Structural properties of recycled HDPE plastic lumber decking planks


Plastic lumber is being used to replace wooden lumber in some construction applications, especially in outdoor applications where the plastic lumber is presumed to weather better than the wood. However, the structural properties of the plastic lumber are not well understood, and the use of plastic lumber in structural applications is not authorized in the common building codes. Contractors who use plastic lumber in structural applications such as outdoor decks are in most cases violating the building codes. In this research effort, standard 1 × 6 tongue-in-grove plastic lumber planks were tested for many different structural properties. The tests were conducted at -23.3°C to simulate winter conditions, and at 40.6°C to simulate summer conditions. In all cases the high temperature strength and stiffness was lower than at low temperature, so the high temperature values would determine the allowable strength and stiffness for design. The conclusion was that the plastic lumber is a good structural material, but that it is not appropriate to simply substitute plastic lumber for wooden lumber pieces of the same size in structural applications. The plastic lumber is not as strong and stiff as the wooden lumber, and so larger sizes must be used to obtain the same strength and stiffness. Because of the much lower modulus, compression members made from plastic lumber may need to be of much larger size to resist buckling.

Document Type





Fastener strength, Modulus, Plastic lumber, Slip resistance, Strength, Sustained load

Publication Date


Journal Title

International Journal of Polymeric Materials and Polymeric Biomaterials