Faux or No: Synthetic Building Materials for Your Home

By: Danny Lipford

Danny Lipford demonstrates faux building products for your home

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Over my many years in home construction, I’ve seen synthetic building materials used more and more. From vinyl fencing and siding to plastic roofing and moldings to fiberglass doors and columns, manmade products used today often hold up better and are less expensive than their natural counterparts.

Plastic Polymer Roof Shingles

Testing the impact resistance of plastic polymer roofingSynthetic slate and wood shake roof shingles from DaVinci Roofscapes are manufactured from an engineered plastic polymer that can resist impact damage and withstand winds up to 110 mph. In addition, the roofing carries a Class A fire rating, and has a 50-year limited warranty.

To test the impact resistance of DaVinci’s plastic polymer roof shingles, we hit a frozen piece with a baseball bat. To test the fire resistance of the shingles, we applied heat from a propane torch. In both cases, the DaVinci shingles showed little or no damage.

Vinyl Siding and Fencing

Vinyl is another plastic material that has come into wide use around the exterior of the home in recent years. Vinyl siding, such as Exterior Portfolio siding by Crane, is inexpensive, easy to install, and durable. Privacy fencing, such as that made by ActiveYards, is another great outdoor use for vinyl that requires much less maintenance than similar wood fencing.

Fiberglass entry doors are durable

Fiberglass Entry Doors

Natural wood entry doors are beautiful and can add curb appeal of your home, but exposure to sun and rain can quickly cause the finish on the door to deteriorate.

While fiberglass doors, like those from JELD-WEN Windows & Doors, are made to resemble real wood, they hold up much better to the elements.

Clear Acrylic Window Blocks

Glass window blocks have been used for years to bring sunlight light into a room without compromising privacy. Acrylic blocks, such as those from US Block Windows, perform the same function but are lighter, insulate better, and are more impact resistant than glass.

Urethane spindles on porch railing

Urethane and PVC Moldings

Another area where synthetic materials can perform better than wood are urethane moldings, such as turned balusters on porch railings made by Fypon. While they can be cut, sanded, and finished like solid wood, urethane moldings won’t rot and are immune to damage from termites.

Interior moldings, such as crown molding and ceiling medallions, are other good uses for faux products.

Plastic Laminate Countertops

Plastic laminates are both durable and inexpensive, making them a popular choice for kitchen countertops and cabinets. The look and feel of plastic laminate has really improved in recent years, and it’s hard to tell products like Formica 180fx from real stone.

Mantel with faux heart pine graining

Faux Finishes

Faux finishes can be applied to a wide range of materials to mimic the look of natural wood or stone.

  • Marbleizing is a sponging technique that’s used to apply layers of paint and glaze to surfaces to produce the appearance of real marble or other types of stone.
  • Graining is a finishing technique that uses special tools and finishes to transform inexpensive wood and painted surfaces into the look of everything from mahogany to rosewood.

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