Thursday, July 2, 2009

Replacing Wood and Plastic in the Building Trades

I have been posting a few odd rubberized items on Eco Fashion Fridays recently, such as belts made from recycling the inner tube of a bicycle tire, but could car tires actually be turned into something we use to construct homes out of? This is just one of the newest products in a family of wood-replacement innovation in the building trades which have sprung up in recent years. Especially for concerns of deforestation, as well as preservation of waterways and reducing the use of petroleum products, new concepts for replacing wood or plastic are being welcomed with open arms in construction.

Most of us have some form of wood outside our homes such as a deck, railing, stair treads, etc., and the recommended wood to use for such a project is built to last by undergoing a process known as pressure treating. This process ensures the wood will hold up longer against weather and is resistant to insects. There is only one problem, the process involves treating wood with inorganic arsenic, a known poison. Not only can this be harmful to skin and should not be ingested but the chemical can potentially run off and corrode surrounding soil which in turn might soon end up in waterways compromising the safety of the liquid and potentially harming marine and wildlife. Yikes!

So what are some of the options?

One product which has been on the market for a while is called Trex. This substance is created by fusing reclaimed sawdust and plastic (grocery store bags) into a solid plank that looks similar to wood but will never warp, splinter, need to be sanded, painted or stained and is inherently resistant to insects and sun damage. The product is extremely dense and will hold up just about forever. I can personally speak for this product as I used it for my old home’s deck and it was a dream to clean (broom sweep), easy to shovel (no splintering) and never needed anything for maintenance.

Re-Tread Products (RTP) is going even further and using reclaimed car and truck tires to construct their “lumber” which they call Tire Logs. These logs are made from strips of tread that are claimed after removing the sidewalls from a standard tire. They are woven together and rolled to create a flattened looking log. Although the company is years away from the ability to utilize such a product in construction of a home there are already thoughts as to how it could best be used in earthquake prone areas, as levees for flood prevention, decking, and even as a sound dampening device along major highways.

One of my very favorite items available that not only takes the place of wood or plastic but some quarried stone, is paper. I came across a company in my travels called KlipTech who not only provides commonly recognized paper countertops for a kitchen or bath but also paper based exterior siding, decking for skateboard ramps and a plethora of products that take on the appearance of wood. The siding is a product called EcoClad and it is a composite material made from 100% post consumer recycled paper and bamboo fiber which creates a dense and durable material suitable for all environments.

As innovation continues rise in the realm of reuse, more and more companies like these will take on the challenges of creating functional and stable products that take advantage of turning something formerly loved into something new that is safe and efficient to satisfy our basic needs. I think major kudos should be bestowed upon companies such as these for their ingenuity and dedication to furthering the lifecycle of items already on the planet.


Judi FitzPatrick said...

Thanks for sharing these products. I love the idea of old tires being used to build new homes, rather than be dumped into a landfill somewhere.

Loving your information.
Peace, Judi

Tradesmen Building Supplies said...

Green ethics will continually become a greater and greater part of all our lives whether in the medium of construction or anything else. It’s great to see it embraced is such a positive manner. Please see for additional building materials. I hope this helps.

Building Materials Supplies said...

Replacing Wood and Plastic in the Building Trades

Thanks for sharing