Plywood Out – Clearboarding with Polycarbonate In for Vacant Columbus Ohio Homes

Polycarbonate will replace plywood and become the only allowable covering for windows and doors of vacant Columbus Ohio homes.
Polycarbonate will replace plywood and become the only allowable covering for windows and doors of vacant Columbus Ohio homes.

Ohio recently became the first state to ban plywood as a cover on windows and doors of vacant homes. The sentiment behind that change has to do with neighborhood aesthetics – homes will look better clad in clear polycarbonate than plywood. Cutting down on vacant home plywood coverings reduces blight, right?

I think this sounds great in theory. In Columbus, a uniform boarding of vacant homes has been the requirement — you aren’t even allowed to have plywood unless the wood is painted and all the plywood is painted the same color. If you drive around town as much as I do though, you see how difficult that is to enforce. I see plywood in the aisles of the big box hardware stores all the time. It’s quite plentiful, relatively cheap and relatively strong.

I don’t see clear polycarbonate laying around the Home Depot. It might be there and I just never noticed (that’s the point though, right?).  I understand how this could help a vacant home look better. However, most vacant homes in Columbus don’t look too good to begin with. Broken windows and doors are par for the course. I don’t think that polycarbonate will fool too many passersby into thinking the vacant homes are not vacant.

Especially when the City of Columbus posts those giant orange VACANT signs all over them.

I appreciate the idea of helping first responders better see what is going on inside a property but doesn’t everyone see what is going on inside a property now that everyone can see inside? I guess that’s also part of the point, squatters would less likely squat if they can be seen from all the windows. I know I’ll be happy to see light coming through the windows if I’m showing a vacant, boarded property that’s for sale.

I welcome the experiment. It seems it’ll likely cost more to purchase the polycarbonate (I’ve seen estimates of 2-6 times more expensive) but it will also be more likely to be re-used again on another house – so those companies who secure vacant homes can re-use them, which will save money. Hopefully the polycarbonate is recyclable. The law will go into effect 90- days after Kasich signed it and it will not be retroactive – meaning if a home is currently boarded with plywood, it can stay that way.

Because another recent Ohio law aims to fast-track the foreclosure process on vacant and abandoned homes, my hope is that we have fewer vacant homes to look at and buyers and flippers can more quickly get in and help start improving neighborhoods.

It’s been said that Columbus, “has more than 5 thousand vacant structures.” That’s a lot of polycarbonate.



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