Transforming old carpeting into next-generation, wood-like decks

Nyloboard_2014-10-22As the carpeting capital of the U.S., Dalton, Georgia dumps millions of pounds of fibrous scraps into landfills each year. These days, smart innovators are spinning that trash into gold.

NyloBoard, LLC, of Covington, Georgia is one such company. Using a patented process developed with researchers at Georgia Tech more than a decade ago, the company transforms old flooring into today’s greenest, most durable — and attractive — decking material.

Decks built with NyloBoard products are impervious to moisture, mold, mildew – and even termites. Compared with wood-like “composite” decking materials, often preferred because they require less maintenance than wood, NyloBoard is “the next generation,” says Doug Morse, company president and COO.

“We don’t think anything out there in composite decking looks and feels as much like wood as NyloBoard,” he says. “Some competitors use milk jugs and shopping bags to make their products. The bulk of WPC and PVC (composite) decking looks like plastic, because it is plastic.”

In contrast, NyloBoard’s NyloDeck and NyloPorch products, which come in six colors, look comparable to high-end wood decking, and have been featured on home improvement television shows broadcast on A&E and the DIY Network.

NyloBoard purchases bails of the carpet fibers from recyclers, who procure it from gatherers. These gatherers collect carpet for recycling from manufacturers, businesses and consumers. The recyclers then separate the fibrous material from its polypropylene backing and clean it.

Then NyloBoard begins a remarkable alchemy using a process developed with Georgia Tech in 2000. It licensed the intellectual property outright in 2003.

“The process is like magic, so we don’t discuss it in too much detail,” Morse says.

The carpet fiber is prepared and saturated with a special resin. “The resin is like the secret sauce,” he says.

A chemical reaction transforms the carpet fibers into dense fiber mats and then hardened sheets similar to plywood – with much better performance characteristics. NyloBoard can be sawed and screwed like wood, while remaining highly resistant to water damage and insects, Morse notes.

“We also have unique manufacturing capabilities here,” he says, “And no two boards look the same. We use 3-D embossing technology to create varying wood grains.”

A little carpet goes a long way. Rolls harvested from a typical 1,600-square-foot house, for example, can produce 400 square feet of NyloBoard decking products, according to the company. To that end, NyloBoard repurposed 1 million pounds of carpeting in 2013.

The final product can withstand harsh weather without swelling, bowing, or shrinking. It possesses industry-leading UV protection, and even after years of sun, fading is so slight, it can’t be detected with the human eye, Morse notes.

Best of all, homeowners say “it looks like wood and feels like wood, and there’s no maintenance,” Morse says. “Well, maybe just hit it with a sponge mop occasionally.”

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