Friday, August 9, 2013

In This Case, I'll Say Bravo to "Faux"

To some, the very thought of using one material to simulate another is a vile concept; the quest for “truthfulness” in every aspect of building construction is of utmost importance—and anything that might be considered “fake” or “simulated” should be shunned at all costs.

Of course, this truthfulness has a price, in pure monetary terms, maintenance requirements, or in sustainability. That’s why I gave up the game a long time ago, and decided that I would happily compromise when needed—and if the results looked fine from ten or twenty feet away.

I admire the philosophy of the Craftsman movement, but I cannot afford to sustain it in my own building projects. Clay wall tiles or even wood shingles are beautiful, but I have substituted vinyl where I wanted that effect. Clay or even slate roof tiles are always preferred, of course…but the very-expensive dimensional composite roof that I finally managed to afford 15 years after I moved into my house will have to do (and it does look wonderful). Likewise, the Tudor-style vertical timbering found in some of my gables is wood, yes—but wood that was wrapped in white aluminum, so I wouldn’t have to paint it every few years. I could go on, but I think you get my point.

I know this approach may sound like heresy, but the overall effect is pretty effective, and frankly, I think the house looks better than a lot of modern “Mock-Tudor” houses I’ve seen that do use slightly more traditional materials. This is probably due to the fact that the overall design and proportions are more authentic—the second floor really is jettied out over the front entrance porch, the roof is the proper pitch, and the extra detail I’ve added, like the carved floor-level banding, real wood corbels and even the flowerbox—make it look…right.

Which brings me to the subject of this post, which is a new product available in the UK: Telford-based Faux Wood manufactures and sells reproductions of English oak planks, which have been developed for replacing high-maintenance timber used on Tudor-revival homes. It turns out that a few years ago, one of their customers asked if they could replace the rotten mock Tudor planks on a house facade with a maintenance-free alternative, that better resembles timber than the smooth PVC.

The product that they finally developed is molded from original oak timbers, using high-density rigid polyurethane. It comes in a range of colors, and is designed to be as realistic as possible. While not cheap – about $45 wholesale/$62 retail for a 10 foot plank, I think the product certainly hits the sweet spot with a combination of great looks and low/no-maintenance qualities.

Overall, I think it represents a great example of when original thinking, great technology and good design come together to solve an age-old problem. To read more about Faux Wood, check out this article in the Shropshire Star.

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