Drywall rehab draws construction firms’ interest

A myriad of test kits, inspections and quick fixes on offer for
contaminated Chinese drywall has drawn a warning from the Federal Trade Commission.

But amid the claims of dubious merit, South Florida construction firms offering full remediation are looking for business — and legitimacy. A recent quick Google search for “Chinese drywall remediation construction firms in Florida” turned up 8,830 results in .22 seconds.

But can the Chinese drywall problem really be remediated or are construction firms with idle crews merely looking for a new revenue stream in a South Florida economy where new projects have all but come to a screeching halt?

Allison Grant, a member of the commercial and construction litigation at the law firm Shapiro, Blasi, Wasserman & Gora in Boca Raton, remains skeptical of what she calls remediation hype.

She warns homeowners to be cautious of any builder who says they can fully remediate a tainted house.

“There is a lot of cross-contamination with Chinese drywall,” Grant said. “By the time your house starts off-gassing, the contaminants could already be into the concrete. It’s still inconclusive how deep the contamination goes. No one can guarantee remediation at this point, and most people don’t have the money to pay for it anyway.”

Scott McCurdy, president of Coastal Reconstruction, a Winter Park-based disaster reconstruction company, agreed with Grant: By the time most homeowners suspect Chinese drywall, he said, it’s too late to remediate.

Although McCurdy’s firm is active in catastrophe management of all types, he’s steering clear of Chinese drywall.

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“There’s no warning light that flashes that tells you have Chinese
drywall in your home. All of a sudden, you just start noticing an odor or start having pipes fail,” McCurdy said. “We’re not interested in getting involved in this because there is just too much financial risk. The only winners in this are the attorneys.”

But at least one local South Florida construction company takes a more upbeat view.

Torre Mackle, a Miami-based firm specializing in completing distressed real estate projects and Chinese drywall remediation, said if homeowners act fast, they can salvage their property’s infrastructure.

“There’s no reason to sit around and wait for more and more testing before you start ripping out the Chinese drywall,” said Frank Mackle, principle of Torre Mackle. “If you have the financial means to remediate, you need to get the toxic drywall out of your home because it’s going to continue to destroy the components of your home, including your appliances.”

Mackle is confident after attending the technical symposium on
corrosive imported drywall in Tampa last October and has remediated several properties.

But is it too soon to offer these services?

The Interagency Drywall Task Force, a federal initiative, has not yet developed protocols to identify homes with the corrosive material or determine remediation methods. What’s more, the Building Envelope Science Institute is just beginning its efforts to offer remediation certification to construction companies.

Still, Spiderman Mulholland, a principal forensic investigator with
U.S Building Consultants, with offices in Fort Lauderdale, said his 25 years in remediation tells him it’s never acceptable to leave the source of the problem in a home. “Under normal remediation practices, if it’s mold, asbestos, meth labs toxins, toxic industrial elements, or defective products, the source has to go.”

He continued: “Anything short of removing the source opens up several different complications and homeowners may find themselves up against the wall living in or selling their homes. Anytime the source of the contamination is left, you are just asking for trouble down the road.”