After a year and half on the building materials beat, it's about time I introduce myself and the launch of my new blog is just the opportunity to do so.
Let me start by saying hello and thanking everyone I've interviewed so far for introducing me to the ways plastic products contribute to the built world. I've moved way beyond household consumer of vinyl blinds and siding to someone who has a handle on R-factors, wants more information on cradle-to-grave issues, and cares about the transition to — and occasionally from — polymer products in the industry.
My first recollection of plastic building materials goes back to being a teen in the 1980s. My do-it-yourself dad who didn't always do it by the book was gearing up to take on a home renovation project. A subscriber to two daily and two weekly newspapers, my dad read somewhere about polystyrene — Styrofoam he called it — being a great insulator so he came up with a wacky idea to improve the thermal performance of our house in suburban Detroit.
Dad started diverting the Big Mac, Quarter Pounder and Filet O' Fish clamshells from our weekly McDonald's carryout — they didn't use cardboard packaging back then — from the trash to the basement. He stacked the colorful containers and — it gets wackier — dryer lint in the space between 2-by-4 boards that stood waiting to hold paneling.
Was he a recycling pioneer, code violator, honey do-list procrastinator, or resourceful father trying to squirrel away pennies for college tuition? Probably more of the latter two. I just know he didn't get as far as he wanted — maybe two sections — before the need to finish the basement for a graduation party took precedence.
My mom got heavily involved in the project then and nixed the plan for our family of five to consume enough fast food and generate enough dryer lint to insulate a basement. My parents used “whatever the city code called for” she told me and got the paneling, drop ceiling and linoleum tiling done in time. The update added to the celebratory feel of the party and gave us a comfy new living space for hosting guests, watching TV and listening to the stereo, not to mention a finished second bathroom, workshop and laundry room.
Obviously far from professionals, my parent's big home improvement wouldn't have counted toward the statistics kept by the National Association of Home Builders Remodelers, which projects modest growth of 3 percent in 2015 and 1.5 percent in 2016 for residential rehab projects.
However, Dad's effort does show how pride of home ownership and the desire for energy efficiency has been driving the remodeling market for decades. And, my parents' selection of the available materials shows how far building product makers, who now offer rigid and spray foams, sound-reduction ceiling panels and luxury vinyl plank floors, have come in delivering it.