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10 Worst Building Materials Ever!

10 Worst Building Materials Ever!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!

6. Vinyl

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!

7. Drywall

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!

8. FlexSeal

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.

10. Asbestos

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!

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13 thoughts on “10 Worst Building Materials Ever!

  1. Last year sears installed vinyl siding on our home.(very expensive). It was alside odyssey plus ! After six months started bubbling and twisting. Sears sent out people to replace bad panels. Now looks worse than before.! We just got ripped Off. What garbage!!! Heartbreaking. Frank

    1. Oh no Frank! So sorry to hear that! Thank you for sharing and hopefully it helps other readers in their decision making process. Best of luck in your future home projects! – Alyssa at The Craftsman Blog

  2. Got some to add:

    * “Butcher block” print laminate countertops.

    * Speaking of countertops: granite. Ugly, overpriced, heavy, some types are radioactive — do you really want to lean your ovaries against X-ray emitting material every time you cook or do dishes just so you can impress you friends with how much you spent on your kitchen?

    * Narrow “ranch style” casings and trims for windows, doors and baseboard.

    * Faux brick wall paneling.

    * Panelling in general. (You aren’t fooling anyone, it’s not really wood.)

    * Laminate flooring (might as well use Contact paper, which would probably hold up better in kitchens, baths and mudrooms.)

    * dropped ceilings with metal frames and acoustic tiles. Ugly in schools and offices, unforgivable in a home.

    * wall to wall carpeting, anywhere but stairs and some bedrooms.

    * plastic electrical nail on junction boxes (I’ve been an electrician for 37 years and this is a personal gripe). Spend the extra buck or two per box and get the steel ones with proper clamps and grounding screws. In new work use 4″ squares with appropriate plaster rings the right depth for your wall material.

  3. I would add fiberglass insulation: the fiberglass particles can harm your lungs, eyes, can get in your skin. It is quite flammable. It collapses if it gets wet or under any pressure (like feet). In time it will slump within the walls and lose effectiveness. Cannot be recycled, etc. And it is altogether icky!

  4. Great list. I’m curious (and I’m new to the blog, so you may have answered this elsewhere)…but what do you use instead of drywall? All plaster and lath? Impressive!

  5. I deal in hazardous materials on a professional level. As far as Asbestos goes – if you have pipes that are wrapped in Asbestos that is in good shape the best thing and probably the cheapest way to deal with it is to encapsulate it by painting it. The problem is the dust from broken tape or tiles.

    You also should check your state requirements. For example in CA where I live, you can remove 110 square feet without having a professional do it. You still want to wear protective clothing as mentioned above. If you are dealing with tiles continuously wet them down with water so that the dust doesn’t get into the air.
    Asbestos is actually a naturally occurring product and is still mined in some countries. Like most things including milk, you just need to know how to properly deal with it.

  6. A lot of these materials are only bad when used inappropriately. I live in a 60-year-old condo that only has aluminum siding on the second-floor “bumpouts”; most of it has barely aged over those decades. It’s not beautiful, but it is much more fire resistant than vinyl siding and it’s out of reach of anything that might dent it. Aluminum wiring is still used without much trouble in industrial and outdoor applications; I believe the mistake we made in the 1960s was to assume it was compatible with brass an copper, which have different expansion coefficients. Even vinyl, which has been used to make some of the ugliest siding known to man, has its virtues; it’s inherently flame retardant, so it can be used as is and makes a much safer (though not necessarily beautiful) floor covering than linoleum. Drywall is, for the most part, just plaster in sheets; it’s the way it’s installed that might or might not make it a dust hazard. Drywall installers should learn to sponge joints smooth rather than grinding all the excess into dust. On to asbestos: those old asbestos-cement shingles were amazing; some still look good after 100 years. The most dangerous thing about asbestos was that people assumed it was totally safe; it handled and retained correctly, it’s no more dangerous than most other materials. And, as for rope and pulley balances, every time I go into an old house, I can count on finding a few broken ones; it’s a good idea to replace them with chains, though some modern UV-resistant ropes will probably last longer than the original cotton ones. One material that really has no place in buildings is the polystyrene that’s used in the cheaper foam insulating panels and various other crappy products. It not only burns, but it melts as it burns, so the only way to make it “safe” is to add potentially dangerous flame retardants; even then, it will burn in a flashover, so you still end up with one of those “disappearing house” fires if worst comes to worst. Not good.

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