The way we build things has come a long way over the years. Technology and innovation have helped us build taller and grander structures than we could have imagined just 75 years ago. But it has not all been rainbows and butterflies.
Our race to the top has been running simultaneously with a race to the bottom. The race to find the cheapest, easiest, and worst building materials ever. And we pawn these off on unsuspecting homeowners as amazing technological breakthroughs. I’ll share some of the biggest losers that I have seen, but I’m sure there are more.
The Worst Building Materials Ever
1. Particle Board
There are few products that do this poorly when exposed to water, moisture, or even humidity as particle board. Armed with that knowledge, the remodeling industry decided to market particle board for use in bathroom and kitchen cabinets and countertops. What could go wrong? I’m surprised it hasn’t found its way into exterior decking yet!
Bonus: You always get more particle board than you pay for, since after a couple years under your sink, it has swollen to twice its size.
2. Aluminum Siding
Let’s find the thinest, most easily dent-able (is that even a word?) metal on Earth and cover houses with it. That way, you can have a record of every dent and ding as a story to tell the neighbors. “Awww, there’s the spot where little Johnny threw his first strike.”
Bonus: Having a metal exterior means that in the summer, you can cook things on the siding if your grill runs out of gas.
3. Hollow Core Doors
If your toddler can punch through your door, does it really count as a door? Granted, it’s hard to tell until you touch the door whether it’s fake or not, but when you try to slam a hollow core door and it is stopped by the wind, you know something isn’t right.
Bonus: It’s cheaper than hanging beads in your doorway and less noisy.
4. Faux Fireplaces
This actually fixes the one thing that drove me nuts about traditional fireplaces…they always get so darn hot! Now you can spend thousands of dollars on brickwork and a stylish mantle to have fake glimmering embers and LEDs to make you think you are warm. Mind over matter, I guess.
Bonus: No more expensive firewood to buy, just state of the art LEDs and electrical connections to fix when they break.
5. Aluminum Wiring
Hey, if it doesn’t work outside as siding, maybe we can use it in the walls. That way as it warms up and causes fires, you can still be warm with your faux fireplace.
Bonus: Big discounts on homeowners insurance. NOT!
How can we make a material that will constantly off-gas dangerous fumes for years and convince homeowners to install it everywhere? We’ll cleverly disguise it as wood, or tile, or some other safe and renewable material that they really want.
Bonus: It’s maintenance free, so once it breaks, you don’t have to worry about fixing it, because you can’t. You get to throw it away and buy…more vinyl yay!
Hi, my name is Drywall. I’m currently undergoing investigation by the EPA and OSHA so they can make new rules to limit peoples’s exposure to me because my dust may cause serious health problems. Oh, and I also account for 21% of all construction waste in the landfill. Nice to meet you!
Bonus: Chinese drywall has the extra feature of melting the insulation off your wiring and causing fires. Yay!
All you have to do is spray this on a screen door and you have a boat! Brilliant, we all had problems with that and until now, there was no solution to the problem.
Bonus: It repairs terra-cotta pots too. Wait, what?
9. Any Window Balance Other Than Rope & Pulley
The rope and pulley counterbalance system was so simple that someone decided it needed to be complexified. This one system worked for hundred of years, but now we have hundred of systems that only work for one year. Problem solved.
Bonus: You can listen to amazing hold music while you wait for a cube dweller to try to find the one out of stock part you need to fix your proprietary window balance that only one company manufactured in China for 8 months before discontinuing it.
Fireproof, rot proof, insect proof, and it can kill you if you get it stuck in your lungs. All around good choice for every building material we can squeeze it into.
Bonus: You can either abate the asbestos in your house or put your child through college.
There are plenty more around, but those are my top ten. Share your “favorites” in the comments below!
Founder & Senior Editor
I love old houses, working with my hands, and teaching others the excitment of doing it yourself! Everything is teachable if you only give it the chance.