The 10 Most Common Questions about PVC, Answered

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

PVC is one of the most important and adaptable materials produced by humankind. It is also the material from which Trusscore products are made, and which lends them their trademark strength, water resistance and longevity.

But what is PVC, exactly? We provide the answers. 

Trusscore products are made from PVC, a man-made compound that is versatile, long-lasting, and used widely throughout the world for everything from piping to flooring and window frames to wall cladding. But what, exactly, is PVC? Is it durable? Is it recyclable? Can you paint it?

Here are the top questions we’re most frequently asked about PVC 

1. What is PVC?

PVC, or polyvinyl chloride, is a form of plastic. It’s made from chlorine (derived from sea salt), and ethylene (which is refined from oil and natural gas). PVC was first discovered in 1872 and first produced commercially in the 1920s by B.F. Goodrich. Today, it’s the third-most widely produced form of plastic and has many applications, including window frames, doors, water and drainage pipes, auto parts, medical devices, and toys, just to name a few.

2. How is PVC made?

The manufacturing of PVC is a three-stage process. First, chlorine and ethylene are combined to form a compound called ethylene dichloride. Ethylene Dichloride is then heated at an extremely high temperature in an environment with no oxygen (a process called pyrolysis) to form what is referred to as the vinyl chloride monomer. It, in turn, is chemically altered in a multi-stage process called polymerization to create polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, polymer resin.  

In our case, this resin is heated and pushed through proprietary dies in a process called extrusion, resulting in Trusscore products. 

3. What are the different types of PVC?

There are two broad categories of PVC: rigid and flexible, each lending itself to specific applications. Rigid PVC is used, for instance, to make a variety of construction products, including plumber’s pipe, electrical conduit, window frames and doors. 

Flexible PVC has plasticizer added, which makes it softer and more malleable. It, too, is used to make a variety of products, including cable insulation and flooring. 

4. PVC vs. vinyl. Are they the same?

In short, no. Chemically, the two products are different, and the term “vinyl” has a broader meaning and encompasses a range of compounds. However, it would be correct to say PVC is a sub-type of vinyl.

5. Is PVC safe?

In a word, yes. PVC is very safe. It is a stable compound, it does not off-gas, and it’s extremely durable and long-lasting. So much so that PVC typically lasts longer than other products and therefore appears in landfill less often and in lower quantities than non-PVC alternatives. PVC is far more durable, for example, than drywall and unlike drywall does not give off hydrogen sulfide when dumped in landfill. 

PVC is used in food and non-food applications. PVC that is destined to come in contact with water or food must be of a particular type known as Food Safe PVC and it is labelled with the letters “PW,” meaning “potable water.” Food-safe PVC must have an NSF-51 or NSF-61 rating from the National Sanitation Foundation and typically that rating will also be stamped on the product. Food Safe PVC does not contain any BPA (bisphenol A) or phthalates, meaning it is safe for gardening, farming and other food-related uses. 

6. Is PVC recyclable? 

Yes. In fact, every month, Trusscore recycles between 300,000 and 400,000 pounds of PVC material across our three North American manufacturing facilities. 

If you look closely, you will notice on the bottom of plastic containers that PVC is number 3 on the recycling triangle code. 

7. Can you paint PVC? 

Yes. The key to doing so successfully, and achieving good adhesion, is to use the correct type of primer and paint. You can find a list of PVC-friendly primer and paint types, and further information, in our Trusscore Wall&CeilingBoard Painting Guidelines. 

8. Is PVC UV resistant? 

Yes and no. The answer depends on the type of PVC, its intended use (outdoors or indoors) and the specific chemical makeup of the PVC in question. Over time, ultraviolet (UV) radiation from sunlight will cause most PVC to fade in color.  

Trusscore PVC products contain an additive that significantly inhibits UV damage. 

9. Is PVC waterproof? 

Yes. In fact, PVC’s ability to shed water is the reason it’s used in a host of water-related applications, and in damp, wet environments. 

In the world of wall and ceiling building materials, PVC paneling like Trusscore is used with great success in boathouses, food processing facilities and dairy barns where walls are washed down frequently, car and truck washes, and yes, even showers. 

A comparison between PVC wall and ceiling panels and traditional drywall serves as an excellent example. Unlike drywall, when PVC gets wet, it doesn’t rot, expand, or degrade, and it won’t support the growth of mold or mildew. 

 10. What is the life expectancy of PVC? 

PVC is extremely durable and long-lasting. Life-cycle estimates vary depending on the use-case. Best guesses on longevity range from 50 to 80 years outdoors, and 100 years or more indoors. Because PVC lasts a long time, it doesn’t need to be replaced as frequently as other products, which is good for the environment. 

The Bottom Line

PVC is a versatile and important material that contributes to and enhances the quality of life we all enjoy. It’s the main ingredient used in the creation of Trusscore products, and the one which lends Trusscore products their trademark material properties like durability, cleanability, water-resistance and longevity. 

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