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Why all composite plantation shutters are not the same

The dirty little secret is there is plenty of wood inside many composite plantation shutters

Most Denver area homeowners shopping for shutters will eventually discover composite plantation shutters, but may not realize that all composite shutters are not made the same.

A white composite plantation shutter

What consumers aren’t being told is there can be plenty of wood inside many composite shutters on the market.

This is not the homeowner’s fault, but because the industry markets composite shutters in a misleading way.

 A cross-section of a wood core composite shutter on the left and what happens with moisture penetration on the right

       


A cross-section of a composite shutter without a wood core on the left and what happens with moisture penetration on the right

So what exactly is a Composite Plantation Shutter?

“Composite” is a description of a manufacturing process, not a specific product, it just means — something made from more than one material.

Unfortunately, one of those materials is often wood. Many composite plantation shutters consist of a wood pulp or pressed sawdust (MDF) core with a plastic coating. 

Sawdust and a wood core composite plantation shutter

However, the best composite shutters are solid resin with an aluminum frame interior instead of wood cores.   
solid resign composite
Solid Resin Composite Shutter = No Wood

While both a plastic-coated wood core shutter and a solid resin shutter are both called “composite” plantation shutters, only the solid resin version eliminates all of the disadvantages of a wood plantation shutter.

If you are considering composite because of its advantages over wood, why would you buy a composite shutter with wood inside it?

Wood-cored composite just doesn’t make much sense, but unfortunately, the salespeople who sell them tend to downplay or just not even mention the wood cores and just generically call them composite shutters.

 

So what is wrong with wood?

A stained wood shutter is a great choice if you want something that matches your wood-trimmed decor. However, wood comes with some issues to understand.

  • Wood absorbs moisture, causing expansion which wreaks havoc with film coatings like paint. Moisture causes warping, splintering, and loosening of hardware such as the staples that hold the control rods to the louvers.
  • UV rays dry out wood to the point it becomes brittle and develops surface cracking, causing painted surfaces to flake, crack, alligator or split.

wood paint damage
All painted wood shutters eventually look like this

 

Why all composite plantation shutters are not the same

four types of composite shutters

 

Unfortunately, many companies are selling low-quality wood-core composite shutters at inflated prices because they count on the consumer not knowing there is any difference between one composite product and another.

 

So what is the best composite shutter?

Solid resin composite shutters have no wood inside them and therefore have none of the issues of wood shutters or composite shutters with a wood core.

Solid resin, through-body color composite plantation shutters have solid color all the way through them, they have not coated the color goes through the entire material. 

They look and feel like wood, have all of the natural beauty of painted wood, but will outlast it and have none of wood’s disadvantages.

A cross-section of a solid resin composite shutter shows no wood core and solid color throughout the whole material

Are these painted wood or Solid Resin Composite Shutters? 

 

Solid resin composite shutters have an aluminum core so they are very strong and don’t crack like these wood core composite shutters did

 

Unlike Faux wood products with dipped plastic exteriors, the louvers of solid resin composite shutters will never delaminate

 

They can be installed in moisture-rich environments with no worries

shutters in shower

 

What about Vinyl?

Vinyl shutters are the lowest quality shutter on the market. They were introduced in the 1990s as a cheaper alternative to wood.

They are hollow, feel light-weight, and flex. The finish never looks that great as vinyl expands and contracts tremendously so the miters on the frames are never tight.

Sometimes they even have a wood grain embossed on them to try to make them look like wood.

Vinyl today is mostly for projects where a low price versus quality and longevity is most important.

Vinly louvers cross section

 

Other types of lower-quality composite

Polywood, Poly this or that Composite

You may hear them called: engineered, faux wood, or a branded name of some sort such aspoly- 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.

White composite patio door bypass shutters

 

Final words

  • If you want to compliment a house with lots of stained wood trim chose a stained wood shutter
  • If you are like most homeowners today and want a white shutter to compliment white painted interior trim, chose a white composite shutter, but make sure it is a solid resin through body color composite plantation shutter and not a composite with a wood core.

 

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 volume, we sell in Composite Resin ours are priced a bit less than a solid wood shutter
  • They have the same substantial feel of wood
  • They have a more durable finish
  • They have a better warranty
  • They are easier to clean
 
White shutters with arch topped window above

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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