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To anyone interested in vinyl building products, including fencing, thank you for visiting this website.
My name is Rick Stull. I am president of Vinyl Concepts, based in Thousand Oaks, CA, with divisions in Torrance and Santa Barbara. I have been in the fence business for 25 years.
Vinyl fencing and other alternative building products are relatively new items that seem to be surrounded with many questions and even more opinions. As with any newer product or subject, there are plenty of myths and half truths around. There are also many different qualities available, and they are not always easy to differentiate.
With this article, I hope to educate interested parties about the advantages and disadvantages of vinyl building products, and hopefully give a good name to a product I believe has a very bright future.
The vinyl fence, gates, patio covers, decking, railing, and other outdoor products we are discussing are made from rigid polyvinylchloride (PVC) extrusions, available in various shapes known as profiles. These profiles are cut, routed, reinforced, welded, assembled, or otherwise fabricated into outdoor building products.
Polyvinylchloride was discovered in the late 1800's. Click here to learn how it's made.
For those who are concerned with vinyl's safety or environmentally friendliness, please read about sustainability. You can also view the link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n6M-ci4FQss
Vinyl building materials have been around for a long time. One of my associates has been extruding vinyl pipe since the late 1950's, and has been extruding UV stabilized vinyl since the late 1960's.
According to several sources, PVC pipe produced and installed in housing in central Germany in the mid 1930's survives and is in use today!
>>According to Robert Walker, P.E., of Uni-Bell PVC Pipe Association, (Published in Summer 1990 Edition of the Uni-Bell PVC Pipe News): "From 1936 to 1939 over 400 residences were installed with PVC drinking water and waste pipelines in central Germany. Various test pipelines of PVC were laid in Leipzig, Dresden, Magdeburg, Berlin, Hamburg, Cologne, Heidelberg and Wiesbaden during the period of 1936 to 1941. Both the pipelines for chemicals and those for water supply and waste water came up to expectations, as did the test pipelines in the cities mentioned above, apart from damage caused by World War II. The PVC pipes installed in central Germany are still in use today without any major problems."<<
Later, ultraviolet inhibitors were added to withstand the harmful effects of the sun, and these profiles were used above ground as conduit, and then other types of building products.
How it's made.
>> In the U.S., PVC's materials are natural gas and rock salt.
For a more complete history of PVC, visit http://www.ppfahome.org/pvc/historypvc.html
There are a variety of product styles, designs, and qualities available on the market today.
When I first became involved with vinyl fence, only the "ranch rail" design (3 rail fence usually used for horses) was available. But soon many other styles and designs were developed, including privacy fence, semi privacy fence, picket fence, railing, swing gates and roll gates, arbors and gazebos, as well as decking and pergolas. The desire for more fence styles created the need for more and more profile sizes, designs, and colors, as well as a variety of brackets, caps, reinforcements, and accessories, and the trend continues today.
Extrusion is the process by which the profiles are manufactured. In simple terms, raw ingredients in powder or chip form (including PVC resin, impact modifiers, UV stabilizers, organic fillers, heat stabilizers, and flow agents) are blended into a compound that is melted and forced through hot tooling (screw and barrel) then through shaping dies and cooling baths to obtain the final rigid profile. These profiles are run constantly and are cut as they are extruded by a sliding chop saw.
Many of the important properties of PVC pipe are predetermined by the characteristics of the PVC compound from which the pipe is extruded.
There are two main categories of extrusion in our industry: Mono -extrusion and Co-extrusion. Mono-extrusion has one uniform layer of product in the cross cut section view of the profile (end view). Co-extrusion has a substrate (inside of the profile) and cap-stock (outside of the profile). These two layers are molecularly bonded as they are in a state of melt at the time of extrusion, and they do not delaminate when properly extruded.
There are good and bad examples of both mono-extruded and co-extruded product available. When properly made, the co-extruded product can be favorably compared to mono-extruded product, and usually costs a little less. The cost to set up for co-extrusion is higher, because two extruders and more complex tooling is required, but the end result is a product that can be run faster and more cost effectively, because the required ingredients are concentrated in the layer where they are most required. For example the UV stabilizers, which are expensive, can be concentrated in the capstock (outer layer) where they are most useful, and less can be used in the substrate where it is not as important.
There are many different qualities of vinyl profiles available. Profiles are the raw "lumber" we use to make finish products. Unfortunately, to the naked eye - and to the touch, it is difficult to tell them apart. The compound used to make the profile can look the same in a finished extrusion, but have very different characteristics.
Quality problems you can see immediately in profiles:
Unfortunately not all profile quality issues can be seen by looking or touching the profile. These are the most important, and may only be realized after being in the sun and weather for a few years.
Quality problems you will only know after being in us for a few years:
Here are few things that may surprise you about profile quality:
It is confusing, but true. The ideal profile is one that is:
Fading and Chalking
Lower quality products can fade and chalk both excessively and unevenly.
This is usually caused by:
High quality fencing should withstand constant windloads exceeding 100 mph. This is accomplished by meeting high quality standards in all three areas of fence production: extrusion, fabrication, and installation.
High quality fencing should do a good job at reducing transmitted sound from the other side of the fence. The STC or Sound Transmission Class of a good quality fence should be at 26 or higher.
COLORS, VARIEGATION, TEXTURES
There are a variety of colors available in vinyl profiles. The most common colors are:
There are other colors available as well, including:
You may notice that the colors listed above are medium to light shade in color. Darker colors have been produced, but have not been entirely successful. This is because darker colored vinyl extrusions absorb more heat in the sun and can become soft, which can be a problem when the extrusion needs some structural integrity to perform successfully. Interestingly, the temperature difference between pieces of white and black vinyl left in the direct sun nears 50 degrees!*
The other concern with darker colors has been color retention. Darker colors absorb more ultraviolet energy, and seem to be more susceptible to excessive and unacceptable fading.
Recently however, alternative ultraviolet stabilizers, as well as tough acrylic compounds are being used to resist fading and softening. Some of these stabilizers are used in the automotive field.
Some manufacturers have introduced extrusions that simulate the look of wood by creating a variegated product. This is accomplished by having darker colored pellets in the compound that melt differently than the base material, creating a visually streaked, faux wood grain.
Another trend has been to simulate the look of wood by adding a textured finish during the extrusion process. Some even simulate the look of stucco. The texture is achieved using a rolling pattern die before the extrusion is completely cooled.*
It will be interesting to see what the future holds. I am certain that as these products become more popular, manufacturers will respond to meet market demand.
Vinyl building products do a good job meeting the challenges of today's "green" building specifications. 'Green' building refers to the growing importance of meeting sustainability requirements in construction materials and practices while at the same time limiting the impact on natural resources in both the construction and long-term maintenance and life cycle of a commercial or residential building.
High quality vinyl fences offer a number of green building qualities.
FABRICATION - Vinyl Fence and Gates
Vinyl fencing and gates are usually created by fabricating and assembling various profiles into a useable fence. Fabrication is a critical element in creating a fence that is strong, good looking, and long lasting. Fabrication includes design, cutting, routing, drilling, reinforcing, and assembly of the finish product.
An important part of proper fabrication is the computer numeric controlled (CNC) routing machine.
Common installation methods
The main parts of a fence are the posts, rails, and pickets. Posts are generally set into the ground 24"or deeper and into a concrete footing. They can be mounted onto walls, slabs, and existing footings a variety of ways, depending on site conditions. Posts may be reinforced if necessary, but this is not always required, depending on the application and material quality.
Rails are the horizontal members that usually support the pickets. Rails can be attached to the post internally where the rails slides into a pre-routed post, or attached using brackets. Different rail sizes and designs are available, depending on application and requirement.
Pickets are usually the vertical members that create the desired containment or privacy effect. They can be face-mounted to the rails by glue, screws, or rivets, or can be routed through the rail. Again, there are many sizes available.
OUTDOOR BUILDING PRODUCTS
Other alternative building products
Composites are typically extrusions made from a mix (composite) of various plastics and a natural fiber like wood, or other grains, hulls, or fibers. They are usually solid, and therefore much heavier than typical hollow vinyl fences and other building products.
Some composites are now extruded with a vinyl cap-stock, as vinyl has among the best weathering characteristics of the available alternative products.
Other engineered polymers
There are other types of polymers used as well, including polyethylene (both high and low density), polypropylene, and polystyrene
City codes, understanding, ICC,