Despite being one of the most popular wall cladding options, PVC wall panels are not without their disadvantages. Being a highly cost-effective solution, many are prepared to overlook the cons of PVC wall panels. Though, it is a good idea to know the facts before deciding if PVC wall panels are your best option.
When discussing the disadvantages of PVC wall panels, we need to consider the alternatives. For bathroom or kitchen wall cladding, the traditional choice is usually wall tiles. In other areas of the home, and commercial buildings, PVC wall panels are an alternative to wallpaper, paint, and other cladding options, like wood, brick, or stone. PVC wall panels can be a perfect substitute for any of these wall cladding options. But, in some cases, may not quite compare to more traditional methods.
Before comparing PVC wall panels to the alternatives, we should address the concerns people have when using plastics. The term PVC stands for Polyvinyl Chloride (CH₂-CHC). This is a corrosion resistant material and is very flexible. The popularity of PVC stems from the fact that it is easily moulded and inexpensive. It can withstand water and has a reasonable tolerance to temperature though it is not an excellent material for high temperatures.
The most significant disadvantage to using PVC, are chemical concerns. Chlorine is an essential component of PVC products, and this is a volatile element. Chlorine can be released from PVC panels over time. Though this is minimal, and seldom has any adverse health implications, it is a cause for some uncertainty. Modern health and safety regulations have resulted in improved environmental and health consequences arising from the use of PVC though the hazards of chlorine are the only downside but official standards are very tough in ensuring public safety.
While being a durable material, PVC is softer than many other materials used for wall cladding. Compared to ceramic, brick, or stone, PVC will sustain damage from knocks and is not entirely scratch resistant. To overcome this disadvantage, UPVC is the preferred option for high-quality PVC wall panels.
UPVC vs PVC Wall Panels
Unplasticised Polyvinyl Chloride (UPVC or PVCU) is a harder, less volatile product. It is, therefore, a better material for the manufacture of wall panels. UPVC wall panels are harder and more rigid than conventional PVC alternatives. The use of UPVC also improves the general safety of a building as it is fire resistant. While UPVC cannot be compared to brick, stone, or tiles in terms of hardwearing durability, it does negate most of the disadvantages associated with ordinary PVC wall panels.
Disadvantages of PVC Wall Panels Compared to Similar Products
PVC wall panels have printed designs, often imitating traditional wall cladding. When compared to tiles, PVC bathroom wall panels may look the part, but it does not have the relief and texture of wall tiles. It is clear that the wall panel is not genuine. Joins in the PVC panels are not easily noticed but do indicate the artificial nature of the product.
Using UPVC will make the wall panel more durable than regular PVC, but will never compare to tile, brick, or stone. Whereas the natural material may easily last for hundreds of years, PVC panels may only last for decades. It will, at some point need replacing. A wall panel manufactured from
UPVC will probably last a lifetime, but it may tarnish from daily wear. Light scratches will affect appearance over time.
As with tiles, you are comparing PVC wall panels to brick and stone is similar. The artificial appearance may be slight but is noticeable. PVC will never be as durable as either of these materials.
Comparing PVC wall panels to wood cladding is not as simple. Wood panelling can last indefinitely, but this requires regular maintenance. Once wood deteriorates, it is often impossible to renovate and may need replacing. PVC wood effect panels will have a limited lifespan but require no maintenance.
Gloss vs Matt Finish
The aesthetics of a gloss finish, compared to matt, is a matter of personal taste. That would be true for any wall cladding. When it comes to the practicalities, there are pros and cons to either gloss or matt materials. A gloss finish is much easier to clean; it usually requires little more than a wipe with a damp cloth. By comparison, a matt finish requires more rigorous cleaning. The disadvantage to a gloss finish is that it reveals
marks which may be less noticeable with a matt finish. A handprint on a glossy wall panel will be immediately noticed but may be hardly visible on a matt finish.
Price vs Quality
A compelling reason to choose PVC wall panels is that they are remarkably cheap. Even then, not all PVC wall panels are equal. A 10mm X 1M shower panel will cost more per square meter than 5MM or 8MM 0.25M wall panels though the thicker panels are stronger.
While there are price differences in the type of PVC wall panel that you use, it is always cheaper than most comparable alternatives.
Our final thoughts on the negatives of plastic wall cladding
When weighing the benefits against the disadvantages of PVC wall panels, most feel the pros outweigh the cons. There can be no doubt that PVC wall panels are the cheaper option. But with the price advantage, comes the disadvantage of using a non-genuine product. PVC wall panels will always be the cheap imitation of the real thing though many PVC wall panel designs are unique. So, rather than being an imitation, they provide a completely different, more modern appearance.
PVC wall panels are durable enough for most homes but will not last indefinitely. The shorter lifespan is offset by the ease and time with which one can install PVC wall panels. There is very little dust involved when installing PVC wall panels and the whole process is less involved than any other. It is, therefore, relatively easy, and not too expensive, to replace PVC wall panels when the need arises.
All do not see this distinct disadvantage of a shorter lifespan as a disadvantage. Modern interior decorating trends change quite rapidly. In this context, PVC wall panels are preferential. It is more cost effective, and much manageable, to change the look of a room as new styles come in.