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Composite Wood Cladding Grows in Appeal with Architects

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March 22, 2021 | Bill Esler

Wildwood building with fiber siding

Maumee, OH – Fiberon, known for making composite deck boards from sawmill wood waste and recycled plastic bottles, launched Wildwood (above), its first product intended for vertical and overhead cladding applications.

Aimed at architects and builders, Wildwood comes in a variety of species, grain patterns and stains in several board lengths and widths, allowing it to be fabricated similarly to conventional lumber. It reflects growing interest among architects and builders in the move to find more ways to use wood on commercial exteriors. 

USA Kebony Theatre

Kebony and Accoya, woods treated with an acetylation process during kilning, have gained visibility in recent years. Winning three design awards last year was a Fayetteville, AR theater project (above) employing Kebony wood made from southern yellow pine, flame-finished in a Gator texture by Delta Millworks with the weather-resistant shou sougi ban technique. Another approach can be seen in Armstrong Architectural Components Group wall-piercing wood ceiling designs that merge indoor and outdoor (below). 

Armstro

This growing interest in exterior wood surfaces triggered Fiberon, a unit of Fortune Brands Home & Security, to launch its new Wildwood line. 

“Fiberon isn’t new to the cladding industry,” says Mark Ayers, senior vice president of marketing and product development for Fiberon. “Our deck boards have been used in cladding applications for thousands of projects across the globe. Wildwood is our first product designed specifically for cladding application.”   

Wildwood composite comes in two collections: the first, Eden, is inspired by lush, tropical forests and features an array of exotic hues including Mora, Wenge, Meranti (below), Koa, and Tupelo; and the second, Sahara, matches arid, sandy landscapes with rich desert tones like Mulga, Sumac, and Palo.

Geolam USA (below) offers another approach to composite wood cladding.  Manufactured in Japan where the company is based, Geolam is also extruded from recycled plastic and waste wood fiber. Geolam developed its patented process and product technology 30 years ago. 

Geolam Monarch Metal Home

Geolam says one of the biggest obstacles in manufacturing wood-plastic composite is removing moisture from the wood fibers. Wood and petroleum-based thermoplastics, like oil and water, do not adhere to one another naturally. Geolam says many wood-plastic composite manufacturers dry their wood fiber “flour” to 0.5% to 3.0% moisture content.

Geolam's patented triple extrusion process

Geolam’s patented triple extrusion process.

The effect of this is that the two materials do not bond in the extruder; rather they co-exist in the final product. In addition, wood acid can be created from this moisture leading to a product that is structurally weaker and less durable. 

Geolam (a teak version is shown above) reduces its wood fiber moisture content to 0%. Its technology embraces a patented process in which wood fibers are added to a high intensity mixer in which the fibers are dried through through the friction induced by a special mixer blade design.

Once all moisture has been driven out of the wood, a thermoplastic is added along with a special reinforcing agent. The plastic is then literally beaten into the cells or tracheids of the wood, this being possible because the wood contains no moisture. This creates an entirely new material, neither wood nor plastic, but rather a fully integrated composite. This, says Geolam, is why it is physically stronger and more dimensionably stable than other wood-fiber composites.

Since the wood actually surrounds the plastic, the finished product looks and feels like natural wood. This natural wood-like look and feel is also a factor of the high ratio of wood fibers to thermoplastics – 8:1 in volume (52% wood/30% polypropylene and 18% other, e.g., stabilizers, pigment, etc. by weight). Since the majority of the compound is wood, the product naturally takes on the characteristics of hardwood.


A Wood-Metal Hybrid

Geolam launched a Wood Hybrid System (WHS) for facades, decks and roofs in 2012. These profiles are the result of a hybrid technology, which enables heterogeneous materials to be successfully extruded together under heat. Three layers of different materials undergo Geolam’s patented triple extrusion process. Light, stable aluminum makes up the core. The connecting intermediate layer is made of a copolymer resin. A protective layer lends the profiles the characteristics of tropical wood. This combination of materials gives the profiles unique features. They are three times lighter, four times more stable and eight times more rigid than other composite wood profiles. In addition, one single Geolam WHS profile can be bent to different radii and in different directions.

Fiberon Rollout Plans

For its new WIldwood panel, Fiberon is offering design advice and tools for architects including specs, BIM support, case studies, and more. Wildwood composite cladding is said to cut and install similarly to real wood, and does not require the same staining and painting maintenance that wood requires.

Featuring 94% pre- and post-consumer recycled content, Wildwood is also free of toxic chemicals and is manufactured using sustainable processes. It features a Class B fire rating and meets NFPA-268 to assist in meeting fire code regulations.

“We’re so excited for the launch of Wildwood composite cladding,” says Jim Christopherson, vice president of Cladding, Retail Business and Sales Operations at Fiberon. 

Fiberon is part of the Outdoors & Security division of Fortune Brands Home & Security, Inc. (NYSE: FBHS), whose brands include outdoor living and security products from Therma-Tru, LARSON, Fiberon, Master Lock and SentrySafe, and MasterBrand Cabinets. www.FBHS.com

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