Ten-year field study of wood plastic composites in Santiago, Chile: Biological, mechanical and physical property performance
Keywords:decay, flexural properties, polypropylene, termites, swelling
Outdoor durability of wood plastic composites is a major focus of research and development efforts toward development of more robust building materials. Exterior exposure of wood plastic composites can result in weathering, moisture absorption, fungal and termite attack to various levels of severity depending on the composite formulation. Long-term (> 6 years) field exposure studies of wood plastic composites are lacking in the scientific literature. It is the overall goal of this paper to report on a ten-year field study of wood plastic composites performed in Santiago, Chile. The wood plastic composite formulations were comprised of polypropylene, wood flour, and various additives. Qualitative measurements were made on the stakes each year including the determination of decay and termite ratings on a scale of 1 to 10 as specified in American Wood Preservers’ Association Standards. Surface weathering or discoloration, surface fungi colonization, presence of mold, and/or lichen was noted. The amount of dimensional change (swelling) of the samples in ground contact was determined. Determination of flexural properties of the control and 10-year exposed wood plastic composite stakes were conducted. All the wood plastic composite stake formulations maintained excellent performance ratings after the 10-year field exposure with ratings of 10 for decay and 10 for termites.The wood plastic composites stakes experienced swelling in contact with the soil with the majority of swelling occurring during the first year of exposure. Although the wood plastic composite stakes did well regarding decay and termite performance, the portion of the stakes exposed above ground exhibited various amounts of weathering, surface fungal colonization, and mold and mildew depending on the formulation. Flexural properties of the wood plastic composite stakes decreased or were maintained for the 10-year exposure depending on the composite formulation.
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