Exterior Home Replacements Wood vs PVC & Composites
Shopping for exterior home replacement materials inside a home improvement store or lumber yard can help to understand the plethora of options better as it pertains to siding, wood, trim, and other repair materials.
Over the lifetime of a home, one can come to expect a certain level of maintenance. Most homeowners desire to reduce exterior home repairs and maintenance as much as possible. In doing so, it’s always great to get information that can guide you in the right direction based on what your needs are.
Here we will cover exterior home trim options and aim to clear up popular misconceptions and elaborate on the pros and cons of each material.
From projects as large as complete exterior home makeovers to simple repairs, you will not want to miss this article as we offer the inside scoop on what materials to avoid if minimal maintenance is at the center of your needs!
Exterior Wood Trim Variations & Premature Failures
If you own a home that is close to or over 20 years old, chances are you have either witnessed or at least understand the looming potential for significant repairs. But in particular, here we are going to concentrate on exterior home wood and trim replacements.
Almost every home contains doors, windows, maybe a porch, or a deck. In most cases, nearly all areas will include some if not all wood substrates. Wood is a versatile and beautiful material. The issue is that wood requires routine maintenance of which most homeowners overlook or frankly ignore.
The second and just as important factor is that not all wood is the same. Anyone with basic woodworking knowledge understands the difference between hardwoods and softwoods, which are subject to rot faster. Then there is another exterior wood trim that, let’s just say, is a recycled material that does not contain solid courses of wood.
A common example of “recycled” wood trim is a technique referred to as finger jointing. In the case of finger jointing, natural wood is used but is not continuous. Finger joints contain short sections of wood joined together to make a consecutive piece. This technique is used to save and reuse short pieces of lumber.
The other predominant “recycled” wood material can be categorized or summed up as particleboard. Although many manufacturers have adopted proprietary names and technologies, wood fibers or particles are the compositions’ gist.
In short, if your objective is to mitigate potential future replacements and repairs, stay away from all engineered wood on exterior surfaces. From Masonite, Miratec, OSB, and MDF materials for siding, shutters, exterior trim, or decks, they all will eventually fail and rot entirely out over time.
Exterior engineered wood products have encountered either a class-action lawsuit or have altered their warranties to avoid being overrun by countless claims. History shows, premature failures appear to be the historical epicenter of standard exterior engineered lumber.
Miratec has gone through three revised generations of production. Masonite is no longer available and has several class-action suits, just to name a few. The undeniable truth is that wood particles do not belong on the exterior of a home build with low maintenance in mind.
Although hardwoods and select solid old-growth (non-farm-raised) softwoods that are adequately sealed – can hold up for quite some time. You know! How homes were once built!
However, these materials are all but obsolete, and with the rising costs to mill lumber, they are also costly! So, that’s where other materials come in!
Pros & Cons of PVC Materials
Unfortunately, the most significant drawback is that PVC and most composite materials are petroleum-based and are not biodegradable. Installation requires carpenters to be cognisant of the health risks involved while cutting. Masks and proper ventilation are also necessary.
There are also misconceptions about PVC and composites being cheap materials! Outside of the apparent environmental implications and cautions needed while cutting, it’s hard to see PVC and premium composites as anything other than ideal for mitigating future exterior home maintenance. We do stress the word “premium” composites of which we will cover in just a second!
To debunk the misconceptions of PVC, one must understand that there are different PVC grades. The density of PVC trim or molding directly reflects how durable it is. Less expensive products will contain more oversized air pockets, also known as cells or cores.
PVC materials containing large air cores are noticeably lighter, resulting in them being easier to dent and deform under immense heat.
Other PVC variations contain wood cores capped with PVC around it. These products are hybrids that offer a lower cost and increased sustainability but are limited and are not always ideal for exterior applications.
Pros & Cons of Composite Materials
There are a lot of pretenses associated with composite materials. To avoid falling victim to unreasonable expectations, we will explain composite materials’ best applications. We also elaborate on what to expect regarding longevity, durability, maintenance and help you distinguish and quickly identify premium materials.
The most notable usage of composite materials is in deck railing and flooring applications. Composites contain a percentage of wood pulp and plastic. Depend upon the ratio, mixed materials can mimic natural wood while offering less maintenance but beware of inferior products.
In efforts to reduce overall costs, there are scalloped and semi-capped options. Scalloped boards contain less material resulting in less structural rigidity. Typically, scalloped deck planks are not entirely capped with a plastic protective coating. Non fully capped boards result in the inner wood portions of the board being exposed and consequently degenerating quicker.
On the other hand, premium composite deck boards are solid instead of scalloped and offer entirely capped options containing a plastic coating on all four sides.
But even premium composite materials have limitations. One of the significant drawbacks of composite is that it’s not as strong as natural wood. This issue is exacerbated under extreme heat and is even more pronounced when installed incorrectly.
In efforts to resolve strength issues, most manufacturers require floor joist spans to be shortened from a 16-inches on-center to 12 inches. In most cases, a closer joist and proper installation will offset the potential rigidity issues.
Fade, delamination, scratch, and stain resistance are among other issues found within non-premium composite materials.
We recommend using premium composite materials – if you have the budget. Otherwise, use premium wood lumber. Price point building materials are hardly ever beneficial long-term.
Addressing PVC & Composite Misconceptions
PVC does not rot and will likely last longer than the home. For some, that statement alone is enough to stir environmental concerns, and rightfully so! But there are a few baseless misconceptions and preferences that some homeowners have that need clearing up.
First, when considering PVC, fiberglass, or vinyl options, always remember there are different grades. Outside of the appearance, there are differences between vinyl products, even within windows. Vinyl substrates containing higher percentages of titanium dioxide and ethylene will not only feel and look better but are also more durable.
With Windsor, Royal, and other manufactures creating ultra-premium vinyl products, no longer is it true that plastic belongs in cheaper homes. Even some of the best quality entry doors are made of vinyl and mimic wood perfectly.
No matter how premium the PVC, composite, fiberglass, or vinyl materials are, some people will never see plastics as premium, and that’s okay. On the flip side, others assume any plastic will serve the purpose until the end of time. Our recommendation is not to fall victim to either of these statements. With a bit of research and hands-on experience, you may be surprised.
Vinyl and fiberglass are standard replacement window options in today’s market. Whether you are replacing shutters, exterior house trim, or just about anything outdoors, premium PVC is hard to overlook when considering a durable replacement.
However, for fire safety and other reasons, we recommend fiber cement for most all siding applications.
PVC is available in several profiles ranging from brick mold, crown, baseboard, corner boards, and so much more! Most PVC also has a smooth and wood grain side that emulates real wood textures.
PVC can be less expensive than solid wood options, and if it’s any constellation, most manufacturers are using recycled plastics.