Building Materials & Where They Come From

bridge repairs use lots of building materialsOur homes are constructed from thousands of building materials, many of them imported. We’re used to buying electronics made overseas, and our clothes and even building products. In fact it’s almost impossible to build a house today with only products made in the USA. Home Construction and Build USA, shares the experience of homeowners who searched high and low for USA building materials down to the concrete, when building their home near Orland0, FL .

The question is whether your realize how imported products affect us personally? If you monitor global issues, you’ve probably noticed China is propping up their economy by subsidizing various industries with significant exports. When I saw an article in the New York Times, How cheap “Made in China” products hurt the US economy in multiple ways, it caught my attention. This article is about steel for bridge repairs in my home town, New York City.

The Verrazano-Narrows Bridge connects Brooklyn and Staten Island in New York City. The bridge was built in 1964 and remains the longest suspension bridge in North America. Like many roads and bridges in the US, renovations are taking place and unfortunately $34,000,000 in steel production and fabrication has been awarded to Chinese companies. 

Here are some of the key messages shared in the article:

  • Steel product is heavily subsidized by the Chinese government providing “… massive benefits of a manipulated and undervalued currency to the underwriting of the costs of energy, land, loans and water”.
  • Where there’s tough competition from overseas, American companies have stopped investing in manufacturing space, special equipment and in this case, even lacked the financial capability to bid on the project.
  • Buyers focusing on the lowest cost often don’t look at the big picture like quality concerns about Chinese products and materials. For this project, the collapse of six bridges in China since 2011, which the official Chinese news agency acknowledged were in part due to shoddy construction and inferior building materials, should have been considered.  

Closer to home are the Chinese drywall problems, discovered in the southeast not too long ago. In Chinese Drywall, Do You Know What You’re Buying, I outlined the health problems and home repair costs people had to deal with because of tainted Chinese drywall.

There were also problems with Chinese steel used to renovate the San Francisco Bay Bridge in 2002. Faulty welds by a Chinese steel fabricator delayed the project for months, leading to huge cost overruns, and the savings for buying cheap Chinese steel didn’t materialize.


  • When other countries subsidize industries, the American economy suffers with the loss of jobs and the ripple effect. It’s not just the lost steelworker jobs, but the additional jobs and tax revenue that this work would create. As taxpayers, we should be asking government agencies how they can make these decisions with 20 million Americans unemployed.
  • Lastly, our growing dependence on Chinese imports has a negative impact on the environment. That’s because Chinese steel plants give off more pollution and greenhouse gases per ton of steel produced than plants in the United States, which contributes to global warming.

As buyers, our decisions affect more than our personal lives.

Before buying, decide if you really need it? 

55 Reasons Why You Should Consider Buying Made in the US!

buy local building materials & save jobs


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  • Brian Turner

    Howdy Tina!

    I was reading through the blog and found this post regarding the origin of building materials particularly interesting. Drywall from China continues to be a problem for purchasing newer building materials, however have you ever looked into pre-existing building materials in your home now that could potentially pose a health risk? I would love to chat about it because it is an important topic that is overlooked. Would you mind shooting me a quick email when you have a moment? I appreciate it, thanks!


    • tinagleisner

      Brian, I’ve sent you a private email to learn more about what you want to discuss.