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10 Things You Need to Know about Plastic Lumber
10 Things You Need to Know About Plastic Lumber
by Brad Holden
No, we haven’t changed our name to American Plasticworker.
I love wood, with all its beautiful textures, figures and smells. But I also enjoy experimenting with different materials. So I decided to try some of the plastic lumber available at my local home center. It costs $3 to $6 per bd. ft.—considerably more expensive than treated pine, which costs about $2 per bd. ft. at my lumberyard. Plastic wood also holds little of the beauty and romance of real wood, but its big advantages are durability and the fact that it requires no finishing and little maintenance other than an occasional rinse with the garden hose. I also like the idea that many brands are made from recycled materials that would otherwise end up in a landfill. Some manufacturers sell only the plastic boards; others also sell plastic wood furniture and furniture kits (see Chart, page 59, and Source, page 60). Of course, you can also design and build your own plastic lumber furniture, but you need to consider several things when you do.It’s Very Durable
Plastic wood is particularly well-suited for outdoor furniture. It is unaffected by water and has ultraviolet (UV) inhibitors added to protect it from the damage caused by long-term exposure to the sun. This means it will last a long time without cracking, warping or rotting.
Choose from Two Types
Two primary types of plastic lumber are available. One is all plastic. The other is a composite made of plastic and wood fiber. Some of the plastic that goes into this lumber is new, but most comes from recycled milk jugs, pop bottles, grocery bags and similar waste plastic. The manufacturers of the composite-plastic lumber add ground-up waste wood. This makes the lumber stiffer than the all-plastic type.
You may find flecks of other colored plastic on the inside of some all-plastic boards. This is due to the recycled nature of the material. Also, when you cut the all-plastic material, you will notice air bubbles of varying sizes in the core of some boards. One board may have no bubbles, but another may have many.
Lots of Colors and Sizes are Available
Plastic lumber comes in a wide assortment of colors and sizes. The selection varies among brands (see Chart, page 59). Composite plastic lumber comes mainly in subdued earth tones; the all-plastic products come in a range of bold colors. Both types offer sizes comparable to construction lumber. You will find, for example, 1x, 2x and 5/4 boards, even 4x4 and 6x6 posts. Most manufacturers offer lengths up to 16 ft. And 4 x 8-ft. sheet stock is also available in 1/4-in. or greater thicknesses.
Caution: It Can Sag
All-plastic lumber bends easily under weight. The wood fibers make the composite-plastic lumber stiffer, but not as stiff as the real stuff. Adequate support ...