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Plastic or Steel?

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As a homeowner, you’ll probably have to decide, at some point, between buying an item made of steel or plastic. Steel is strong, solid and durable, while the same item in plastic is less expensive, lighter, and easier to maintain. Whether it’s lawn furniture or siding for your entire home, the “steel vs. plastic” debate rages on.

Many products made of steel outlast most other materials, provided the steel is properly maintained. Steel products are more costly, but the long-term benefits outweigh the initial expense. Calculating the initial cost and cost of maintenance, and how long an item will last, are the best ways to accurately measure the overall cost of anything.

Sometimes steel must be used because of its outstanding properties of strength and longevity. The oldest standing structures in the United States are built from steel. The Empire State Building probably wouldn’t be standing if it had been constructed of wood and clapboard. If the Golden Gate Bridge were made of plastic, few of us would want to drive across it.

Some consumers prefer plastic because it won’t rust and it doesn’t require the sort of maintenance steel does. Plastic doesn’t last forever; however, despite its rust-free nature it does deteriorate. Plastic gives off “free chlorides” in a process that begins the day the item is manufactured. Over time, as free chlorides are released, the plastic becomes more brittle.

Plastic that loses its flexibility will eventually crack. While oxidized steel can be repaired - brittle and broken plastic cannot. Plastic disintegrates and there’s not much that can be done to stop the process. Plastic has its place in the home and is perfect for certain items. When you’re considering a major purchase, weigh the useful life of the product against the initial cost and long-term maintenance.

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