I suppose it'd be unrealistic to expect a building materials company to report even a modestly respectable quarter amid the current housing quagmire. Certainly, Dallas-based but primarily eastern operator Builders FirstSource (NYSE:BLDR) struggled in the quarter, reporting earnings last week that plummeted from $0.54 a share to a single penny. Nevertheless, it achieved earnings, however puny.

A day later, Builders' West Coast cousin, San Francisco-headquartered Building Materials Holding (NYSE:BLG), announced a bigger swing. Its results moved to a loss of $5 million, or $0.17 per share, from last year's net income of $28.1 million, or $0.95 a share. The company's earnings loss resulted from a 35.7% decline in revenue.

Building Materials Holding operates through a pair of segments. SelectBuild offers various construction services, including wood framing, masonry, plumbing, labor management, and construction scheduling. BMC West markets building products, including structural lumber and building components.

In releasing his company's results, Robert E. Mellor, Building Materials' president and CEO, said, "Weakness in the homebuilding market continued to be pervasive during the first quarter. Like many of our peers and customers, our quarterly results reflect the sustained industry downturn. On the building materials distribution side of our business, we continued to increase market share. Sales at our construction services operations closely correlated with lower regional building permit activity."

In terms of the specific results achieved by each of the two operating units, SelectBuild sales decreased 43% to $287 million, with comparable sales down a board-splitting 49%. BMC West experienced a 26% sales slide to $287 million. The overheated homebuilding market giveth and it taketh away.

Building Materials' loss clearly disappointed the market, and the company's shares dropped 8.7% to $15.43 on Friday. Earlier in the week, two major builders, Pulte (NYSE:PHM) and Beazer (NYSE:BZH), had reported circumstances that were soft enough to leave them both demurring on guidance for the remainder of this year.

So Fools, with the U.S. housing market looking progressively more like quicksand almost by the day, there appear to be far better places at this time for your investment funds than the building materials suppliers.

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Builders FirstSource is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation. To find out why lead analyst Philip Durell thinks it's a bargain, simply sign up today for your free 30-day trial.

Fool contributor David Lee Smith does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned. He welcomes your comments or questions. The Fool has a disclosure policy.