What is Poly Lumber and How Is It Made?

Have you heard the term poly lumber or plywood and wondered what type of material it is and does it have the same qualities as wood? We’ll walk through the benefits and applications of this eco-friendly material.

What is Poly Lumber?

Poly Lumber is a type of engineered wood that is stronger, lighter, water-resistant, and fire-resistant than standard hardwood lumber. It has many applications in construction materials that are not possible with traditional lumber.

How Is Polywood Made?

Polywood or poly lumber is made by taking post-consumer plastic that was intended for landfills and turning it into a strong, durable material, perfect for outdoor garden products.

Single-use plastic containers are recycled and given new life through this eco-friendly process. Examples of recycled items include pop bottles, milk jugs, shampoo containers, cutting boards, and grocery bags.

rows of plastic soda bottles ready for recycling

To convert the post-consumer plastic goes through several shredding and cleaning steps before it reaches its final state. Here is a summary of the process.  

  1. First the material is broken down and shredded into smaller-sized pieces. This process removes any larger foreign materials.
  2. Next the shredded plastic is washed and separated from other items like paper and labels that were attached to the plastic. 
  3. The plastic is then further shredded down to an even finer consistency, dried, and separated again so only the plastic remains. 
  4. The plastic melted down and the final filtering process takes place.
  5. Pellets are formed and sent to a processing center.
  6. Color, UV stabilizers, and foaming agents are added to the pellets to get them ready for outdoor use.
  7. Boards are shaped into a usable size, each of a single color. 
  8. The final boards are then sent to a manufacturing facility to be formed into furniture and beautiful outdoor garden accessories like birdhouses and bird feeders.

Any leftover materials can be melted down and remade into boards for use in other products. 

The Benefits of Using Poly Lumber

Poly lumber has many benefits, for the environment, and maintenance.

By using recycled plastic items we are able to reduce the amount of waste that would have ended up in our landfills or even worse, in our rivers, streams, or oceans.

The beauty of poly lumber is evident. The material can be dyed any color and it won’t fade in the sun. The color lasts from season to season without fading like traditional wood.

But perhaps the biggest benefit of using poly lumber is the maintenance.

  • Poly lumber is durable and won’t rot, crack or wear down.
  • No need to worry about splinters.
  • It’s easy to clean with a little soap and water.
  • Poly lumber colors do not fade in the sun, which makes it a great choice for outdoor furniture

The Cons of Poly Lumber

While there are many benefits, there are a few drawbacks. The biggest is the expense. Poly lumber products are more expensive than traditional wood due to the extra process of converting plastic waste products.

The compact density of the material also makes it heavier than wood.

Common Questions About Polywood

Frequently asked questions about Polywood or poly lumber products.

Is POLYWOOD real wood?

No, POLYWOOD material is not wood or natural fibers. It is made up of 99% recycled high-density polyethylene plastic material, also called HDPE plastic.

How Long Does Polywood Last?

Most manufactures of Polywood estimate that it will last for up to twenty years and is designed to be used outdoors.

What Colors Are Available?

Poly lumber can be dyed almost any color of the rainbow. Green, blue, red, orange, yellow, pink, or purple, and many many more.

Polywood Adirondack deck chairs in every color of the rainbow

What kind of products can be made out of Poly lumber?

Poly lumber can be used to make a wide variety of products. Almost any product that has been historically made from wood, can also be made out of poly lumber.

A popular use of poly lumber is outdoor furniture. The brightly colored Adirondack chairs are very popular across the United States. Here are the many additional uses of this durable material.

  • Outdoor furniture
  • Cabinets
  • Wishing Wells
  • Garden Sheds
  • Garages
  • Gazebos
  • Planters
  • Chicken Coops
  • Dog houses
  • Bird Feeders and Birdhouses

Is Poly Lumber Safe For The Birds?

Yes, in fact, the non-porous nature of the material makes it resistant to weather and insect damage that can cause problems for nesting birds. It also will not rot or absorb water like wooden birdhouses, so is less prone to rotting or mold that can attract bacteria.

Cleaning your poly lumber bird feeders or birdhouses will also be easier. Dirt and grime wash right off the surface. At most you may need a soft brush or cloth to wipe off any debris. And since the plastic doesn’t absorb water, drying is also faster making the cleanup process quick and easy.

navy wren house hanging in a tree

Summary

Poly lumber is not only environmentally friendly, but it is also durable and almost maintenance-free. Made for outdoor use it was a perfect choice for our colorful line of birdhouses and birdfeeders. Designed to hold up to the elements, they will look beautiful in your backyard and give the birds a happy home for years to come.

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