Investing in PVC Trim
PVC is the leading substitute for real wood in exterior trim for a reason.
Exterior trim is something of a paradox—it can easily be overshadowed in the exterior materials selection or design process by other elements such as siding or even decking. At the same time, trim is an essential component of a home’s appearance, as it provides an aesthetic transition between materials, as well as critical protection from moisture at corners and around windows and doorways.
When considering exterior trim, it’s important for contractors to select materials that are easy to work with in terms of design and installation, yet hardy enough to last well into the future.
While wood has been a perennial favorite due to factors of ready availability, cost, ease of application and finishing, the wood of today is not the wood of years past. “Fast-growth” or “farm-raised” lumber has become the go-to wood instead of the more dense and durable old-growth lumber. This more popular new-growth lumber features a wider grain pattern, making it more susceptible to moisture, decay, insects and warping over time. Homeowners and builders, in turn, have tried to identify alternate trimboard materials that have all of the assets of wood, with a much higher degree of durability.
Many products today have the look of real wood minus the ongoing maintenance issues when used in exterior applications. There are various options available for fascia boards, soffits, mouldings, columns and other outdoor uses making it possible to have an entire exterior that is highly durable against the elements while still looking good. Those materials include composite or capped composite products, but perhaps the most frequently selected option is composed of polyvinyl chloride or PVC.
The Strengths of PVC
PVC is unique in the world of trim options in that it contains no wood or other organic materials, making it extremely resistant to decay, weather and other external elements. Cleaning and upkeep is relatively easy, and contractors have noted PVC’s durability, as well as its ability to retain its appearance.
“I’m a huge fan of PVC products,” says Cole Campbell, owner of Campbell Construction Werks, Lemoyne, Pa. “With proper prep work, PVC will outlast other, less durable exterior elements of a home, and still look great.”
Here are a just a few of the benefits that PVC trim can bring to any exterior project:
Easy to customize: High density PVC can be cut, routed, mitered and heat formed with precision based on a homeowner’s architectural and design needs. While PVC does not require any painting, it can also be painted to match design tastes.
No special tools required: PVC can be cut, drilled, nailed and glued with the tools you have, just as if the material was wood.
Tough against moisture: As mentioned, the open-grain structure of some wood trim products can allow moisture, mold and decay to take hold. PVC’s cellular structure, especially the higher density types, makes it practically impervious to moisture from weather and other sources. Recent advancements in technology have been able to heat seal previously open cell edges for easier maintenance and even greater protection against moisture and other elements.
Resistant to insects and animals: Because of small amounts of organic content that are part of their structure, some building materials can become food or nesting materials for insects, rodents or other animals. Because it contains no organic material, PVC is highly resistant to insect and animal intrusion.
Availability of matching products: Most manufacturers of PVC trim products offer a range of complementary mouldings, fasteners and other products. For example, Wolf Home Products offers a Cortex Plug hidden fastener system that matches its signature Wolf PVC Trim products.
Suitable for ground contact applications: Because PVC’s resistant to moisture, it can be used in locations that might otherwise be negatively affected by moisture that occurs naturally from the ground.
Lifetime warranties: Because of their confidence in the durability of PVC, most manufacturers of PVC trim offer substantial warranties on their products.
PVC care and cost
With all of PVC’s benefits, it’s easy to assume there’s no maintenance required. While caring for PVC is relatively easy, there are some specific substances which can cause marring or staining if they come in accidental or unintended contact with PVC trim. Some of these substances include:
• gasoline and other petroleum derivatives
• PVC glue, caulk, and other adhesives
• paint removers, paint thinners, and other solvents
• mortar, concrete and other masonry and cement dust
Obviously, the sooner an incident of contact with these products is cleaned, the better. Care of PVC trim products will differ between manufacturers. Homeowners and contractors should consult manufacturer’s specs how to clean specific products.
PVC trim has a slightly higher price tag compared to some other building materials, but the extra cost is a smart investment, considering PVC’s durability, lifespan and low maintenance.
– Dominick Pileggi III is senior VP of product development in Wolf’s building products division. He has been part of the Wolf team since 1999. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.