What material do you think this railing panel is made out of? Would it surprise you if we told you it was PVC?
Wood and PVC as building materials
We know that although beautiful, over time, wood used in outdoor applications will age. Whether a deck, outdoor swing, or piece of outdoor furniture, wood will gray out and the natural grain patterns will become muted. Over time it will also begin to warp, check and crack. If you’ve recently invested in a new deck or new outdoor furniture, it’s distressing to see your purchase age faster than you’d like. But we’re attracted to wood because of its natural properties such as its grain pattern and the natural variations of every single board. There is something alluring about natural wood and it will always be a great outdoor building material.
The question is whether there is another material that has all the good qualities of wood and none of the bad ones. There is one outdoor building material that we think bears the closest resemblance to wood of any non-natural product and this is PVC. PVC will not rot, check, of splinter. It is strong, durable, and long lasting. It will not gray out or change color. If you paint it, which you can, the paint will adhere better and last longer than it does on wood. In fact, PVC holds paint better than wood since wood is expanding and contracting all the time. PVC is a solid material and is impervious to water which is why it is often used for windows, railings, columns and gates.
Now scroll back up and take a look at the PVC railing panel above. The railing panel is not wood although it looks a lot like real wood. This is one of the reasons we like it. PVC has dimension and heft to it. We can work with it like wood. We can cut and rout edges. I am able to form it into layers to make even thicker dimensions. I can give it relief from front to back instead of making it all on the same plane. I can cut out intricate patterns, cut arches, and create other cuts and angles that would be nearly impossible with wood or another building material.
But, and you knew there would be a but, there are 2 significant and important drawbacks. First, it has no natural graining and variation like wood. It lacks that authenticity of a natural building material. I cannot stain it like I can with wood. Secondly, it’s a good bit more expensive and those are important trade offs to consider.
We’ve been building here in Nashville for 23 years. We’ve built with wood every one of those years and we will always build with wood. There is a time and a place for every material, technology and trend. Some are timeless and many of the synthetic materials will improve over time. Our preference is to use PVC for the areas of the porch that are not under the cover of a roof such as railings, gates, and fences. We also envision building more decorative features out of PVC such as cupolas, shutters or other elements that have no protection from direct sun and rain.
If you follow our blog or hopefully become one of our Nashville clients, you’ll see we use both materials in harmony in our living spaces. They work great in combination. If you visit or shop our online store, you’ll see many different innovations such as our store’s inaugural product – PVC railing panels. We are passionate about building, about innovation, and about building porches and outdoor components that satisfy their purpose in a beautiful and meaningful way.