What Are The Best Window Shutters Made Of?
Several window shutters are made from “wood,” “engineered wood,” and various combinations. Our PolyCoreand Loxwood Shutters only use 100% Basswood or Aluminum reinforced PVC. To reduce the confusion and level the playing field, we present our rundown of common window shutter materials.
PRESSBOARD WINDOW SHUTTERS
Pressboard or particleboard is an engineered wood made by combining wood particles like wood chips, sawmill shavings, and sawdust and combining them with synthetic resin (usually urea formaldehyde resin). The resultant material is pressed into sheets and heated to dry the glue.
There is a severe safety concern with particleboard. The WHO classifies the particleboard may visibly sag over time or snap near the fasteners—Formaldehyde (part of the glue) as a human carcinogen. Even though a large amount is removed when the glue dries, formaldehyde continues to be emitted throughout the product’s life as the resin decomposes. Particleboard will also disintegrate when exposed to moisture and Colorado’s extreme sun.
FIBERBOARD / COMPOSITE SHUTTERS
Fiberboard (sometimes called composite) is another engineered wood that comes in two basic types, Medium Density, and High Density. The significant difference is density (weight per square inch). Fiberboard is made by taking wood waste (wood scraps, waste paper, randomly collected waste wood, straw, recycled paper, forest thinning, and sawmill off-cuts) and turning it into pulp. This wood pulp uses synthetic resin (usually urea formaldehyde resin) and wax. The resulting slurry is then poured into molds (like Jell-O), pressed, and heated to make an MDF or HDF “board.”
A significant health risk is associated with the urea formaldehyde resin used to make MDF and HDF. Testing has consistently shown that MDF products emit formaldehyde and other volatile organic compounds that pose health risks at sufficient concentrations. According to the EPA, “Medium-density fiberboard contains a higher resin-to-wood ratio than any other UF pressed wood product and is generally recognized as the highest formaldehyde-emitting pressed wood product.”
Since MDF and HDF are denser than Basswood, a shutter made out of these “woods” will be significantly heavier than a Basswood shutter. This means it will be more challenging to install. The increased weight will also place a heavier load on the hinges making sagging more likely.
Both MDF and HDF have a problem with water. These materials will absorb water from the air and may warp or crack if not sealed. They will absorb it like a sponge. If you allow water to remain in contact with MDF or HDF, the material will swell and break quickly.
MDF and HDF also have special requirements for where and how screws can be used. One of the more common problems on these shutters is screws stripping the material and pulling it right out.
“Hardwood” is an intentionally vague name. All Hardwood means is they bought the cheapest thing they could get away with using (often Pine or Poplar). Hardwood could be made out of any one of hundreds of different woods. You can bet it’s not Basswood since you will tell people about it if you use the best wood for a shutter.
ABS PLASTIC WINDOW SHUTTERS
The production of each of these chemicals carries its environmental baggage and risks. This type of plastic looks like plastic, with a high shine and a brittle feel.
Polypropylene is a shiny, flexible plastic. This is used to make packaging and a variety of other items. Polypropylene is made from propane and ethylene, both from fossil fuels (oil and natural gas). The production of each of these chemicals carries its environmental baggage and risks.
This type of plastic looks very much like plastic, with a medium shine and a soft feel. Think of the top of a Tic Tacs box, and you have an excellent example of this type of plastic.
Polyvinylchloride is a plastic that is used in a wide variety of products. For shutters, you have everything from hollow vinyl shutters up to aluminum-reinforced PVC shutters (PolyCore Shutters). Some hollow vinyl shutters look very plastic-like and have a very plastic feel. Middle-grade PVC shutters have a better look and feel than hollow vinyl. They are typically glued together and have structural limitations that prevent wide panels from being made without sagging. Occasionally they are reinforced with aluminum in the louvers.
High-quality PVC shutters (PolyCore Shutters) have a smooth painted look that is often difficult to tell from a painted Basswood shutter. They have a co-extruded aluminum core that allows for extensive panels and allows for screws to be used to assemble the shutters. This gives a much stronger joint. High-quality PVC shutters like PolyCore Shutters are moisture resistant and hold up to Colorado’s high altitude sun.
MIXED MATERIAL WINDOW SHUTTERS
So-called Mixed Materials shutters take a piece of MDF and dip it into molten PVC to coat it. This is an attempt to take the cheapest material possible (MDF), protect it from water, and give it the look of a high-quality PVC shutter. You still have the weight issues of MDF, and you gain none of the benefits of using aluminum-reinforced PVC.
Basswood is lightweight but solid and stable and takes finishes and stains well. Basswood is one of the best woods for shutters and blinds.
Our entire Loxwood shutter line is made from 100% premium kiln-dried Basswood. No fillers, no sawdust, no composites, no plastic, no “engineered wood,” no unidentified “hardwood.”
Basswood’s combination of strength and light weight has long made it the preferred choice for shutters.
ALDER WOOD SHUTTERS
Our line of Alder and Knotty Alder Shutters are some of the most gorgeous stained plantation shutters you can put into your home.
GENERAL WINDOW SHUTTER INFORMATION
Wood and the glues that bind “manufactured” woods expand, contract, harden, stretch, absorb ultra-violet light from Colorado’s high altitude sun, and chip at different rates. A thick coat of paint can mask these differences for a time. However, shutters are usually placed in direct sun; exposed directly to open or poorly insulated windows; and opened, closed, and adjusted repeatedly over a lifetime. These environments stress the shutter materials precisely how wood and glues fail: by forcing the materials to change in the same way over time. Rather than remain whole, the wood/glue combinations tend to separate over time, revealing glue lines, bleed-thru, delaminations, splits, and cracked paint.
Exposed to moisture or rot, Basswood components may resist decay for weeks or years. Exposed MDF panels will soak up moisture at the other end of the scale like a sponge.
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http://www.epa.gov/iaq/formalde.html http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Formaldehyde http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Risk/formaldehyde http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/formaldehyde/ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hardwood http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acrylonitrile_butadiene_styrene http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polypropylene http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tilia
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