Once again, it’s time for an Architext tradition reaching back nearly a fifth of a decade: the Horrible Architectural Materials Better Off Not Existing Awards, or HAMBONEs. These, you may recall, go to the least durable, most overhyped, or most just-plain-pointless products on the home improvement market.

First, though, a humiliating confession. To my disappointment, last year’s Hambone Awards were not picked up by a desperate wire service, as I had hoped, and hence none of my predictions came to pass. I did not become an overnight media icon like Mr. Blackwell, nor even like Mr. Peanut. I was not invited to host a cable show on remodeling; was not asked to lend my name to a line of decorator paints; and was not tapped to advertise electric staple guns on TV. But as the Mets would say, there’s always next year.

I’m also sorry to report that last year’s awards offended a few hapless homeowners who discovered they’d already purchased every single item in my little hall of shame, thereby pulling off a Hambone royal flush. This year, I urge anyone likewise afflicted to bear in mind that my own conclusions here at the Hambone Institute are often drawn from similar firsthand experience. 

Finally, I once again remind readers that the Hambones are painstakingly not researched, scrupulously un-evenhanded, and indispensable to those with no opinion of their own. That said:

  • A waterlogged Hambone goes to one of the dumbest plumbing fixtures ever designed, the top-mount lavatory sink. Why would any reputable manufacturer make a sink with a big, dam-like rim that keeps spilled water outside, on the countertop, the better for slimy crud to take root? There must be a good reason, as nearly all of them do. Maybe I haven¹t been paying attention.

  • A cheap but worthless Hambone goes to that other bane of the bathroom, the bargain-basement exhaust fan. Made with supremely indifferent workmanship by a welter of firms far and near, these fans are powered by feeble, surplus record-player motors–no, really! –and are more effective at producing an irritating whine than they are at moving air. Moreover, their so-called “decorator grilles” are apparently the result of keen competition among decorators from Hell.

  • Nothing deflates a home’s impression of quality like going into a powder room and having your ears assaulted by one of these shrieking pieces of dreck. Take my advice: pay the extra $40 for a real fan, and keep your sanity.

  • Finally, no Hambone awards would be complete without at least one winner from that definitive collection of Hambone candidates–plastic building products. This year’s representative is plastic gutters. If anyone can think of a worse location for a sun-fearing, structurally iffy product like PVC than the blazing-hot edge of a rooftop, I’d sure like to hear about it.

Once plastic gutters are good and crispy from being broiled under the sun’s ultraviolet rays, they’re all ready to be dashed to pieces by tree limbs and people leaning ladders against them. And to those incensed plastics industry reps who are already tapping out vitriolic e-mails outlining your product’s state-of-the-art UV inhibitors and long-as-you-own-your-home guarantees–don’t bother. The Hambones have heard it all before, and we stand firm.

On the other hand, if you need a handsomely paid host for “PVC Showcase” on the Plastics Channel, we can talk.


Send tips or a letter to the editor to newsroom@inman.com or call (510) 658-9252, ext. 124.

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