Wood or Composite Plantation Shutters? Pros & Cons
Working in the shutter industry for over 20 years the one question that I am asked most often is “what is better wood or composite shutters”. Shutters were for long time only made of wood. But, the synthetic shutter category has really grown with new materials and improvements coming out all the time. In this article we will discuss all the materials and options for each so that you can make an informed decision when looking and purchasing the right shutter for your home.
The first use of plantation shutters was over 500 years ago in Tudor England and it was very common for homes to have wooden shutters. Today many homeowners still use wood shutters in their windows. Wood shutters today are typically made from either popular or basswood construction. Popular is generally used when having a shutter made in a stain finish because of its beautiful natural wood grain and color variations in the wood. Basswood is used when having a shutter made in a painted finish. Basswood is used with painted finishes because of it being a very tight grain hardwood that gives a very nice painted finish. When looking at wood shutters one thing to discuss is how many coats of paint are used when making the shutter and also the process in which they are coated. Some of the less expensive shutter manufactures may only use two coats. Some higher end lines may have many coast of paint and have a true furniture grade finish. How the shutter is finished will determine how the shutter looks years down the road. With wood shutters you will have the choice for both the standard tilt bar on the front and also the hidden tilt bar feature. If your windows have a window panes this is something to think about since your traditional shutter will add another vertical line to your window. When making the shutter with the hidden tilt feature you will have a more cleaner look. Check out this video of how Graber manufactures their wood shutter.
Unlimited color choices. Wood shutters can be painted or stained to any color.
Wood shutters are much lighter weight than synthetic materials. This allows for panels widths up to 42'
Specialty Shapes. Wood shutters can be made to fit any shape window
Motorization is available also can be tied into a home automation system
Excellent insulating value for both hot and cold climates
Standard tilt bar and also hidden tilt feature
The need for repainting the shutter in the future. Like any painted surface in your home, the painted finish on your shutters will age over time.
The synthetic shutter category is the fastest growing shutter material on the market. With each year manufactures are making improvements and new materials are coming out. When exploring the different synthetic shutter materials available each will have their own way of formulating the material. We have them listed for you below with the pros and cons of each. One thing you will notice with most of your synthetic shutter materials is that they are very heavy when compared to wood. This factor will come into play if you want to have wide or tall shutter panels.
Medium density fibreboard (MDF) is an engineered wood product made by breaking down hardwood or softwood into wood fibers. Often it is combined with a wax or resin binder at very high temperature and pressure. It is then coated with a polypropylene coating to provide a nice solid finish. Plantation shutter panels wider than 30" will need to be made with a reinforced slat. Going with a reinforced slat will then allow you to make shutter panels up to 36" wide.
The polypropylene coating resist staining discoloration and warping
Has one of the nicest finishes to wood out of the synthetic material
No need for repainting in the future
Standard tilt bar and hidden tilt feature available
If polypropylene coating can delaminate in extreme moisture areas. Once coating delaminates or is scratched to the MDF core the shutter will be unable to repaired.
Weight. MDF material is extremely heavy which comes into with large shutter panels
Specialty shapes not available
Limited color selection. No stain colors
Poly core shutters are made from a solid polymer all the way through. Your maximum width shutter panels will range from 28"- 30". Poly-core shutters come in a range of whites and neutrals. Poly-core material has more of a matte finish. The structural integrity of poly-core is one of the best of the synthetic materials. Being a solid polymers it resist scratches and nicks very well.
Water and fire resistant
Uv inhibitor keeps the shutter from fading in the sun over time.
Never have to repaint
Excellent insulating values for both hot and cold
Standard tilt bar and hidden tilt available
Some specialty shapes available
Is a very heavy material.
Has limitations on width and length of shutter panels
Does not offer reinforced slat for large doors
Material prone to cracking if shutter panel is dropped
Limited color selection offers no stained colors
Pvc or vinyl shutters were the first of the synthetic material to hit the market in mid to late 90's. Vinyl shutters do not have a nice as finish as the other synthetic material no available. However there are still places where vinyls shutters can be used. Extreme wet areas vinyl shutters are the only material that can be used with no risk of damage. Being the least expensive shutter material and is good for those on a tight budget. Vinyls shutters can come in both a hollow core where shutter panels can not exceed 24" wide. There is a reinforced slat which will allow panel widths up to 30" wide.
Least expensive shutter material
Best choice for areas of extreme moisture.
Color selection extremely limited to white and off white
Shutters have more of a plastic sheen
Shutter components are very fragile and prone to break easily.
Hopefully this information will help you make a informed decision when purchasing shutters. I would suggest talking to a few different plantation shutter companies in your town and friends that might have shutters in there home. Ask them question about what warranty does the shutter have and how experienced is the installer. You can have the best quality shutter but if not installed correctly can look horrible.
Below is a video that shows the different option that Hunter Douglas offers.
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