What is Polywood?

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  • Written By: B. Turner
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 17 October 2018
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Polywood is a composite building material made from thermoplastics. This plastic lumber material is designed to look like wood, and is used in many of the same types of applications as traditional wooden lumber. It's made from plastic fibers that are pressed together under high heat and pressure levels to form solid planks, beams, and sheets of material. Polywood is primarily used to replace wood in outdoor furnishings, include patio chairs and shutters.

This composite lumber product can be found in both commercial and residential settings. It's used to produce outdoor bar furnishings and lifeguard chairs at pools and resorts, and may be found in picnic tables and benches at parks and playgrounds. Large polywood planters can hold flowers or even trees, and polywood shutters may line the windows of a home or business. One of the largest markets for polywood is backyard furnishings, including lawn chairs, tables, and benches.

Polywood often includes dyes and other integral colorings to give it a bright, attractive appearance. These colors extend all the way through the material, and won't wear away over time due to chips, scratches, or frequent use and abuse. This material can also be painted or stained to achieve the desired finish. Some products are embossed to re-create the look of real wood grain, while others feature a smooth surface. Buyers should choose polywood products with a UV-resistant coating to avoid fading over time, or add a protective UV-coating before using these products outdoors.


One of the primary advantages to using products made from this material is their durability and low maintenance requirements. Polywood is easy to clean, and is naturally resistant to rain, salt water, and other environmental factors. It features a high strength-to-weight ratio, and will last for many years with little need for repair or refinishing. Unlike wood, this material won't swell, rot, or warp due to moisture and humidity changes over time. It's also resistant to damage from pests, including termites and other insects.

Compared to real wood, plastic lumber alternatives may be expensive. The quality among these products can vary dramatically by manufacturer, and low-quality furnishings often feature an unattractive plastic finish. Better quality designs often look more like wood, and feature a more authentic wood-grain texture. Compared to wood, polywood furnishings come in a limited range of designs, though specialty products can be custom-ordered from certain manufacturers.


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Can poly-wood furniture be painted? If so, is any specific type of paint required?

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