Sometimes Natural Is Not Best

Wood is a magical material. Now I know that I'm preaching to the converted by making that claim on this particular site. It does, however, bear repeating. Hopefully, you'll listen to me - touch wood. There, see what I mean? It's hard to imagine any other material to which we might attribute future luck or success just by the fact that we touched it.

Nothing feels like it, responds like it, smells like it.

Natural fibres, stone, even the native metals like copper and bronze; they all come close but, from the majestic strength of the mighty oak to the wiry robustness of rattan, wood stands alone.

I could, and possibly should, end this article here. I could sit back from keyboard, fold my arms and bask in the warm glow of my readership's approval.

But I won't.

Not one to shirk a challenge, I am going to address people who have dedicated years, lifetimes in some cases, to mastering the art of shaping, moulding, folding, cajoling and persuading nature's off-the-shelf materials into things of incomparable beauty. I am going to address these people and I am going to try to persuade them that sometimes - just sometimes - natural is NOT best.

I am going to talk about, and extol the virtues of, whisper it quietly, PVC. And, for that matter, its cousin HPL (High Pressure Laminate).

When it comes to global production of plastics, only to the two big 'polys' - ethylene and -propylene are more widely produced. In the building industry, PVC is THE most used polymer. It is, quite literally, everywhere.

Why? What is it that makes this material so irresistible to builders and designers alike? Here's a list: it's tough, it's durable, it's flexible, it's cost effective and, perhaps most surprisingly, it's not the environment's worst enemy.

Let's look at last year's London Olympics and the view of the Olympics Delivery Authority, the public body given responsibility for venues and infrastructure. They initially decided against using PVC. That decision was reversed with Dan Epstein, the ODA's head of sustainable development declaring that they wanted to use the games to work with industry and to set new standards. To this end, the ODA decided the functional properties of PVC simply made it, in certain circumstances, THE most appropriate material.

They pointed to its longevity and relative freedom from maintenance.

The result is some stunningly beautiful constructions which seem certain to have key places in the 'legacy' part of the Olympics project.

And so perhaps, this is how it should be in our homes or with our craft projects. If PVC is the right material then it's just that; the right material. Take a kitchen, a bathroom, a wetroom or a shower.

You need a functional yet attractive wall covering that's versatile and cost-effective and, most importantly, will last? The answer, no matter which way you look at it, is PVC. It's like a strong foundation upon which the dedicated craft worker can then build, its cool efficiency providing a perfect backdrop for his or her more emotional, more spiritual creations.

Perhaps even the most committed craft enthusiast could find themselves living in harmony with this unlikely bedfellow.

Alan Matchett writes articles for IPSLUK offering tips on DIY, home improvement and construction.