PVC Brackets: The Ultimate Guide To Brackets & Corbels

Architectural millwork with brackets, rafter tails and soffit by HB ELEMENTS

1. What are PVC brackets?

PVC brackets are decorative detailing elements, created for a variety of purposes in the architectural and design world. Most notably, they provide a low maintenance replacement of traditional wood brackets. In comparison to the alternative wood, foam, aluminum, or steel components, which all have some form of negative maintenance characteristics, PVC checks more boxes for positive results. In construction and design, it is the fastest-growing decorative product on the market, due to its longevity, elegance, and ease of process for the end user– from ordering to installation to (lack of) required maintenance.

Brackets are also referred to as “corbels.” A Corbel is an architectural component embedded into a wall in order to provide support, a type of bracket applied to a structure to help carry weight. These units are usually S-shaped, ornately carved with a larger top than bottom. In coastal architecture, corbels are commonly used under bay windows or small balconies.

home with pvc brackets and louvers

2. How can you use PVC Brackets?

Historically, brackets were born from the need to brace a structural component. Timber frame construction has been in practice for over 2,000 years, always employing brackets as the central engineering and design tool. They also provide an aesthetic touch that has been noted in architectural styles all around the globe.

With modern building practices, brackets aren’t typically actually needed for structural support; but they never fail to provide great architectural detail. They are often placed in locations where the appearance of structural support is necessary, being used as column brackets, gable brackets, soffit brackets, and all over fax structural brackets. They are also used in corners of the soffit system and at featured elements like entry towers, window pop outs, or bay windows. Certain styles use them at columns, patio beams, gable ends supporting outlookers, gable decorations, or fly rafters.

These touches of style work to achieve the purpose of a home’s architectural design, giving not only balance and stability, but also a sense of character and personality.

hb elements exterior millwork. Home with rafter tails, pvc brackets and other exterior trim.

3. Why and when are PVC Brackets used?

Throughout history, humanity has used architectural style to define eras, cultures, and mankind’s ingenuity. People are drawn to the mastery of physics that combines with the aesthetics of beauty, with architectural details that express the culmination of these two. PVC brackets fulfill this high demand for unique and beautifully daring new flexibility in design.

The simplicity of customization and design creativity makes PVC brackets incredibly unique. They give the designer and/or homeowner the liberty to detail a residential or commercial structure, making it stand out in the market of otherwise cookie-cutter buildings.

For example, PVC rafter tails perfectly emulate traditional timber frame construction– adaptable to Coastal, British West Indies, Dutch Indies, Cape Cod, New England, Key West, Charleston, Spanish Mediterranean, Colonial, Low country, and Craftsmen styles. All of these designs traditionally use wood rafter tails, wood corbels, and wood bracket detailing. A series of parallel beams support the sheathing, or roof decking, with an exposed rafter tail that creates the soffit of a home (to learn more about soffit systems, read our “What is a soffit system” post). Since all of this detailing traditionally uses wood components, it is a long and tedious process, which–to boot– is easily worn down by pests and strong weather. PVC brackets however, ultimately provide a decorative component that emulates this feature, while also evolving its function and design beyond the traditional hassles.

PVC brackets have thus become a prominent choice, due to their ease of customization in shape and size, their painless installation, and their strong resistance to insects, pests, and the elements. They require less manpower and work hours than traditional brackets, allowing installers and painters to more efficiently complete the job. And for the homeowner who wants to spend more time enjoying a living space than maintaining it, PVC brackets provide an easy and unbeatable option.

hb elements exterior millwork. Home with rafter tails, pvc brackets and other exterior trim.

4. PVC Brackets vs Wood Brackets

Wood brackets automatically imply a slower, more expensive, and more complicated building process. The construction team must acquire a large amount of large, dried timbers, and then begin a very specialized process ( done by those with a very specialized, and expensive, skill set) of curing, measuring, cutting, and readying the timber for use. Installation, likewise, requires niche tools and knowledge. In addition, wood brackets are a very high-maintenance option and, even so, are quite susceptible to natural wear.

PVC brackets, on the other hand, are the evolution of wood ones, born from the need to create a more practical architectural component using readily-available materials. The synthetic material ultimately resolves problems for architects, builders, and homeowners, reducing time and expenses both during installation and long-term. PVC brackets are fabricated more easily and economically, with a lean factory process that works on individual design dimensions rather than molds. This opens creative possibility in architecture, without breaking the bank nor building deadline. Similarly, PVC brackets do not require specialized training nor toolsets, specially engineered for accessibility and efficient installation. They are resilient and resistant to outside elements and household pests, also saving owners the hassle of upkeep in the structure of their homes. And yet, while strong and efficient, their customizable design patterns ensure beautiful homes that have character and pleasing detail.

5. What are HB brackets made of?

HB Elements brackets are constructed of free foam Cellular PVC. This material arrives in a raw sheet form of varying specific thicknesses, formable into a limitless amount of shapes and sizes.

The manufacturing process is highly technical, with experts who carefully control both internal and environmental factors. For increased durability and performance, HB uses 1/2″ and 3/4″ products. These dimensions are larger than what most competitors use. HB also uses a milled 3/4″ PVC cleat, custom made and shipped with each unit– both eliminating the end-user’s need to create a cleat on the job site and ensuring long-term durability against storms and extreme environments.

HB is a LEAN manufacturer, meaning that it manages an inventory of raw material, based on what is needed to complete projects. HB Elements PVC brackets are not created with molds– which renders customization very ineffective and expensive, and limits the product line to an easily-stale, small sample size. On the other hand, they are meant to be designed to the homeowner’s and architect’s exact specifications, created to be shipped in the immediate future. This type of manufacturing process is a modern template that allows a company to personalize each job, without the normally inflated costs of customization.

6. How long do PVC brackets last?

HB Elements PVC brackets last a lifetime. But they will require proper installation, maintenance, and care. As long as they are not installed incorrectly, used as a structural element, and/or painted or finished incorrectly; they will promise a low maintenance, very durable, and long-lasting life cycle.

PVC brackets are resistant to moisture, mildew, rot, cracking, warping, and insects. In addition, one of the material’s core components contains the mineral titanium dioxide, which acts as a sunblock to protect the bracket from UV damage. Although painting the bracket with acrylic latex paints is highly recommended, there is incredible longevity simply inherent in its core make up.

In sum, PVC brackets should never deteriorate nor need to be replaced. The sheer durability of their material, Cellular PVC, as well as the patented building process used to fabricate the components, combine to create unprecedented durability. See our post on the duration of PVC rafter tails to learn more.

hb elements exterior millwork. Home with rafter tails, pvc brackets and other exterior trim.

7. Do you have to paint PVC brackets?

While you may choose not to paint PVC brackets, it is highly recommended to take full advantage of the units’ long-lasting and low maintenance benefits. In 98% of the projects reviewed by HB Elements, PVC brackets are painted to cover the caulking and nail hole putty, as well as to match the color of the house trim. The bracket will last much longer if treated with an initial paint job, and the minimal other steps of care and maintenance practices provided by HB Elements.

Here are the basics of painting in PC bracket best care practices, and why:

First and foremost, PVC is not normally to be painted a dark color. It can swell with direct exposure and heat from the sun. However, current technology does provide a solution to this problem, with a heat reflective (or vinyl-safe) paint that prevents the PVC material from heating up. For non-dark colors, HB Elements recommends painting its products with 100% Acrylic Latex Exterior Paint. Never paint with oil-based paint, nor caulk with silicone. These practices are highly prohibited and will not finish correctly nor adhere to the unit, meaning that the finish will ultimately need to be completely stripped and redone.

In summary: while you do not have to paint PVC brackets, it is highly recommended that installers do paint, and do so according to the guidelines detailed in the article. This not only makes good on the full product’s potential of unending longevity and low maintenance, but it also, quite simply, looks great.

8. How do I install PVC brackets?

Installing PVC brackets is very simple and requires no special tools. With only standard woodworking tools and knowledge, home builders can convert a home from dull to stand-out in a fraction of the standard operating time.

Here are a few key factors to PVC bracket installation:

Process of Installation

PVC brackets are shipped with their accompanying PVC installation cleat and necessary adhesive. The cleat is installed to the soffit boards, gable end, pergola beam, or structural beam, and either nailed or screwed in place. Once set, PVC adhesive, Christy’s vinyl adhesive, or another approved PVC adhesive must be applied. Immediately after, the bracket is installed to the cleat. Because the bracket core is hollow and the cleat is custom-made to fit the unit, the bracket easily slides over the cleat for a snug fit. It is then nailed or screwed in place. A dab of putty is then added on the fastener head and caulk in the perimeter, for finishing touches that wow any crowd.

With each cleat and bracket a tailor-designed duo, the process is simple and painless. HB Elements even offer a video on PVC Rafter tail installation, demonstrating the easy installation tips that make even novices feel like pros.

Notes and Recommendations for Installation

The physical installation process may be a breeze, but the creative design is decided with great care.

It is important to first understand if the unit is to be installed to the fascia or have a reveal back from the fascia. In addition, installers must have a clear grasp of the spacing between tails. Although this is typically between 24 and 36 inches, there is no right nor wrong spacing, and this process is decided according to the taste and design of the homeowner or architect. However, do keep in mind that wider than these measurements can architecturally destabilize the structure. Note that these specifications are not unique to synthetic structures, but rather, originate from the traditional wood construction and are patterned in PVC installation best practices.

HB Elements recommends 30” spacing, which slightly reduces costs and still looks great. It also suggests that smaller spacings accompany smaller brackets and larger spacings, larger brackets. Walls also add another complicating factor, since lengths typically vary and will determine feasible spacing. While spacings may vary from wall to wall, they should be relatively similar. Precise planning and measurements will help achieve spacing and symmetry, creating a unique and beautiful masterpiece.

hb elements exterior millwork. Home with rafter tails, pvc brackets and other exterior trim.

9. Why use HB PVC brackets?

Everyone wants low maintenance, high aesthetic products. Over the last 15 years, HB Elements has been refining product technologies to eliminate the need for clunky and degradable wood installations. HB’s time-tested PVC material is easy to install, long lasting, and magnificently beautiful– truly the best of all worlds.

HB brackets also come with the largest catalog of design options available. Because of their unique fabrication process, individually made-to-order and never using molds, they are available in any dimension desired. Commercial buildings and homes alike can therefore be transformed from standard structure to the envy of design.

Likewise, each bracket’s included cleat is specifically sized and milled for the unit, meaning that installation is uniformly easy, no matter the uniquely creative model. This also ensures superior fastening, increased durability, and heightened resistance against all forms of harsh exterior elements and pests.

icons that say pvc brackets are low maintenance and will not split, crack or rot.

HB PVC brackets also come with a tried-and-true installation process that is unmatched by industry competitors. Not only has it been proven as speedy and precise, but its simplicity for any team of professionals guarantees a streamlined installation that does not even compare with standard wood products.

With an unmatched performance– impervious to moisture, mildew, rot, cracking, warping, insects, woodpeckers, and pests– PCV brackets likewise make good on their investment. Paint retention on HB brackets is 5 times more efficient than that of wood products, with a facilitated painting and staining process that comes with a 10-year warranty.

10. How do I order PVC Brackets?

Ordering PVC brackets from HB Elements is simple, with a process that has been designed to create convenience. Most commonly, clients email HB with a PDF set of home or building plans, then calling the company to discuss design details with one of the HB Elements representatives. Another option entails picking out bracket models and sizes from the company’s catalog, and sending an email to [email protected]. Clients may also use the contact form. No matter the method in which interested creators reach out to HB Elements, a company representative will be in touch to guide clients through all the details of PVC bracket customization.

Once initial details are shared, HB carefully pours over building plans and quantifies the client’s needs– pricing accordingly, determining all necessary adhesives and components, and then calculating a shipping cost. This total proposal is then sent to the client via email. These steps are essential to properly inform partners from the get-go, with a high-transparency process that provides precise costs and avoids confusion and surprises.

Working directly with HB Elements means getting in touch with the factory itself. Not only does it eliminate the middleman, but thus also facilitates better and faster service, guaranteed by a partner who is highly invested in delivering quality results.

HB believes in speed and capability, but it also believes in customer service. Company representatives like to discuss their products– they take pride in what they do– and are happy to dissect clients’ project ideas. To order, call
+1 (954)-784-8216 or email [email protected]