What Is Cold Cracking?

Banner image showing a man covered with snow in front of a cold cracking vinyl binder

The forecast is calling for -19 overnight tonight, so this is a good time to talk about cold cracking. When you expose vinyl binders to very low temperatures over a period of time, cold cracking is possible. If the temperature is cold enough for long enough, cold cracking is inevitable.

Example of a severely cold cracked vinyl binder

Why does cold cracking happen?

Like pretty much all materials, vinyl shrinks and gets less flexible as it gets cold. When a vinyl binder is cold enough, long enough, the vinyl material will crack. The vinyl cover on the binder shrinks more than the chipboard core. As it continues to shrink and lose elasticity, eventually the stress on the vinyl becomes too great and it cracks.

The example above is extreme. Odds are rare you’ll ever see one that bad. What we did was set the binder outside for an hour in -15 degree temperatures. Once it was frozen solid, we very gently tapped it against a table. You can see the result on the frozen, brittle vinyl!

Does handling effect this?

Yes. Cold cracking is more common with smaller custom binder orders (25, 50 units) that are sent via UPS than in larger orders sent on pallets. The additional handling of the binder cartons is the difference. If the carton is very cold (roughly speaking, below 10 degrees Fahrenheit) and also gets shaken or dropped, the extra stress on the brittle vinyl can put it “over the top” and result in cracking.

But cold cracking can (and will) happen with palletized orders as well. Sometimes, the cracking is not a function of the handling, and is simply a function of the extreme cold weather.

What can I do about this?

Vinyl binders must always be stored in a climate controlled location. We’ve had customers in the northern US who inadvertently stored pallets of binders in outdoor (but covered) locations, only to discover later that most of them were cracked.

At SpeedBinder, we continuously monitor the weather forecast, and keep an eye out for situations where cold weather may be a problem. We do our best to ensure that we don’t ship orders of vinyl binders during periods where they will be at risk.

Occasionally, we will run into a situation where the customer insists we send their binders, even when we advise against it. In those situations, we make sure our customers are aware that such cracking is not a defect, and we require them to send us this release from damage claims. Remember: Cold cracking is not a defect in either materials or workmanship for a vinyl binder. It is a result of a binder being subjected to temperatures it is not designed for.

Is there any good news here?

We’re all about the good news! First, this all sounds really grim, but the truth is this is something we’ve been dealing with for over 20 years, and it is a manageable problem. For most of our customers, the worst thing that happens is that they experience a delay in getting their binders.

Second, we have other binder options that are far less vulnerable to cracking. Some are even immune! Take a look at our turned edge binders or our recycled EarthBinders. Both options give you that awesome custom binder feeling, with no risk of cold-cracking!

Prayers for the good people of Texas!

As of this writing, Texas is experiencing the same winter blast as Omaha. This is more unusual for them than for us, and we pray that everyone gets through it safely!