself, I’ve posted them at my web site here: chinesedrywall2005topresentdata.

Both reports for Minnesota were received by the CPSC in 2009; one was in Orono, the other in Burnsville.  I wasn’t able to figure out how to interpret the data, but a helpful person at the CPSC informed me that neither one of these were confirmed cases.

In other words, there hasn’t been a single confirmed case of Chinese drywall in Minnesota.

Reuben Saltzman, Structure Tech Home Inspections – Email – Minneapolis Home Inspections

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No responses to “Chinese Drywall In Minnesota?”

  1. Brent Warner
    January 18, 2011, 10:14 am

    I have heard that one of the larger home improvement chains was distributing Chinese drywall for a short time around 06-07′

  2. Peter Kusterer
    January 22, 2011, 8:57 am

    “…I do know that the heavier and bulkier something is, the more it costs to transport.” I think that may be along the lines of ‘it depends’. Like you, I am no expert on transportation.

    But, having come from the steel industry years ago, freight carriers might prefer our goods to those of items that were large in bulk, but low on weight. That was partly due to the “freight class(ification)” of hauling cold rolled sheet steel vs. empty aluminum beverage cans – same bulk, but lesser weight overall. Many backhauls can be built around this by carrying one type of freight one way, and another in the opposite direction, so as to make the most money for the carrier. So, as an example, drywall per sheet may be cheaper to ship than snowmobiles, as its density is higher in the same amount of space.

    “Commodities are grouped into one of 18 classes—from a low of class 50 to a high of class 500…” http://www.nmfta.org/Pages/Nmfc.aspx

    Also, mode of transit will affect pricing, too, i.e., truck, rail, sea (container, barge, etc.), air, et al.; ultimately one would ship an item across multiple modes for the least amount of overall charge – ocean container, barge, rail, then truck. And, fuel costs are a major factor in rates overall; carriers may be able to (or not) add fuel and/or recovery surcharges that can cause a dramatic shift in rates.

    “Trucking Industry Overview – Government Regulatory Requirements – A highway common carrier or contract carrier is required to file their tariff rates or contract rate schedule with the PUC. These rates are dependent upon the classification of goods, type of load, weight, and distance the freight is to be hauled.” http://www.irs.gov/businesses/article/0,,id=170627,00.html

    Possibly the Chinese drywall was brought in under some special (shipping) Tariff, especially during the housing boom, and could be quite cheap to ship across the nation. For some level of control point on pricing and availability, import duties and price pushback from the US drywall mfgrs. might take hold that would limit the competitive exposure in certain parts of the country.

  3. Gale
    March 20, 2011, 5:04 pm

    Yes, but….

    Drywall is made from gypsum, which comes from gpysum mines, which are large, shallow, open pit mines. According to Wikipedia, the largest one of these in the USA would likely be by the makers of Sheetrock, and that’s located in California.

    Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USG_Corporation

    So, by that logic, the bulk of the sheetrock would otherwise be American made and shipped over from California… over the Rocky Mountains. Otherwise, it’s coming from Florida and Chinese made. Despite what makes sense money-wise, it DOES seem like it’d make sense of some of it came from FL instead of CA.

    That being said, Chinese drywall is a relatively new problem. Perhaps there’ll be a few more cases in MN in years to come?

  4. Reuben Saltzman
    March 20, 2011, 7:11 pm

    Very interesting, thanks for the info, Gale.

  5. Wylee
    February 24, 2012, 3:00 pm

    We are in the process of buying a home in MN and visited a home that had a Chinese Drywall disclosure and code violation. Since it is a foreclosure, its being sold as is.

    We questioned the realtor and inspector about the disclosure and they did not respond.

    We quickly moved on.

    So, if it was indeed Chinese Drywall… it is in Minnesota.

  6. Reuben Saltzman
    February 25, 2012, 7:28 am

    Wylee – did the disclosure say the house had Chinese drywall, or did it just say that the sellers didn’t know if it contained Chinese drywall? I suspect it was the latter; I’ve heard that some agents are starting to include this generic disclosure as a CYA.

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