President Mark White of Architectural Elements came from a woodworking background. Today, he specializes in architectural and decorative millwork that looks like wood. His Boxborough business boasts a palette of shapes for products and systems for indoor and outdoor use that may well be the largest in the country. His authentic-looking mouldings, accents, trim, railings and more have appeared on “This Old House” and have even fooled the discerning folks at The National Register of Historic Places. We asked him why homeowners might want to choose polyurethane or PVC architectural and decorative trim for their homes’ exteriors, and he happily answered.
BDG: Why use synthetic architectural millwork on your home’s exterior?
MW: Today’s housing market is keyed in on low maintenance. Everybody wants a low-maintenance product that they don’t have to paint, replace or maintain.
BDG: Do your products require any maintenance at all?
MW: Our exterior elements require little to no maintenance. I could put up a railing now that would last for virtually the life of the house, whereas, if I put up a wood railing, I can guarantee you’re going to have to paint it in two years. I built my house nine years ago, and I haven’t done a thing to it since. That’s what people want. But there’s a caveat.
BDG: What’s the caveat?
MW: [It cannot] look like shiny plastic. Unlike the early generations of synthetic materials, we make sure you can’t tell it isn’t wood—even down to the point of historic reproductions.
BDG: Surely the experts can tell....
MW: We’ve gone in front of people from the National Historic Register of Historic Places, who are very strict about what they use, and showed them two pieces. When asked, ‘Which one is wood?’, they didn’t know. They couldn’t tell.
BDG: What can architectural millwork bring to a home’s exterior?
MW: Ask any real estate agent: curb appeal. I have a customer who wants a portico. She has a house with a plain [façade] and wanted us to design and install a portico entrance for her. It has columns, nice mouldings and a short rail above it; it’s a total facelift for the house. It becomes the focal point.
BDG: So, it’s the details that make the difference?
MW: [These products] can completely and utterly change the look of a house. If you have a house that has regular trim on it, we can pop all that off and install a “beefed up” trim. We might have a big header across the top, maybe wider casing and a heavier sill. It can take an unassuming house and give it a lot of snap.