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Wall sheathing creates headaches for builder, homeowners

Carroll, M.
Boston Globe, on 5/1/2001, Globe Newspaper Company
cellulose fiberboard

Carroll, M., (2001), "Wall sheathing creates headaches for builder, homeowners", Boston Globe, on 5/1/2001, Globe Newspaper Company.
ANTON -- David Dyson sold his Toll Brothers home a few months ago, prompted, he said, by Toll's poor workmanship and what he felt were lower quality building materials than he expected in a luxury home -including a cardboard-like wall sheathing Toll has used on more than 700 homes in Massachusetts. "When you're living in a house with walls made of paper, you're not going to be staying there long," said Dyson, who moved to Milton after selling his home in Canton Wood s.

The product is a cellulose fiberboard called Thermo-ply Super Strength, with a thickness of less than a quarter inch. Thermo-ply does not give building walls the strength against hurricane wind and earthquakes afforded by plywood. Yet luxury home builder Toll, almost alone among Massachusetts builders, has relied heavily on Thermo-ply. Other top builders here have long used either plywood or OSB, another wood product.

To be sure, Thermo-ply has the approval of national building code associations, which help set minimum standards. It is popular in the Southwest and in some southern states because it works well as a moisture barrier, helping to keep humidity out of homes. But Toll's use of the product in Massachusetts, and its improper installation, have become a headache for the home builder. The Bedford building inspector did not allow Thermo-ply, and his Hopkinton counterpart convinced Toll not to use it. The Shrewsbury building inspector also opposed its use. The state has said it meets the state code, but has left it up to local building officials to decide whether to use it in their jurisdictions. Moreover, several of the building experts expressed concern over Thermo-ply's ability to withstand hurricane-strength winds, and whether Toll's sometimes sloppy subcontractors often made matters worse by installing it incorrectly. In earthquake-prone California, several jurisdictions have prohibited its use.


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