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How Do I Choose the Best Plastic Building Materials?

By Gregory Hanson
Updated May 17, 2024
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Choosing the right plastic building materials is generally a matter of picking the right materials for a particular job. Two varieties of plastic building materials are in widespread use. Some plastics, especially polyvinyl chloride (PVC), are produced from oil, like any other plastics, and are used primarily because they are superior to conventional materials in a number of key ways. A second category of plastic building materials is made of recycled plastics. These materials are often very durable and have the advantage of having a minimal environmental impact.

Building materials made from PVC have gained a great deal of popularity in recent years. These materials are impervious to moisture, highly resistant to sun damage, and can be made nearly as strong as treated wood. This material is often used in exterior applications, such as in the construction of decks or for house trim. It is also an excellent choice for interior applications in areas such as basements where moisture may be an issue.

Other non-recycled plastic building materials may be appropriate for specific construction applications. All plastics are resistant to moisture. Not all are impervious to sunlight, and care should be taken to choose only sun-resistant plastics for exterior use. Similarly, not all plastic building materials can be used to bear weight or meet building code requirements for flame resistance, and these standards should always be checked.

Homeowners or architects wishing to take advantage of the durability of plastic building materials may opt for recycled materials instead of newly-produced plastics. Recycled plastic building materials that have very similar properties to those of PVC products are available and can be used for deck or fence construction or as trim. Many of these materials are both sun-resistant and durable.

Rubber building materials can be either newly-produced or recycled. Fresh rubber building materials are most often used in applications where a flexible seal is required. Rubber fittings are common around garage doors, for instance. Any rubber fitting should be of high quality, and should generally be thick and durable.

Recycled rubber building materials are not typically used to seal openings, but are commonly used in structural applications or as paving materials. Bricks made from recycled rubber can be used in place of pavers and are gentler on the feet and on the planet than more traditional concrete pavers. When shopping for this sort of material, durability reviews should be consulted, as the quality of these materials varies between brands.

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