Have you ever wondered how extensive the process is to mold, cut and carve vinyl? Or, exactly what it takes to get that smooth finish on a decorative bracket? If you were to compare the advantages of working with wood vs. vinyl, you would find that the actual physical act of carving, cutting, routing, etc. are so similar that there really is nothing to compare. If you dig deeper, however, you will find many advantages to using vinyl over wood.
Vinyl lumber has a similar feel and weight to white pine. It is harder on the surface with a dense cellular middle. One main difference is that inner cellular structure at the core of the vinyl lumber. This middle core is made up of a closed-cell material that will not allow water retention which is why PVC vinyl retains paint so well. It is all but impossible for water to penetrate behind the painted vinyl surface, therefore, eliminating peeling or cracking often associated with painted wood products.
When working with vinyl, you may find that it is not as forgiving to heat as wood. Be sure to use sharp tools; preferably carbide tools. The heat created by using a dull tool will soften and distort the cut. Also, you want to avoid locating vinyl trim near heat sources above 130 degrees fahrenheit. Extreme high temperatures above 130 can cause the vinyl to soften and possibly distort. While vinyl may soften from a high heat source, it will not burn or sustain a flame on its own, unlike its flammable counterpart… wood.
If you are proficient working with wood you will find a lot of similarities working with vinyl trimboard. The same tools are used to cut, sand, rout or drill vinyl as with wood. Vinyl lumber can be easily trimmed, modified and fastened in the field using the same techniques and tools used for traditional lumber. One caution is to be sure to always use sharp tools. The heat that can be created using dull tools can cosmetically damage the cut surface.
When cutting vinyl lumber, you will notice the cut surface has some texture to it and is not as smooth as the outer surface. The texture does not create a visual problem because the vinyl has the same white color throughout. You can sand the exposed edges to get a smoother surface however, the cellular nature of the material will not allow it to become as smooth as the surface and you take a risk of transferring some of the darker sandpaper material onto the vinyl causing the edges to darken. The best solution to avoiding rough edges is the same as avoiding heat damage–always work with very sharp tools. As with wood, a sharp tool yields a finer edge.
One final note to remember about working with vinyl lumber is that you need not worry about the exposed cut edges or any parts of the product responding adversely to climate or weather conditions. The ingredient used to give the material its bright, white coloring provides a natural UV protection and is found throughout the product–on the surface and the inner core. This built in “sunscreen” allows the product to retain its natural color year after year–inside and out.
For more details on working with vinyl/PVC lumber, please contact Mike Sheehan at 850.433.4981 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Mike is the owner of Classic Design and Manufacturing (CD&M), parent conpany of Durabrac Architectural Components, Classic Sign, and Classic Mailboxes. Mike has been working and creating with vinyl for over 30 years and is considered by many to be an expert of this material. All products produced by CD&M are primarily made with vinyl–including custom retail signs, residential entry signs and street signs, mailboxes, decorative brackets, columns, running trim, spandrel and more.