How Can I Tell the Difference Between Different Shutter Products?

Let’s face it: every shutter salesperson you’ve welcomed into your home has told you that their product is the best on the market, right?  As homeowners new to the world of shutters, how do we make sure we’re getting the best shutter product and the best deal?

I am going to tell you some easy ways to separate the wheat from the chaff when you inspect these products.

First, we need to separate faux wood shutters from wood shutters.

Originally, all shutters were made of wood.  For wood shutters, the first thing to look at is the finish.  Because of their quality finish, the best wood shutters should look thick and lustrous and feel like smooth plastic.  If they have been painted rather than stained, there should be no grain raising or telegraphing (the paint following the grain pattern) in the product at all. Finishes that look thin usually are.  Wood shutters that have been stained a natural color should have a generous clear top coat and look deep and rich. They should also be smooth to the touch.  When you hold the panel up to light, do any gaps allow light to pass through in the joint area? There should be none.  Grab a louver (blade) and try to move it from side to side.  Is it sloppy or tight?  Quality wood shutters have no more than 1/32” play. Then close the louvers completely. Well-designed shutters will only close upward. The louvers will close tightly with minimum light leakage through the blade area. Where the louver meets the stiles (the vertical part of the frame), there should be no more than a 1/32” gap. Open the louver fully downward and look where the blade touches the top rail (frame) of the shutter. This should be touching all the way across or at most 1/32” gap anywhere. This will tell you if the louvers have been drilled in the correct position. When you see panels with one or more of these faults, remember that these are merely the visible part of the shutter! Ask yourself what the manufacturer has done that is not visible to the homeowner, such as the type of joinery, dowels, etc.  As a savvy homeowner, you know that most home improvement salespeople simply parrot that their product is the best.  Only veteran shutter designers work consultatively with you from years of experience and deep product knowledge.

Also, remember that the shutter panels you will see during a home consultation are well-used samples and are subject to lots of abuse in the field—forgive things like dents, gouges, etc.  Reputable manufacturers honor their finished product and cover them via their warranty.

When it comes to synthetic shutters, you will often find yourself barraged with confusing terms like “hybrid, new style, composite, etc.”  You can safely ignore such verbiage since these are all variations on faux wood shutters.  The finishes on all synthetic shutters should be smooth and lustrous, with no orange peel.  These shutters should close better than wood shutters because they are man-made.  Gaps, louver play, and all other construction details on the panel may be evaluated just like wood shutters.  Finally, synthetic shutters come in three distinct manufacturing materials: PVC, MDF, and Foamed Synthetics.  How can you make the right choice between them?  It’s easy.  Just go onto our website and click on the link to A Consumer’s Guide to Shutters.  This guide will reveal even more industry “secrets” and provide you with the insider knowledge you need to make the right choice for your home.

I look forward personally to hearing your questions or comments on this topic!

Irv Schnell