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— Jen Smalldone
Understanding the difference between solid wood and composite plantation shutters in Denver
It really wasn’t that long ago when the choices of plantation shutters for Denver homeowners was limited to just painted or stained wood.
Today there are “not-wood” choices.
Plantation shutters that are not wood go by a lot of names, some are misleading and sometimes misleading on purpose such as using the word “Composite” to describe anything that is not wood.
Composite just means a product made with more than one material, but what is important is what are these materials?
When a salesperson asks you do you want wood or composite shutters, composite doesn’t describe an actual product, level of quality, or a material. It only describes a manufacturing process.
Composite is a manufacturing process not an actual product
In order to know what you are paying for you need to know what materials have been ‘composited’ together to create the plantation shutters the salesperson is trying to sell you. Because there are low-quality and high-quality composite shutters based on the materials in them.
Unfortunately, many companies are selling the low-quality composite shutters at inflated prices because they count on the consumer not knowing there is any difference between one composite product and another.
Let’s get down to the details so you have the information needed to make educated decisions…
The different quality levels of Composite Plantation Shutters
Vinyl most of the time is really not a composite product at all as it is made up typically of just vinyl. The tell-tale sign of vinyl is it is usually hollow and has a lot of give to the surface if you press or squeeze it. The walls are usually no more than 1/8 inch thick. Vinyl was the first “non-wood” alternative to wood shutters, sometimes it will even have a fake grain pattern on the surface. This was because when vinyl came out they were trying to simulate wood and trying to raise the stature of vinyl to being just as good as wood.
Today vinyl’s market is mostly for projects where a low price versus quality and longevity is most important.
Polywood, Poly this or that Composite
You may hear them called: engineered, faux wood, or a branded name of some sort such as “poly- something“.
A wood or MDF (medium density fiberboard), MDF is basically pressed sawdust, the same stuff they sell for cheap baseboards at Home Depot. Then the MDF shutter panel and frames are dipped in some sort of PVC / polymer-based synthetic covering, so you’ve still got a wood core subject to warping and expansion and contraction that can lead to broken seams and joints, bent louvers, and delamination over time.
Faux Wood Composite
Even cheaper is a plastic shutter panel typically gray that is ‘film-coated’, what is commonly known to most of us as painted so that it has a white color. This means you’re still buying a painted product, not much better than just starting with a painted wood shutter, and anything painted in Colorado will eventually fade, crack, chip, or peel due to the harsh UVs that affect paint and our dry climate that sucks the moisture out of these products.
For instance, Polycore shutters have a baked-on waterborne paint over a synthetic interior.
Let’s look at Hunter Douglas, they offer two ‘non-wood’ shutters, the first one is called NewStyle™, according to their website they are “made from a wood composite material co-extruded with a polypropylene coating“, so they are coated wood.
Their Palm Beach™ shutters are “made from Polysatin™ with a “DuraLux™” Finish, so these are a non-wood core that is painted. So one of their products has wood inside of it and the other is film-coated.
What is the best solution?
The best shutters on the market contain no wood at all and are not coated, these are called resin through-body-color composite shutters.
The material is solid resin throughout, and the color is not painted, baked, or dipped onto it. The color is in the material itself, all the way through, and is why it is described as a “through-body-color” product.
Since the color is colorfast all the way through the material many times they can actually be sanded to remove some damages, scratches, and wear and tear.
- There is no coating to come off and there is no veneer to delaminate over time.
- Since there is no wood, or wood pulp inside they are impervious to moisture and warping.
This is why we only offer solid resin composite interior plantation shutters, and they are visually indistinguishable from our solid wood shutters, however, you can feel the difference in weight when you hold the material as it just feels more substantial and solid.
The benefits of wood plantation shutter materials:
- The natural beauty of a wood stained finish
- The lighter weight provides for the ability to specify a little wider panels
- Offered in more finishes – both stained colors and painted colors, as well as sometimes custom colors.
The benefits of a true resin through body color composite plantation shutter are:
- The material is totally impervious to water or moisture of any kind
- Will not peel or flake over time
- They look the same as wood shutters
- Due to our huge volume, we sell in Composite Resin ours are priced a bit less than a solid wood shutter
- The shutters have the same substantial feel of wood
- The shutters have a more durable finish
- They are easier to clean
If you want a stained color you will have to go with wood as really no composite plantation shutters can mimic true stained wood.
However, if you are interested in white (the most popular color) then certainly a composite resin shutter could be exactly what you want. More durability, less cost, indistinguishable from wood.
In any humid, moisture-rich or even wet area, composite should be your first choice, as there is no risk of warping as there is in a solid wood version. Try putting a wood, a poly something, or a faux wood shutter inside a shower — it won’t last long.
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I look forward to answering any questions you might have about plantation shutters or talking with you about scheduling a free estimate in your home