The uproar surrounding mold may have quieted down recently, but industry experts are still focusing on it as one of the most important issues facing home building today. Many builders are actively seeking solutions to the mold problem in both product and practice, and manufacturers are responding with problem-solving introductions.
When Georgia-Pacific introduced the industry's first moisture- and mold-resistant interior wallboard panel, DensArmor Interior Guard, in Fall 2002,initially the rest of the gypsum industry maintained that the mold problem was largely an application issue, not a product issue. Since then, however, three manufacturers have acknowledged the need for products that help builders reduce the opportunities for mold growth during construction, and have introduced their own mold-resistant gypsum panels.
“It's a growing category of business, and certainly one that builders are beginning to look at as a serious alternative,” says Georgia-Pacific's director of marketing services Chris Beyer. Georgia-Pacific has extended its DensGuard family with abuse- and mold-resistant DensArmor Abuse Guard Fireguard panels for interiors.
Builders who have issues with mold—whether due to climate or construction practices—are trying to find products that will solve those problems, or at least reduce their occurrence, says David Drummond, director of marketing for National Gypsum.
National Gypsum has introduced Gold Bond Brand XP Wallboard for interior use. U.S. Gypsum now offers Sheetrock Brand Humitek interior panels and Fiberock Brand AquaTough abuse-and mold-resistant panels for use in wet interior areas. For exterior wall systems, BPB America offers GlasRoc Sheathing.
Some of the products use facing papers and cores treated with antimicrobials, and two utilize a glass-reinforced technology; all have been independently tested to ASTM D3273 standards and been found effective. But each manufacturer stresses that there is no “silver bullet” for the mold problem, and they emphasize that proper storage and installation of gypsum products goes a long way toward decreasing the potential for mold growth.
Despite the higher materials cost of mold-resistant gypsum panels—which can cost 20 to 60 percent more than a standard gypsum panel—installation costs remain about the same because they install the same as standard panels. Builders can offer an upgraded interior wall that will provide extra protection against mold with only a slightly higher overall cost, manufacturers say. The key to selling mold-resistant gypsum packages is to focus on the installed cost, because the materials cost alone could make some customers balk, says Bob Couche, National Gypsum's product manager for gypsum systems.
Along with mold-resistant products, abuse-resistant wallboard is also gaining in the residential market. These panels are used primarily for light commercial projects, schools, and hospitals, but are becoming a great upgrade for high-traffic areas in homes, like hallways, children's rooms, and basements. Using the tougher panels—which generally feature denser gypsum cores and thicker face papers—can help prevent dings and dents and can reduce construction damage.
“Builders are beginning to identify abuse-resistant wallboards, because they're continuing to look for little differentiators—but it's not a huge groundswell,” says Harry Lubitz, director of marketing for Lafarge, maker of Protecta AR100 panels.
“Abuse-resistant panel products are a win-win option for customers and dealers alike because they provide an effective customer solution while enhancing dealer sales,” says Diane Earll, product manager for U.S. Gypsum.