Identifying Vinyl Profile Quality

Profiles are the raw “lumber” we use to fabricate end use vinyl products like fencing, gates, and patio covers.

There are a wide variety of vinyl profile qualities available. To the naked eye it is difficult to distinguish them. Compounds used to make profiles can look the same in a finished extrusion, but have very different characteristics in use outdoors. These same concepts can be applied to caps, accessories and other injection molded products.

Quality problems you can see immediately in profiles

  • Inconsistent wall thickness on profiles
  • Very thin capstock (on coextruded products)
  • Overly thin products (especially on posts and rails)
  • Poor surface finish (may be caused by worn tooling)

Unfortunately not all quality issues can be seen by seeing or touching the profile. These are often the most important issues, and may only be realized after being in the sun and weather for a few years.

Quality problems discovered after being in use for a few years

  • Excessive Chalking
  • Excessive and Uneven Fading
  • Excessive Sagging or Bowing
  • Poor Wind Load Resistance

A few things that may surprise you about profile quality

  • A thinner profile may be higher quality than a thicker profile
  • A mono-extruded profile may be lower quality than a co-extruded profile
  • A stiffer (less flexible and apparently stronger) product may be lower quality than a flexible product

The ideal vinyl profile

The ideal vinyl is a high quality extrusion with the proper quantity and quality of micro-ingredients that is properly designed and fabricated for its intended application.

Here are some other things to look for when choosing high quality extrusions and vinyl products for outdoor use.

  • Meets local building codes
  • Manufactured by a good standing member of the Vinyl Manufacturers Association
  • Manufactured by active and good standing members of the American Fence Association
  • Meets applicable ICC standards
  • Meets ASTM F-964 as a minimum standard
  • Sufficient cap-stock thickness
  • The correct profile for its intended application
  • Fabricated properly to meet the job requirements including expansion and contraction, impact, wind load, strength requirements
  • Installed correctly to match the job requirements: proper footings, proper spans, proper hardware and fasteners

It is very important to consider the history and experience of the extrusion manufacturer as well as the people who fabricate and install the products.

It is an unfortunate fact that companies do change their formulas, often to the detriment of the longevity and UV stabilization. This has typically been a result of a public company’s desire to show higher profitability levels to shareholders or, when companies are purchased by venture capital groups.

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