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Above Ground Fiberglass vs. PVC: Manufacturer’s Choice

As a manufacturer of various items, you may eventually be faced with a choice between above ground fiberglass and PVC. At first glance, PVC seems to be a very sensible choice. It’s the more affordable material and it offers notable benefits especially when compared to other materials like steel.

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FRP and PVC Comparison

But when compared to fiberglass reinforced plastics, PVC doesn’t exactly hold a candle to FRP:

  • Wear and tear is minimal with FRP systems, including around attachments and fasteners. PVC on the other hand often results in quick wear around clamping areas, holes, and fasteners.
  • FRP is simply stronger than PVC, and this is quite evident in thinner areas. The tensile strength of FRP can reach 40,000 psi, with compressive strength greater than 32,000 psi. In contrast, the lower strength of PVC requires thicker and heavier sections to meet strength requirements. PVC tensile strength is only 7,000 psi and its compressive strength is less than 11,000 psi.
  • If you’re using the material for hydrocarbons, then you need FRP. That’s why fiberglass materials are often seen transporting jet fuels and crude fuel. PVC has poor resistance to hydrocarbons and its exposure can lead to rapid deterioration.
  • In the event that the FRP material is somehow damaged, it’s easy to repair using laminate and adhesive techniques. PVC is weaker and more easily damaged, and in most cases you can’t repair a damaged component. You’d probably have to replace the part entirely.
  • If your above ground installation area is often frequented by varmints and rodents, you may want to go with FRP. Very rarely do rodents attack FRP materials. They’re more apt to gnaw on PVC materials due to their inherent softness.
  • Is your project subject to intense heat? Some FRP materials can withstand temperatures of up to 400 or even 600 degrees F. On the other hand, PVC doesn’t do well in temperatures that exceed 70 degrees F. Once the conditions reach 100 degrees F, the PVC material will lose more than a third of its strength.
  • Thermal expansion is also a problem with PVC. It’s especially known to cause problems with fasteners, supports, and machined stress points. In contrast, FRPs create fewer thermal problems.
  • Above ground systems are also exposed to high UV levels. UV rays aren’t good for PVC, which is known to crack under stress and to weather more quickly under high UV levels. On the other hand, FRP materials only look as if they’ve been damaged. But after the initial weathering, the FRP still retains its full structural strength.

Conclusion

While PVC may seem economical at first, in the long run manufacturers and project users may save more money with FRPs. With FRPs, the maintenance is much easier and the durability is greater. The material can last for a very long time and there’s not really too much in terms of maintenance costs. Replacements won’t be needed until many years have passed.

FRPs are also often your only choice when it comes to meeting strength and size requirements. Fiberglass-reinforced products are generally strong yet lightweight. In contrast, PVC doesn’t have the required strength for many applications and situations.

In fact, in many instances the use of FRP can actually lower the cost even during the installation stage. Its use may come with a higher price tag, but companies can save more money by having a faster schedule and lower manpower costs.

In the end, it’s all up to the company as to what materials they will use for their items. PVC materials are certainly proven, and they can compare well with other materials like steel. But when compared to FRPs, PVC may be the inferior choice.

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