Window Shutters: Buyers guide for 2020

Are you wanting to do home improvements and not sure whether to install window shutters? These beautiful classic window dressings have been around for hundreds of years and its timeless popularity has encouraged shutter manufacturers to be more innovative in developing a range of options. Nowadays shutters are made with different materials and in a variety of colours to accommodate the needs, tastes and pockets of a wider audience. If you are experiencing difficulty with choosing the right fit for your home, here are some guidelines that may help you with your selection.

An important question to ask is, what is the main purpose for installing the shutter? Perhaps there are a few reasons like, giving your home a facelift to make it look stylish and sophisticated, maybe you want to bolster your home security too, or you need to control the amount of light and noise? Whatever the reasons are, it is important to keep them in mind when making your selection.

A useful exercise to do is to review your home to establish where you would like to install the shutters. Do you want them on all your windows or on some? Would you also like them on your doors and if so, which ones? Would you like them on the inside or outside? Will some shutters need to provide more security features than others? Must the shutter be impervious to water?  As you go about answering these questions a clearer picture will start to form on what shutter you should choose for each area of your home.

Shutters are the perfect addition, beyond the obvious aesthetic appeal it lends to any home, they also help create a flexible and functional interior, adding significant financial value to a property. By just changing the position of the louvres, you can control the visibility into and out of your room (privacy), adjust the light and air-flow throughout your home, reduce drastic temperature variations making it warmer in winter and cooler in summer.  A shutter’s functionality and durability may vary due to the material it is made from, the style of the shutter and the room it would be installed in.

Window and door shutters are available in a variety of materials such as, solid wood, wood composites (medium-density fibreboard (MDF) craftwood), aluminium and plastic (PVC/vinyl, ABS, polymers, Thermalite) to name a few. Each material has its pros and cons, let’s take a closer look at three of the most widely used shutter materials.

Wood/Timber

If you’re after a warm, authentic and traditional look then wood shutters are an excellent choice. The use of wooden shutters crafts an ageless appearance and an enduring first impression. Here are some details to consider –

Advantages

  • Timber is a 100% natural organic material that is known for its strength and longevity. It is reusable, recyclable and biodegradable. Compared to PVC, wooden shutters require a lot less energy to produce and do not release any toxic chemicals. Being a renewable resource, timber has much less impact on the environment when produced, compared to other products that are chemically produced.
  • Wooden shutters are customisable and easily stained or painted in any colour, giving homeowners the flexibility to match and contrast with the colour of their home. An extra design component is adding engravings and decorative cut outs on your shutter, to give your home some additional character.
  • Wooden shutters are the perfect option to have complete control over the amount of light entering your home. The louvres can be adjusted to allow light in or to block out the light completely.
  • Wooden shutters do an excellent job of protecting your home and windows from extreme heat in the summer and heavy rain and cold in the winter. In summer when the weather cools off the shutters can be adjusted to allow cooler air-flow in your home and in winter the louvres can be completely closed to block the cold air from entering your home.
  • Wooden shutters are amongst the most durable and when they begin to fade, you can easily restore them to create a new look with a fresh coat of varnish or paint.
  • Great at controlling light, noise and temperature

Disadvantages

  • While wooden shutters may help protect your home from certain weather conditions, they usually don’t hold up as well against powerful storms.
  • Wooden shutters may not be the greatest choice for those living in humid or moist climates. If exposed to extreme temperature differences, it has the propensity to rot, split and warp thus requiring regular maintenance and repairs.
  • Wooden shutters will need to be cleaned and maintained more regularly than aluminium or plastic shutters.
  • Wooden shutters typically come with a price tag higher than other options.

It is important to note that wooden shutters are primarily for aesthetic and functional use only and not a security solution.

Plastic

When considering affordability as well as durability and the effects of moisture, plastic shutters are a good investment for any home. Although artificial, many plastic shutters feature an imitation wood grain look that is indistinguishable from natural wood panels. Here are some factors to consider about plastic shutters –

Advantages

  • Plastic usually lasts longer than wood and a good quality plastic shutter will not warp, fade, rot or crack like wood.
  • Plastic shutters are impervious to water and will not swell when wet. They are well-suited to humid climates and areas such as in conservatories, bathrooms and swimming pools.
  • They are easy to maintain and clean. 
  • An extra advantage is that they are flame retardant. This makes them ideal for those who are particularly safety conscious.
  • They have excellent insulation properties making them energy efficient
  • Effective at controlling light, noise and temperature 
  • More cost effective than wood and aluminium

Disadvantages

  • With plastic shutters, you are limited in the choice of colours.
  • They are not as resilient or durable as a wooden or aluminium shutter.
  • When they begin to deteriorate, there’s little you can do to restore them. You will have to replace them.

It is important to note that plastic shutters are primarily for aesthetic and functional use only and not a security solution.

Aluminium

Aluminium is a widespread metal that is not only strong but is light in weight, cost effective and is available in a variety of colours. Aside from its strength, aluminium is a versatile metal to mould intricate designs with and provides a really smooth finished product, furthermore, adding an approved powder coater to the manufacturing process, creates a protective durable finish to ensure the components are more resistant to impact, chemicals, moisture, ultraviolet light, and extreme weather conditions.

Advantages

  • They are cost effective
  • Ideal for light and air-flow control, noise and privacy
  • Are very strong
  • Versatile and can be custom made particularly for unusual openings
  • Available in a variety of colours (standard and custom mixed)
  • Easy to install
  • Easy to clean 
  • Requires minimal maintenance
  • Can offer more security features when installing security shutters
  • They are impervious to water and will not swell when wet
  • The powder coater diminishes the risk of cracking, chipping, scratching, corroding and fading

Disadvantages

  • Aluminium has poor insulation properties and is dependent on glazing to produce better insulation.

A valuable option to highlight is that aluminium offers a security shutter and roller shutter. By replacing bulky burglar bars and security gates, the security or roller shutter allows you to transform the look of your home and create a more elegant and streamlined design without compromising your security.

So, now that we know a little more about some of the shutter materials we can take a look at the designs.

Designs

When it comes to designs there are some options and colours to choose from, however, if you require customisation, it is essential to know whether the supplier or manufacturer can supply you what you need.  Keep in mind that the choice of material and configuration may be influenced by where the shutter is i.e. interior or exterior, the room (kitchen, bathroom, bedroom), as well as the size and shape of the area that it needs to be fitted in.

Some of the standard configurations available are –

Hinged

It comprises a perimeter frame and shutter panel which is hinged off the perimeter frame. They are designed to be kept closed, and the blades tilted for light control and privacy. Hinged panels are the most commonly specified for standard windows. Some suppliers or manufacturers may provide variations of this configuration.

Bi-fold

The main appeal of this configuration is its ability to fold away from an opening giving you a completely unobstructed view. They are made to stack against one another like a concertina effect in either direction and the panels overlap so no light can come through them. They are versatile and can be made to sit at either 90 degrees to the opening so that light and air are let through while still maintaining privacy, or they can be made to sit flat against the opening. Some suppliers or manufacturers may provide variations of this configuration.

By-pass or sliding

This configuration features a multi-track system that allows one panel to slide behind the one next to it. This configuration is perfect for use in areas where there isn’t enough space to stack bi-fold shutters. They can also be set up to slide behind each other with the blades open to allow light in. Some suppliers or manufacturers may provide variations of this configuration.

The above designs are standard options, however, suppliers may provide additional designs and patented functions that may be unique to their product.

Colours

Most manufacturers are able to supply their product in a variety of industry standard colours, some may, at an additional cost, offer custom made colours. The colours on offer may vary depending on the type of material chosen, for example wooden shutters can be produced in a larger variety of colours. To avoid disappointment, be sure to clarify what colours are available for the various materials.

  • White
  • light grey
  • dark grey
  • bronze
  • charcoal

Now that you have a clearer idea on the shutters you want, you should look at suppliers. Choosing a reputable company is as vital as choosing the correct product. Create a list of companies that specialise in shutters and review their product(s) making special note, on the following:

Company longevity

How long have they been in business? Their years in the shutter industry will give you some insight on whether they are stable and have the necessary industry experience to do the job at hand, furthermore, should you need any repairs or additional work done you need some assurance that the company you choose will still be around years later.

Track record

Reading the supplier’s customer reviews on various platforms such as their website, Facebook page, Twitter page, Google, Hellopeter, etc, will give you an idea of their customer service and whether they are reliable.

Guarantee or warranty

What type of guarantee or warranty do they offer? This is essential to know, especially when different materials may carry different guarantees or warranties. Go over the Terms and Conditions and find out what it covers, is it fulfilled by the company supplying the product or by a third party? Find out what could invalidate your guarantee or warranty, for example, using your own contractor to carry out the installation instead of the supplier’s recommendations could compromise your guarantee or warranty.

Lead time

How long will it take to make and install the finished product?  Most suppliers should be able to provide you a timeline, however, if you require customisation, make allowance for additional lead time.

Products

What products do they have? What sets their products apart from their competitors? Are they good quality? How durable is it? What guarantee or warranty does the product have? Since shutters are permanent fixtures they need to be good quality, durable products. This is where you get to the nitty gritty part of the product so you can compare costing with quality and functionality.

Costing

Costing is obviously a very important factor, bearing in mind that different materials will vary in price. Review the supplier’s costs, and compare it with other competitors. Another consideration when keeping to a budget is calculating how many window and door shutters you need, and if you want them all made from matching materials. 

Should your budget not accommodate the price-tag that comes with shutters then it might be worth looking into blinds.  Blinds are an extremely versatile alternative window dressing that is widely available and more affordable to buy.

Generally blinds can be split into two groups – 

  • slat blinds (vertical and Venetians) and 
  • full cover blinds (rollers, Romans and honeycombs)

Blinds also come in a variety of styles, materials, and sizes to suit a number of tastes. Similar to shutters, blinds have slats, which adjust up and down. They can also tilt from side to side, allowing you to control the amount of light entering the room. Here are some of the benefits that blinds provide –

Advantages

  • Blinds can be motorized for added convenience 
  • Blinds provide excellent control over light that enters a room
  • Blinds provide more design options (vertical, horizontal, pleated) or slat size
  • Blinds are easy to maintain and clean
  • Blinds can be custom fitted to any window
  • Blinds are easy to install and remove
  • Versatile-can move from the top down or bottom up

Disadvantages

The biggest disadvantage to window blinds is that they wear out quicker, and may also fade when exposed to direct sunlight. Some homeowners find their blind cords burdensome to deal with, and worry about the dangers they might pose to small children or pets.

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