In past posts, we’ve highlighted some of the industries that currently use plastic materials, including the semiconductor, aerospace, marine, and urban planning industries.

In this post, we take a look at how the construction industry is using plastic materials and why.

Many construction companies are using plastic materials. The components used include everything from plastic screws and hinges to bigger plastic parts that are used in decoration, electric wiring, flooring, wall covering, water proofing and so on.

Typically, construction professionals select plastic materials based on the following criteria:

1.      Durability

Many plastic materials are as strong as if not stronger than certain metals.  Plastic hardware is also frequently corrosion resistant, allowing it to survive outside in inclement weather indefinitely. 

2.      Cost Effectiveness

As is the case in most industries these days, cost is an important factor in any construction project.  Many plastic materials are very economical.

3.      Recycling

Unlike metals, some plastics can be recycled without losing any chemical properties and hence can be used over and over again.

4.      Energy Saving

Plastic consumes less heat than metal.  The insulating effects of some plastics can also decrease sound pollution level.

5.      Safety

Plastic materials are typically much lighter than metals. The lightness of the material makes it easier to carry and lift into place.

6.      Easy to install

A while back we posted about an FRP bridge that was installed in just a few days. The lightweight of plastic materials allows for quick and easy installation.

Use of Plastics in Different Aspects of the Construction Industry

  • Flooring

Plastic materials like polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and polyethylene are used to make flooring less prone to wear and tear. It also decreases the sound pollution level and can be cleaned easily. 

  • Roofing

To protect the outer surface of the roof from damage, two layers of different plastic materials are required. The upper part is made of colored thermoplastic olefin or vinyl while the lower part consists of polyurethane foam which consumes less energy and keeps the interior of a house cooler.

  • Insulation

Polyurethane spray is frequently used for insulation when constructing green or low energy buildings. Rigid polyurethane foam is known for its high thermal resistance which promotes temperature consistency.  Polyurethane foam is also popular because it is lightweight, chemical resistant, and flame retardant.   Due to its closed cell nature, polyurethane insulation performs as an air barrier, resulting in significant energy savings.

  • Wall

A structural insulated panel (SIP) is a sandwich of expanded polystyrene amidst two slim layers of oriented strand board. This type of pre-fab, composite wall board can be transferred to the work place easily for a particular task and provide good support to columns and other associated essentials during renovation.  

  • Pipes

Commonly made up of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), CPVC, acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) or polyethylene, plastic pipes are flexible and very light in weight, making them easy to install.  All of these plastic materials are also highly chemical and water resistant, making them suitable for many extreme environments.

  • Windows

Polycarbonate is used to manufacture building windows. This plastic material is strong, clear and very light in weight. Polycarbonate windows are considered more burglar-proof than regular glass windows.  Two plastics materials, vinyl and fiberglass, are used commonly in the production of window frames.  Fiberglass is extremely strong while vinyl is quite durable and also inexpensive.

  • Doors

Some construction projects use doors made from a stiff polyurethane foam core with a fiber reinforced plastic (FRP) coating. The sandwich structure of these doors makes them incredibly strong.

Can you think of any other applications for plastic materials in the construction agency?  Let us know in the comments section below.

Interesting in learning more about high strength plastics?  Download our complimentary guide!


11 responses to “Use of Plastic Materials in the Construction Industry

  1. Lisa,
    We manufacture very small precision components, so are not subject experts on your question. There are many construction products on the market, including composite plastic/sawdust products (see decking). I would suggest searching the internet for plastic construction products and see where it leads you. One thing you’ll want to keep in mind is that some plastics give off toxic fumes when burning. Sorry we couldn’t be of more help.

  2. If we as a species are to mitigate the climate crisis, we need to end the use of fossil fuels, which of course includes all plastics. What effects will this have on the construction industry?

    1. Simeon – Thanks for your question, and for reading the Craftech Industries blogs. In the construction industry, as in many others, metal components have been replaced by plastic for many reasons, including weight, chemical resistance, corrosion and cost. To understand which material is best for the environment, one would need to know how much energy is expended making the metal components vs. their plastic alternatives, along with the fuel consumed transporting each from manufacture to end use. You would need to know which material allows for a longer product life cycle as well. I would think that nearly all plastic parts in the industry could be replaced, but at a cost in many cases.

  3. I am looking into alternate building materials. The ones I have come up with are
    Hemp concrete
    My concern is this: if plastic was used, there are many pros but would it give off toxic fumes? Is there a way around this?

    1. Hi Jean,
      You shouldn’t have to worry about fumes leaking from plastic components over time. I would think your bigger concern would be choosing the right plastics for strength and UV protection. There is also the matter of choosing the right plastic molding process to manufacture your components – some are more exacting and costly than others.

  4. Could plastic be used to make a dome structure? For example, could plastic be used instead of concrete?

    1. Jean – In most plastic molding processes, the plastic is heated to a liquid which fills the shape created by a mold, which is typically made of metal. Upon cooling, the plastic returns to a solid state. This means that you need a way to heat the plastic, as well as a mold for each part you wish to make.

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