(Nov. 9, 3:30 p.m. EDT) — I read Matt Griswold's editorial relative to cellular vinyl's inroads into the decking market [“Don't be copycats, wood composites,” Viewpoint, Oct. 22, Page 6].
My career in vinyl plastics began about 45 years ago and I have seen some phenomenal changes in building products and the emergence of vinyl as a replacement for many of those building products. To wit:
In the 1960s, vinyl replaced linoleum and its traditional backings. That change was due to the ability of vinyl compositions to bring lighter, brighter patterns to the floor and to get away from “rot” due to linoleum's deficiencies in moist and alkaline environments and its problems with blooming. Vinyl compositions looked good and wore gracefully. The ability to hold appearance over a product's lifecycle is competitively essential and vinyl did just that.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, vinyl grew immensely in the pipe and conduit segments of construction. Vinyl does not corrode, as did the materials it replaced. It is not known to this day what the lifecycle of PVC pipe and conduit is, but estimates well exceeding 200 years are prevalent. Both corrosion and rot destroy materials and cripple their function. PVC pipe and conduit wear out gracefully over a very long time.
Vinyl siding emerged in the 1970s also and again replaced compositions that rotted or corroded and/or required tremendous maintenance to retard that rot or corrosion. Both wood and metal sidings became targets for replacement, and again the ability of vinyl to “wear gracefully” and to look good after many years made it a natural exterior shield.
Over the years, vinyl siding has had problems with color hold and with distortions, but technology has done much to solve both of those issues. Vinyl siding is currently being challenged by cementitious compositions, but I think you will find an answer to that challenge with some new concepts, which again will likely use rigid vinyl as the backbone matrix.
Vinyl window frames emerged rapidly in the 1970s and 1980s and were called on to again answer the issues of corrosion and rot. The frames were appealing to the eye, an absolute cure to maintenance, and they also wear gracefully over a very, very long period of time.
And now decking, which is really flooring taken outdoors. Over the past years, the deck has come to be another room of the house. It is used for every purpose except as a bathroom and must now accept the requirements of those products above. It must be pleasing to look at and must wear gracefully over a very long period of time.
Vinyl is only the beginning of deck compositions that truly fulfill the deck owner's demands for products that last and keep their appearance during their lifecycle. Premature failures — whether in reality or in the mind of the consumer (color fade, stains, scratching, mold and moisture damage) — represent a huge amount of waste and disappointment that lead to a bigger carbon footprint.
Certainly research in composites or in alternative compositions will continue and should. If that research leads to a “better mousetrap,” then it will replace any current compositions.
Jeffrey E. Nesbitt