Canec in Hawaii

If you’re shopping for property on Oahu, sooner or later someone will mention canec. What? you ask? Here’s the skinny.

Canec (pronounced CANE-ick) is a building material that was used in the 1930s to the 1960s on Oahu. It’s a fiberboard that was made out of the remnants from sugar cane processing. Builders used the material for ceilings and interior walls.

While fewer and fewer homes still have canec in them, it’s always good to ask because the kicker here is that canec contains arsenic. If the material is undisturbed and not rotting, no problem.

If it is disturbed or rotting…well…problem. That’s when the arsenic can be released and over time could cause serious health issues. Fortunately, if the home was built after 1964, there’s not going to be any canec in it.

I’m sure the professionals over at Building Specs Hawaii would be able to educate you further on canec, but in the meantime the Hawaii State Department of Health has an excellent paper available for download.

So, if you’re looking at older homes on Oahu make sure you conduct due diligence to discover the building materials used.


Since this post was originally published, some fellow agents have told me that they have seen canec used in building activities since the 1960s. One even asserted that she knew of a builder who still uses it. My suggestion is that you file this anecdotal evidence under the “maybe” heading and, as always, conduct proper due diligence.

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By Luke Korkowski (R)

Real estate attorney. Small business investor. Husband, dad, aspiring surfer. REALTOR® and Principal Broker at Square Feet Hawaii.

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