The Real Deal Miami

After landmark drywall verdict, style=”color

By Alexander Britell | July 06, 2010 07:00PM

Nazih Hardan of Coral Gables-based Lahoud & Hardan

Homeowners Armin and Lisa Seifart broke new ground last month with their victory in the country’s first jury trial over tainted Chinese drywall. Now they are blazing another path with the work of restoring their Coconut Grove home.

The Seifarts won a $2.5 million verdict last month in Miami-Dade County Circuit Court against several defendants, including supplier Banner Supply and manufacturer Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin, with more than $500,000 of that intended for remediation of their 4,342-square-foot home on Bonita Avenue in Coconut Grove.

The Seifarts have hired the Coral Gables-based firm of Lahoud & Hardan, which is among the few drywall remediation pioneers. The drywall problem has created an entirely new frontier for firms to specialize in the potentially risky business of remediation.

Lahoud & Hardan is a longtime builder in Coral Gables, in addition to construction work they have done on a number of buildings in Lebanon. The Seifarts were referred to Lahoud & Hardan through a mutual friend. The job has already begun, and could take around seven to eight months to complete.

“You’re looking at a cost of over half a million dollars,” said Nazih Hardan, vice president of Lahoud & Hardan. “Because you are taking everything out — it’s a two-story house. Even the bathrooms, with the tile, we removed all of that.”

“You have to go through it like you’re building a whole new house,” Hardan said, adding that a number of tests had been conducted prior to beginning work on the house, and that maintaining proper ventilation was a priority. This is Lahoud & Hardan’s first project, and Hardan said the firm would consider other similar projects in the future.

But remediation remains a risk, and Hardan said the firm will make sure there are measures for increased safety for subcontractors. In fixing any drywall-tainted home, builders have several companies come in to perform hazard tests — including visual tests and even smelling the home.

As of now, there is no special requirement or license to perform remediation work other than a general contractor’s license. There are special precautions for disposing of waste, such as certain types of dumpsters.

“This is something new that requires everybody to use common sense,” Hardan said. “We are confident that the right steps have been taken.”

The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development issued an advisory in March to contractors performing remediation work. It required all work to be conducted in compliance with federal standards, including the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

“This whole issue is new ground,” said Brian Sullivan, a spokesperson for HUD. “As opposed to the body of science that exists in other health areas like lead and asbestos, this is something that is very much less of a known commodity.”

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