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When you're looking for eco-friendly, it doesn't get much better than plastic lumber. Today's homeowner is more environmentally conscious than any other generation; plastic lumber is a durable, tough alternative for those concerned with conservation and sustainability.
Plastic Lumber Uses
Plastic lumber, though not considered as aesthetically pleasing as wood, has many benefits that might outweigh its surface appearance. While plastic lumber can be used in a number of instances where traditional wood lumber is called for, it truly shines in outdoor or particularly wet situations. Plastic lumber is quickly becoming one of the more preferred building materials for outdoor furniture, decks, and sheds. It is impervious to water, resistant to fire (though it can burn, it is difficult to start a fire with), and tough enough to stand up to heat of up to 180 degrees Fahrenheit before softening.
Working with Plastic Lumber
Plastic lumber can be cut, drilled, and nailed in the same way as wood. It is incredibly low maintenance; studies suggest that it can go for upwards of 400 years without wearing. Most plastic lumber comes with a lifetime guarantee.
Plastic lumber is not a good candidate for paint, as paint has a difficult time sticking to it. It does, however, come in a variety of colors that are fade resistant; particular colors can also be custom made. Unlike wood, it doesn't work well with conventional adhesives. There is, however, a special adhesive on the market designed specifically for bonding to plastic lumber.
While plastic lumber is very good to use as a surface material, its structural make up is not generally manufactured for support. Unless specifically designed and sold as such, plastic lumber is usually not a sufficient load bearer.
Plastic lumber doesn't bow or warp the way that wood does, but it is prone to expansion and contraction. When using plastic lumber, an expansion of around 1/32 of an inch per lineal foot is common. This should be taken into account, especially where boards will be installed end to end.
Plastic lumber, of course, plays no part in the cutting down of trees. In addition to that, it is also made of 100% recycled material that would otherwise end up in a landfill. Often made of old milk jugs, plastic lumber is a way for environmentally conscious people to support recycling going in and coming out as well. It also doesn't leak any chemicals into the environment the way that some treated wood lumber is known to do.
Plastic lumber should not be confused with the corrugated plastic often used to manufacture household and industrial items. Corrugated plastic comes in thin sheets and is used in making packing materials, drains, pipes, and storage bins. While not commonly made from recycled materials, corrugated plastic is, itself, 100% recyclable. The bin you use to store recyclables is, in fact, probably made of corrugated plastic.
Jon Nunan is a freelance writer who draws on his experience in construction, ranging from landscaping to log home building, for his articles on home improvement.