Trim is one of the most important parts of your home’s exterior. It creates a finished appearance for the home, helps accent its style, and protects the corners, rafters, and unfinished areas of your home from moisture damage.
Traditionally, trim was made of wood, just like the lap siding it accompanied. But, wood siding has many problems such as susceptibility to moisture, insect activity, and fire damage, so many homeowners began to look for an alternative.
PVC does not have the same issues that wood faces, but it does have several problems all its own. Far from being the durable, low maintenance product many homeowners hope that it will be, PVC trim can lead to several aesthetic and structural problems over time.
1. Thermal Expansion
PVC trim is made from a honeycomb, cellular structure of polyvinyl chloride. The honeycomb makeup of the product means that it’s completely impervious to moisture, even when cut. Unfortunately, this can lead to issues all its own, such as thermal expansion.
When the PVC gets hot, such as when it sits directly in the sun, the trim will actually expand or grow. If will then shrink again once it cools. This won’t damage the trim, but it can cause issues with its bonding to other surfaces. It may also cause the paint on its surface to peel and crack. For that reason, you cannot paint PVC trim in a dark color; the cracks become very obvious over time.
2. Does Not Hold Paint
Because of that thermal expansion, if you choose to have your PVC trim in any color other than the white it comes in, you will need to scrape and repaint it every few years. Even with a primer, paint will crack over time, and begin to peel off. While light colors are less obvious, this will still detract from your curb appeal after just a few years.
3. Not an Eco Friendly Material
PVC trim is made from a type of plastic. This plastic is difficult to produce and gives off harmful VOCs both during its manufacturing and after its installation, for up to 5 years. And while it is technically possible to recycle it, most recycling plants will not receive it, so if you decide to replace it at any point in time, it is likely to go into a landfill.
4. Yellowing Nail Holes
To avoid the problem of peeling paint, many homeowners choose to leave their PVC trim in its natural white state. When the trim is nailed or screwed into place, the nail holes are usually covered over with some type of vinyl spackle. This gives the boards a smooth appearance.
Unfortunately, that vinyl spackle is likely to turn yellow over time. And because the PVC trim itself remains white, the yellow stands out very clearly, detracting from the appearance of the trim.
5. Easily Dented and Gouged
Many people believe plastics like PVC to be a durable material, but in fact the trim can be easily dented, gouged, or damaged by falling debris. If a tree limb on your property were to come loose in a storm and hit your trim, or if you were to experience a hail storm on your property, you would find that the trim would sustain a lot of damage. Most of this damage can be fixed either by heating the boards or filling them with a putty, but this is a lot of maintenance and work – the very thing most homeowners wanted to avoid in the first place by opting for the PVC.
A Better Alternative
Most homeowners who choose PVC trim are doing so looking for a low maintenance, durable material for their homes. One option that meets these needs, but without the issues inherent with PVC is fiber cement trim.
Fiber cement trim can be painted in any color and holds that paint well for many years without peeling or chipping. It’s not only impervious to moisture, it won’t swell and contract with heat or split with cold, so it’s ideal for any climate. Fiber cement is impervious to fire and insect activity as well, and resists impacts without gouging or denting, so it’s a truly durable and low maintenance option.
Fiber cement trim comes in many sizes and thicknesses, as well as with and without a natural looking wood grain, so you can customize the appearance of your home. If you’re looking for a truly low maintenance alternative, consider fiber cement trim in place of PVC.