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The 9 Worst Building Materials

worst building materials

In the name of progress, we have made some pretty dumb “improvements” to the things we use to build our houses over the centuries. Some have killed people like asbestos, and others are just so atrociously ugly that they deserve to die a slow death in a landfill.

The modern era has seen some of the worst building materials imaginable. It feels like we are being plunked if you really think about it. In this post I’ll give you my winners when it comes to the worst building materials ever.


Anything that exists for these two reasons alone 1) It’s faster 2) It’s cheaper, should cease to exist. Before we even knew the awesome benefits of it we used to install plaster walls. Plaster is harder, better at insulating and soundproofing, and it sucks CO2 from the air throughout the years. Yeah, it’s costs more, but what were we thinking giving up on this stuff?

Vinyl Siding

Melted vinyl siding after a house fire

Always trying to look like it’s something else (fake wood) this imposter is constantly trying to hide its real identity because it knows that if we saw it for what it really was, it would be kicked to the curb. It causes wood rot that no one sees until it’s too late. God forbid there is a house fire this stuff lights up like the 4th of July and gives off toxic fumes that will kill you before the fire ever gets you.

Hollow Core Doors

The idea for this must have gone something like this, “Let’s build a door out of tissue paper and see if people will buy it.” If a 5-year-old can punch right through a door, does it really count as a door? When you can’t even slam a door when you’re angry I don’t want one of those in my house.

Modern Sash Balance Systems

We had ropes and pulleys which made a sash balanced perfectly no matter where it was opened for close to a century and then we thought, “Hey, this is too easy.” So, we invented a bunch of more expensive, more complicated, harder to use, harder to fix balance systems to replace the only one that actually worked. Well done, America.

Aluminum Siding

Let’s find the thinnest, most easily dented material on earth and put it all over the outside of a house. It should be fine, right? It’s like wrapping a house in tin foil and expecting excellence.

Aluminum Wiring

Maybe we were wrong about having the aluminum outside. We should put it inside the walls where it can cause fires. Yeah, that’s the ticket!

Foam Weatherstripping

For years we had metal weatherstripping, but that lasted forever. Homeowners were clamoring for a weatherstripping option that could be replaced every year and be far less effective. Then one day, foam weatherstripping was invented and we all celebrated that we would get to replace our weatherstripping every year rather than every century. That’s reason to celebrate.

CFL Lights

Space age looking lights that cast a green glow over everything and last a long time unless you turn them on and off often. These little spiral devils make me so mad I just wanna throw them in the trash, but then again, you can’t even throw them away like normal trash! Ahhh!!

Particle Board

What if we created a wood type product that doesn’t do well near water and then convince homeowners that they should make their kitchen countertops and bathroom vanities from it? They’ll never go for it. Or will they? They will. They did.

So what did I miss? What would you add to the list of the worst building materials?

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9 thoughts on “The 9 Worst Building Materials

  1. Great article Scott where to start? Pick a house and you will find so many unless they use a custom builder who was picky about materials? A few I saw in a remodel I did was cheap inferior roof wood, shingles, roof paper, aluminum flashing, rotten wood or Aluminum & plastic flashing hiding unfinished walls and trim. No insulation around exterior doors or windows? Cheap sliding doors that leaked improperly installed, rotten wood on decks and trim that was not primed nor proper wood? Basically pick any house do an inspection built in the 70’s-90’s or newer that was slapped up in a hurry? Poor or no insulation, poor ventilation in bathrooms and attic, cheap doors and windows no insulation around frames. The list goes on..

  2. Couldn’t agree more. There are still so many awful building materials you can still add though. Popcorn ceiling material is just one that comes to mind…

  3. I would add extruded foam trim and moulding (especially shoe).
    Its exactly what you don’t need- breaks if its in the bed of your truck and you exceed 15mph, dents if it sees a pneumatic nailer in the same room, gouges with the slightest touch of a vacuum or floor mop, scraps cant be used as kindling, dissolves with paint stripper and melts with a heat gun…
    But I’m sure its great for Hollywood sets

  4. I agree with all except for the mechanical cooling devices… unfortunately, most of us don’t have the luxury of designing our own environmentally sound homes. I was in the middle of putting in a centralized air conditioning system into a house in Miami in JULY…… oh how I loved that first rush of cool air. I would also add to your list of worst things ever invented… the stick-on “grid” made to imitate real muntins. Pure evil.

    1. Kathleen, agreed on the muntin grid! Don’t get me wrong on mechanical cooling. I live in Orlando and would suffer without it. My beef with it is that after its invention we got lazy with our home design. Instead of designing passive cooling (or heating) elements as a part of the house like we used to do because that was the only option. We began building frighteningly inefficient boxes, with none of the earlier lessons we learned about keeping houses comfortable.

  5. Great article! We did put Certainteed siding on a ranch style house several years ago, the best grade available in a shake style. It’s held up well & we always got lots of compliments on it.

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