Wood-Plastic Composite Decking and Nonstructural Lumber

Wood-plastic composite (WPCs) products are made from wood lumbers and  plastics of various types, mixed with  other ingredients, such as ultraviolet stabilizers, pigments, lubricants,  and biocides, which are then heated  and pressed, extruded, or injection-molded into final form. In comparison to their solid wood counterparts,

WPC materials offer more consistent  material quality, freedom from defects and distortion, and, depending  on their formulation, superior resistance to moisture. They are used  most notably for exterior decking,  as well as for exterior railing systems  and finish trim, both interior and  exterior. Like structural composites,  WPC products make productive use  of rapidly renewable or waste materials. Some WPCs also have high recycled materials content.

WPC decking, most commonly  made from blends of polyethylene  or polypropylene and wood lumber,  is  available in sizes matching conven-tional solid wood decking in lengths  up to 20 feet (6.1 m). It may be fastened with corrosion-resistant nails or  screws, or with concealed hardware  that engages the edges of the boards.

A variety of maintenance-free colors  and textured finishes are available,  some remarkably similar in appearance to genuine hardwoods.

Ingredients and manufacturing processes used in the making of  composite wood trim vary widely, as do  the workability, surface qualities, and  durability of the finished  products.

Blends of plastic and wood similar  to those used for the manufacture  of composite decking may be used.

Alternatively, formulations with a  higher proportion of wood lumberÑ more similar in composition to traditional wood panel products, such as plywood, OSB, and fiberboard,  discussed later in this part may be  used. Products may be preÞ  nished, factory primed, encapsulated within a dense plastic outer shell, or coated with a resin-impregnated paper that  improves the quality of field-applied finishes.

In comparison to solid lumber, nonstructural composite lumber expands and contracts more with changes in temperature, so greater allowance for thermal movement must be made during installation.

And in the case of spanning members such as decking, the lesser stiffness of composites necessitates closer spacing of joists or other members on which the members are supported.

Wood trim made up from shorter lengths of finger-jointed  and  glued solid wood material is also available as an alternative to conventional finish lumber. In comparison to solid pieces, finger-joint stock is more stable and more consistently free of defects. It also makes use of short-length scraps that might otherwise be treated as waste.

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