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About American Plastic Lumber's Decking

Let's begin with the components found in decking materials today.  Many are made with a conglomeration of wood by-products to reduce raw material cost, i.e. sawdust, chips from wafer board, plywood and plastic, combined with glues, similar to particle board, typically called COMPOSITES.  Some are made exclusively from P.V.C. or Poly Vinyl Chloride, the same material sprinkler pipes are made from.  Still others are made primiarly from H.D.P.E. or High Density Polyethylene, the same material used for milk jugs and Tupperware. As for aesthetics, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and close visual examination typically proves to be time well spent. 


Composites, for the most part, look much like remanufactured wood, sometimes combed or stamped with wood grain, some hollow and some solid.  Most composites come in around 4 earth-tone colors, and typically do not come in white.  Trim and approved rail systems are only available from a few manufacturers.  Guaranteed against termites and splinters for only 10 years, however, staining is not included in the coverage! Warranties vary greatly and require some diligent research. Some products have built sales on advertisements portraying computer generated examples of decks under water or 80% cantilevered on hillsides over an ocean background.  Long-term performance can be equally deceptive or less than time tested on the market. Substructure or framing components are not available.


P.V.C. decking looks much like the white fencing used on ranches with a stamped, grid-type finish and is typically hollow.  A manufacturers limited lifetime warranty is generally the norm, with white, tan, and sometimes gray for color choices, and hollow railing systems using aluminum inside for strength.  Ultra-violet rays tend to increase the product's brittleness, and no substructure or framing components are available.


H.D.P.E. has a natural grain texture, comes in many wood tones and solid colors including white, gray, green, cedar, sand, weathered wood, and redwood as standard colors for decking, trim, railing, and stairway components.  Some products can be color matched for a fee! Concealed fasteners for decking are available, numerous railing configurations, and structural plastic lumber for posts, joists, girders, i.e. substructure components or framing are available only in H.D.P.E.  The typical manufacturers limited 50-year warranty covers termites, splinters, staining, pool chemicals, mold and cracking.  Fastener retention is up to 30% better than standard wood products, and resistance to impact is almost five times greater! Recycled content can be up to 100%.


The three products many times range in cost from $2.00 to $4.00 Per linear foot depending upon factors such as thickness, color, and grade, excluding shipping. Generally they are maintenance-free to different degrees in comparison to standard wood products of the past, although some of the composites can be painted or stained after a weathering in period.


Regarding installation, the composites and H.D.P.E. assemble much like wood, although screw and nail retention is 30% greater in H.D.P.E. than wood and standard installation is with concealed fasteners and numerous railing designs.  P.V.C. installs with an aluminum or wood interior for post stability and a notched locking system for the balusters within the rail system.  Typically nails or screws do not play a part in the installation.


Many decking products have recently emerged in the marketplace within just the past few years, mostly COMPOSITE-based as a result of the low raw material cost of wood by products in comparison to HDPE's soaring demand in the marketplace for everything from the beans in beanie babies, milk jugs, Tyvek envelopes and house wrap, etc.  P.V.C. has been manufactured by fencing and vinyl siding companies for many years.  H.D.P.E., however grandfathers both by more than a decade.  A Japanese company named "Mitsubishi" first developed and marketed the initial plastic lumber extruder around 1978 first marketed to Holland and later caught plastic engineers interest in numerous other countries, the rest is history.  Many years later a brilliant plastics pioneer named Tony Noto in New York developed a structural fiberglass reinforced H.D.P.E. plastic lumber called "Trimax". This type material has been preferred in marine applications for large ship docks, fendering systems, wharfs, and pilings, by the Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Navy, Department of Transportation, as well as a Park and Recreation favorite for boardwalks, retaining walls, picnic tables and benches. Their primarily reasoning is what we call the "MAINTENANCE-COST AVOIDANCE FACTOR".  Extreme ocean conditions, sun, salt, and wind always have proven to be a superb testing site.  Replacement of steel, concrete, and wood structures with H.D.P.E. are specified by these entities and many others world wide for a reason.  That reason is defined simply as unsurpassed longevity. Your supplier may offer or provide free assistance with installation and design questions as well as the manufacturers requirements for you and your contractor. This will insure success of the final project.


Remember more information is good! Specific data on our products is available upon request, if not found on our site relating to ASTM testing, recycled content, and span charts.


American Plastic Lumber is located at 3867 Dividend Dr. in Shingle Springs, California 95682.  To contact their office, please call (877)677-7701.  Feel free to contact us with questions, requests for samples, design assistance, or a material estimate.

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