Consumers Guide

Consumer’s Guide to Shutter Materials

In today’s shutter world there has been an explosion of best shutter construction methods, points of origin and materials that did not exist 10 years ago. These methods and material all have their advantages and disadvantages. Here is some information for you to make sense of the shutter world and its terminology.

MDF (Medium Density Fiber)

MDF (Medium Density Fiber) shutters are also called “hybrid” and “composite” along with some other trade names. All these window coverings are made from MDF as the base material. MDF is basically sawdust mixed with glue and other chemicals and formed in the shape required. The coatings range from a vinyl wrap to a painted finish. Advantages are cost to manufacture and cost to the consumer. They look very much like more expensive wood shutters, but they are not. Disadvantages are their inherent inability to stand up to water, they have the habit of swelling and the finish peeling when exposed to too much moisture. They are unstable and can warp much easier. The material is brittle and can easily break under impact. The material will eventually sag under stress over a long period of time. They cannot be successfully stained. This material in may cases carries the poison known as FORMALDEHYDE. This material from ASIA is rapidly becoming a major part of the window covering market due to its cost and appearance. Bottom line think of IKEA furniture

PVC or (Poly Vinyl Chloride)

PVC or (Poly Vinyl Chloride), is an extruded hollow vinyl. The material is extruded PVC which is either a hollow extrusion or one which also has some reinforcing webbing on the interior. This has been around about 12 years. It can be identified by its appearance; it is not finished and the edges of the blades have caps to seal them. The connectors to the tilt rods are plastic “t” connectors which tend to break. Its advantages are its low cost. Disadvantages are the “plastic” appearance, a tendency to yellow when exposed the strong sunlight, some brittleness after exposure to UV, and a limited choice of colors. After aging, the material can be hard to clean. They cannot be stained. Please note that the fumes when it burns are very toxic and the material will out gas (release chemicals) for the life of the product.

Foamed Synthetics.

Sold under various trade marks such as Thermalite, Poly Therm R, Duracore™ etc. Its advantages include its more reasonable purchase price than wood shutters, depending upon the seller. They are water resistant, fire resistant, non toxic and provide excellent insulation. Some designs ( Poly Therm R and Duracore™) come with a reinforcing aluminum center and thus have a much more rigid construction, which prevents sagging and bowing. They are available in shapes and many colors. This material is most like wood in appearance. This is probably the best choice for a synthetic shutter. Disadvantages, they are heavier than wood and not as stiff so the design can be limited as to its capabilities, unless they have are aluminum-reinforced. They cannot be stained. Most companies will not build these taller than 80 to 96 inches.

Engineered Wood.

Sold by several companies under different trade names such as (PHD) (Finger jointed etc.) Finger jointed wood can be of one specie or several species glued together. Advantages, this material is very stiff for its weight making it ideal for tall or wide shutters. It can be used wherever solid lumber was used previously. The cost should be less since it is made from lower quality grades of material. It can be made with many shapes and colors. Disadvantages, it cannot be stained since the joint lines will show. If not very carefully manufactured the joint lines can in time show through the painted finishes. When dissimilar materials are used to manufacture it there is a possibility of uneven expansion and contraction that can lead to joint failure.


This is the most common of shutter materials. It has taken over as the material of choice from pine and poplar. Advantages include lightness, stability (the resistance to warping) and flexibility of design. They can be painted or stained, smooth or sandblasted in almost any design required. The high quality finish of this wood species makes it the #1 choice in custom shutters today. This is your best option.

Laminated Shutters.

These window coverings are manufactured using thin slats of lumber that are glued together to form the shapes required. Known by several name brands “New Style” and “Phoenix Wood” are a few. The best shutters when properly made should be very stable and can look as good as solid wood shutters. The finishes can be wrapped, painted, or stained. The material can be used wherever solid wood shutters are acceptable. Due to the inexpensive materials used the prices can be lower. The disadvantages include the inability to stand up to high moisture and subsequent possible delamination of the material. This material is not recommended in high moisture environments or for the consumer looking for a long term investment in there home.

Why Basswood?

Despite the wide selection of shutter window treatment materials in the market today, choosing the perfect one for your home or office does not need to be difficult. With basswood’s traditional, warm, and natural appearance, it becomes extremely easy to decorate around, causing basswood to be the obvious choice for shutters or blinds.

Other benefits of wood include these:

  • Extremely versatile
  • Minimal constraints on sizes – panel widths or heights
  • Complements any style and represents timeless beauty and elegance
  • Outlives most types of window treatments
  • Unaffected by extreme temperatures
  • Best at insulating because of its valuable thermal qualities
  • Does not warp and bend like plastic
  • Easier to maintain and in the event of a repair, wood is always available & very serviceable years down the road
  • Once assembled will maintain its look for years to come
  • Lighter then composite materials
  • Absorbs paint and stains much better then poplar woods


Basswood shutters seems to be the most popular choice of all wood shutters. Because of slow growth, basswood produces less sap; it’s straighter, cracks less and has a closed grain. This makes it easier to apply primer and stains.

Since basswood shutters are lighter in weight, larger wider panels can be made with less hinge fatigue. Windows look better with wider panels that allow more light and view.

Basswood grows in the eastern and central North America. The basswood name derives from the inner bark or bast that is used as a source for making rope, basket weave and mats.

Serving the Houston Communities

*Katy *Woodlands *Kingwood *Pearland *Sugar Land *Richmond *Rosenberg *Missouri City *League City *Dickinson *Clear Lake *Tomball *Humble *Atascocita *Pasadena *Friendswood *Kemah *Alvin *Santa Fe *Fulshear *Cypress