“Buy American” is a lot more than an abstract call to patriotism. If you’re a builder, and concerned about the unemployment rate in this country, the sluggish US economy or even the quality of your work, the “Made in U.S.A.” label shows that you care about the products that you use. It also gives the homeowner piece of mind that the materials you have selected meet stringent quality and safety standards, values you take very seriously. In down-to-earth terms, we’re talking about a house's value and curb appeal. When they involve an ultra durable material like cellular PVC trim, you want to be sure it was produced using high performance and environmentally acceptable ingredients, under tightly controlled process conditions.
At VERSATEX, we’ve devoted more than a decade to the design, development and manufacture of top-grade cellular PVC trim products for residential construction. Every year, we spend months in the field talking to and collaborating with builders, contractors and remodelers. We’ve found that they choose PVC trim because it’s trouble-free. However, peace of mind can evaporate in a hurry. Few foreign products are monitored as closely as those made here at home. As a result, lower prices can mask hidden costs in the form of low quality, inability to withstand demanding environmental conditions, or unhealthy formulations.
According to industry sources, approximately 95 and 98 percent of the cellular PVC used in the U.S. building market today is domestically produced. U.S. companies such as VERSATEX have adopted “Green Principles” aimed at developing innovative, practical ways of reducing the environmental impact of its plants and products on landfills and the communities we live and work in by maximizing its recycling and conservation efforts. Offshore producers, especially those in Asia, who are edging into the market, don’t always conform to the same environmental practices that regulate US manufacturers.
While U.S. resin companies use the ethylene process to produce PVC resin safely, many Chinese manufacturers employ the carbide method where toxic mercury chloride is introduced as a catalyst. China has drawn international criticism for turning a blind eye to carbide- and mercury-related environmental problems that will follow their products wherever they are sold. Fortunately, for now, overseas cellular PVC represents less than one (1) percent of the total cellular PVC used in residential and light commercial building products for the American market.
One of the issues with off shore cellular PVC trim is the makeup of its micro-ingredients. U.S. environmental regulations require domestic cellular-PVC producers use safe, tin-based stabilizers, but overseas producers don't have to conform to these guidelines. It’s possible some of their cellular PVC products contain a lead stabilizer, which like lead paint, can cause long-term damage to the human nervous system and brain.
The durability of finished products remains another serious concern that should be considered by the builder and the homeowner when selecting an exterior cellular PVC trim. Some cellular PVC trim producers both domestically and abroad increase the amount of calcium carbonate filler (i.e. CaCO3) in their formulations in an effort to reduce product cost. Unfortunately, increased filler levels can undermine some of the key physical properties of cellular PVC trim. So the old adage, “You get what you pay for,” is as valid as ever. If a product is priced much lower than its U.S. counterpart, you need to question its quality, safety and performance. Cheapness can reflect unhealthy manufacturing practices, or prefigure difficulties on the jobsite. Cellular PVC must contain specific ingredients that enable it to be extruded, to provide durability and flexibility, while also withstanding the elements. Tampering with the formula to lower the cost can compromise the qualities you need the most.
Chemistry aside, imports can raise other issues. Whether you’re a lumber dealer, a builder, or a homeowner, take note:
To sum it all up, avoid headaches by looking for the “Made in U.S.A.” label. Buy from manufacturers you know, who have made an investment in R&D, and who will be there when you need answers. Buy VERSATEX. It's good practice, and it’s good business.