The Beauty of Imperfection

Fernando Pages Ruiz
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What’s beautiful about natural materials is hard to capture in manufacturing. It includes delicate, but eye-catching variations in textures and colors, curious inconsistencies and even blemishes. It can include weathering, and mottled patinas, splits and splinters.

This is precisely the source of the success enjoyed by polypropylene siding. As a manufacturing material, polypropylene is often called the “steel of plastics” because of how many ways it can be cast and molded into shapes. With the adaptability of polypropylene comes the vital property that allows siding manufacturers to manufacture panels that accurately duplicate the deep fissures and sharp edges of cedar shingles and shake.

Now it should be noted that advancements in the extrusion process have enabled vinyl siding to more accurately replicate shake and shingle profiles, as well. But thickness of product and injection molding literally gives polypropylene manufacturers an actual edge simply because the molds used to cast polypropylene panels are produced from large spans of actual shingles and shake. In essence, mirroring the natural inconsistencies and defects that give these durable panels unmatched authenticity.

A Tough Comparison

When you hold up for contrast a panel of polypropylene shake with any other manufactured shake panel (and shingles), such as wood composite and fiber cement, the difference in depth and detail of the highly defined, three-dimensional pattern available with polypropylene become obvious and makes fiber cement look uncharacteristically flat and the ridges abnormally shallow. In short, composite wood and fiber cement shake look synthetic, and wistful of those cheesy asbestos panels from the 50s and 60s.

In Boulder, Colorado, the place I call home, few builders use vinyl siding. But as I drive around town, I spot many gable ends and the occasional whole structure clad with polypropylene shake. Even where folks prefer other cladding, the architectural polymer industry has made strong inroads with polypropylene because it provides a truly satisfying replica of wood.

But distinct from its real wood counterpart, polypropylene is much lighter, easier to transport, and not as labor intensive to install. Polymer siding won’t reproduce the unwanted defects of nature, including swelling, rotting, cupping, and insect infestations. So in a very real sense, polypropylene shingles and shake surpasses the real thing, retaining the natural aesthetic while solving the issue of maintenance and deterioration.

To assure your siding is up to the highest industry standards, choose products certified to meet or exceed the industry benchmark for quality, ASTM D7254.

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