All residential and commercial structures will consist of architectural features that are classified as millwork. Traditionally, millwork products were defined as those components that were woodmill produced, including doors, trim, and crown moldings. Today, architectural millwork products include items made from wood alternatives such as plastic polymers and high-density polyurethane (HDP). Polyurethane (PU) has become a preferred architectural material over plastics and supports green initiatives by reducing our dependence on the country’s dwindling timber reserves.
What is Polyurethane Millwork?
Polyurethane belongs to the family of polymers called ‘elastomers’. This synthetic polymer (unlike plastic) has elastic properties similar to rubber, resulting in a versatile, non-brittle material that can be fashioned into a wide variety of products that possess different levels of hardness (flexible or rigid) and solidity (foam or board).
Because of polyurethane, affordable renovations and architectural reconstructions are possible using components manufactured that closely simulate real wood and cast stone – at a fraction of the price, weight, and installation costs. From interior ceiling medallions and wall niches, to exterior columns and entrance systems, a wide range of polyurethane architectural styles are available in both modern and traditional designs.
Benefits of Polyurethane Material
Due to advancements in manufacturing processes, liquid polyurethane resin is cast within molds that impart the most intricate of surface detail, including any wood grain texture or elaborate, decorative scroll work. This technique makes possible the replication of ornate porch columns, balustrades, and corbels – true to the original architectural styles and craftsmanship. Hundreds of architectural molds are now available to replicate all types of architectural products with precise dimensions and accurate material detail. Other benefits of using engineered polyurethane material include:
- High Strength – polyurethane products with an inner steel core will have a high load bearing capacity. Polyurethane itself can carry a heavy load – the shape may change, but the material reverts back to its original shape after the load is removed.
- Extremely Durable – polyurethane is resistant to impact, abrasion, tearing, water, oil, and grease – with a resiliency that is comparable to natural rubber. The return on your investment is realized by not having to replace or provide costly maintenance on PU components.
- Design Versatility – for remodeling or new home construction, PU products are available in many profiles, finishes, styles, and colors that perform extremely well both indoors and are impervious against outside moisture and pest infestation.
- Excellent Properties – PU foam exhibits excellent material properties when engineered to fit a specific density, durability, flexibility, and quality. This makes available a product diversity at different price points from budget to high-end.
- Impervious to Environment – harsh climates, mold, mildew, and fungus will not penetrate polyurethane products; they will essentially last for a lifetime.
- Thermal Insulator – both sprayed and rigid PU foam are used for its thermal properties in walls and building products to create warmer environments. This saves homeowner on energy bills and is less costly than other new construction insulation methods.
Types of Polyurethane Millwork Products
Property owners benefit from polyurethane millwork products that are easy to install, are a high value product for the cost, and will truly look like original wood millwork. Here is a showcase of the many PU products that are available for redecorating, renovations, or new residential or commercial construction:
Architectural columns can be used for a striking interior design effect, or more conventionally as a decorative front porch element or structural support for porch overhangs. Front porch columns are available in specific architectural styles for recreating an authentic period home or simply to add curb appeal to the front entrance. Many homes have wooden front porch posts that are structurally damaged due to rot or insect infestation. Polyurethane columns are an inexpensive and easy way to repair and revamp your front porch.
Polyurethane columns can be painted to match or contrast the home, and will give years of maintenance free service. DIY installation is straightforward. After trimming the bottom of the column shaft to fit the overall height requirement, the base and cap are added, and the entire column is secured in a vertical position using brackets if necessary.
Polyurethane balustrades (or balusters) serve double duty as a fall prevention feature and as support for interior stair and landing rails or exterior porch, balcony, or stair railings. Structural strength is added with a galvanized steel pipe or PVC pipe at the center of the baluster. Balustrade styles will vary from slender spindle posts as seen in Victorian homes, to thicker carved profiles reminiscent of early architectural eras. PU balustrade systems are low maintenance components that do not corrode.
Polyurethane balustrades with rail components can be custom ordered and painted to a preferred color, are available in a range of rail heights and widths, and feature popular baluster styles common to contemporary and traditional architecture. DIY polyurethane rail and baluster installation kits will include the surface mount brackets and the hardware for attachment to newel posts. Some homeowners may prefer a tradesman to install the system of rails and balusters, especially for longer or steep spans.
Adding polyurethane brackets (also called corbels) to the underside of your home’s balcony, roof, or front porch overhang can add a striking visual effect. Brackets are ornamental architectural products that were common in earlier eras of exterior architectural design. Today, they are popular for exterior commercial structures as well as the interior of homes. Interior applications include mounting beneath countertops, mantels, window ledges, and balconies.
Brackets are easily installed on a clean, dry surface with adhesive caulk and finish nails for extra support strength. It is recommended to paint brackets before installation, followed by touch-up paint if needed. Polyurethane brackets have the advantage of being lightweight, so they don’t need structural support. Consider PU brackets are designed to mimic wood, but they will last a lifetime, and are resistant to weather, warping, rot, or infestation.
You may have noticed ceiling medallions surrounding a chandelier lighting fixture, but today residential and commercial interiors are using ceiling medallions to add a touch of Baroque elegance to modern interiors. These decorative disks are the easiest way to add visual excitement to ceilings without the weight or maintenance of plaster. Molded polyurethane ceiling medallions are lightweight, durable, and simple to install – requiring only construction adhesive and a ladder.
Quality ceiling medallions will feature historically accurate detailing with architectural styles such as Florentine, Strasberg, Cabot, Monticello, and more. Use ceiling medallions to add architectural relevance, as a base for chandeliers and ceiling fan/lighting fixtures, or to establish a focal point such as above a mantle or fireplace. Sizes range from 24 inches to over 36 inches for visual relevance on high ceilings and in great rooms.
Window heads are used as a decorative finishing technique to accent the window or add period detailing to contemporary homes. Period homes are known for adding architectural detail to windows using shutters, awnings, or stylized window heads. Today, instead of solid wood beams, polyurethane window heads offer a lightweight, easy to install alternative that looks like wood and can be painted to fit the home’s decor.
While all homes have a header beam above the window opening for framing support, they are hidden as structural elements. With a polyurethane window head that feature crisp detail and are available in simple and slick contemporary styles or craftsman carved styles to add period detail. PU window heads can be easily installed to resemble a beam above the window frame or cut to fit inside the window opening. DIY installation is simple using construction adhesive and wood screws.
Another way to embellish windows or doors is to use a half-circle window arch that are available in multiple sizes to fit above most window openings or door frames. The high-quality polyurethane arched frame resists moisture, termites, and damage from weather. They are is completely maintenance free, only requiring periodic resealing. You will find many interior and exterior decorative design options with profiles that are simple panels or carved versions of true architectural styles.
Polyurethane arches are preferred over wood versions because they will not crack over time and you don’t have to worry about freeze/thaw cycles causing the arches to expand or contract. Installation can certainly be handled by the homeowner who is familiar with DIY projects. Simple mount using construction adhesive and finishing nails. Since the arches arrive already primed, they are ready to be painted to match your decor.
To add both function and beauty, polyurethane louvers are available in a variety of shapes, sizes, and design styles. These versatile architectural products are designed be used for ventilation of interior spaces or non-ventilating styles to add a pleasing aesthetic to the home’s exterior. Additionally, they are offered as closed louvers, open, or screened models. Not only does the polyurethane louver offer an extended life-cycle and low maintenance, they are also resistant to moisture or rot.
When you choose a polyurethane louver for ventilation, the back should an attached screen that is coated to prevent corrosion while keeping out insects and debris. The decorative louvers will be a solid polyurethane product that does not feature ventilation. When installing polyurethane louvers different methods for different exterior surfaces such as vinyl siding, brick, or stucco – will require either a sealant, flashing, or construction adhesive for proper adherence and to prevent moisture infiltration.
Polyurethane, recessed wall niches are a unique way to add additional display space to your home. Wall niches were a popular way to showcase artwork, especially statuettes, religious icons, or collectibles. While plaster wall niches are the traditional architectural products, today’s high density polyurethane are lightweight and strong enough for installation within drywall interiors.
If you are comfortable with measuring and opening a wall cut-out within a non-load bearing wall, then installing a wall niche can be a DIY project. But, because of wiring that runs within the wall space, homeowners will often have a tradesman install the wall niche, which will require an accurate cutout, support blocking, and caulking before painting.
Polyurethane shutters are an easy way to embellish window exteriors and dramatically increase your home’s curb appeal. While window shutters provide privacy and security to homes in the early days, in addition to providing an extra layer of insulation, today homeowners add shutters mostly for decorative purposes. For homes that have wood shutters that are rotting from moisture or insects, polyurethane shutters offer a no-worry, low cost solution for returning your home to its original condition.
Shutters are purchased in pairs, with numerous sizes and distinct architectural styles to fit any decor. For an extra level of distinction, matching shutter tops can create a balanced look, especially for larger windows. Polyurethane shutters are installed with caulking and finishing nails. Aside from safety considerations when working at second level window heights, installing shutters is an easy DIY project that can dramatically change the appearance of your home.
Rather than simply replacing your front entry door, create a sweeping improvement with with an polyurethane entrance system that is richly detailed for either contemporary or period home styles. The high-density polyurethane components consists of molded profile top crossheads and two pediments that flank each side of the entryway. Styles are available that replicate the American Colonial architecture style.
Designing a new entryway with a complete polyurethane entrance system is now easier than ever. Simply measure the width and height of your front door to select the correct size and the desired style crosshead (which includes a molded pediment) and pilasters. The polyurethane material can be painted a contrasting color for a striking front door, or remain a neutral white which is more traditional. Installation can easily be accomplished DIY, or a carpenter will easily install these systems.
When combining multiple polyurethane millwork products for a home remodeling project, homeowners will save thousands of dollars on materials and installation costs. The appearance of these products are so close to real wood or cast stone, that most people don’t realize it is the engineered material – high-density polyurethane.
Always consider polyurethane products that are sourced from a trusted millwork manufacturer to ensure the highest material quality and the most detailed castings for an authentic appearance. Contact us at Worthington Millwork’s for a complete line of polyurethane architectural products that are are made in the U.S.A, for both residential and commercial renovations. We can help your projects run smoothly by providing detailed product CAD drawings and installation instructions for all of our products, along with our convenient online order forms and project builder estimating tools.