How to Purchase Plantation Shutters

How to Purchase Plantation Shutters

Whether you need to make that perfect statement in a new home, add a finishing touch to an already well decorated room, or gain control over rising energy costs, plantation shutters have become one of the most popular window coverings in today’s energy conscious home fashion market. Plantation shutters have become immensely stylish in almost every type of home setting, from regal estates to modest condominiums, adding grace and elegance out-shown only by their easy to clean functionality.

The origins of these classic window coverings actually date to the nineteenth century where they were used to protect plantation homes against the cold winters and sweltering summers of America’s southeast. Proving truly timeless in decor, plantation shutters have gained enormously in popularity over the last three decades.

Why shutters
The uninitiated will certainly be impressed when viewing plantation shutters in a home for the first time because they work magnificently on almost any size or shaped opening, including normally difficult to cover French and patio doors. Designers have long known that shutters can truly recreate rooms with an exceptional capacity to produce a wide range of appearances and moods. While they are open, plantation shutters create a spacious, light quality without encumbering even the most breath taking of views. Closed, they offer warmth, privacy and protection from summer heat.

One quality unique to plantation shutters over other types of window coverings is their ability to architecturally open and add brightness to a room by way of ambient light reflection, a feature which, alone, can truly change the entire feel of a room.

How to select
One difficulty for consumers entering the shutter market stems from understanding the significantly different levels of material, construction and price points available. Over the last decade, differing quality levels have come available from both domestic and overseas manufacturers, further driving the importance of consumer education and product knowledge. Understanding these differences can be a challenge because variation can be found in every part of shutter construction.

For example, in the realm of wood shutters, lower priced construction levels made of single wood types such as Bass, Alder or Poplar can work quite well in small or shaded windows, but a higher quality multi-specie wood construction is often needed in larger and more exposed openings. Synthetics, such as vinyl or poly-core, are sometimes perfect for smaller openings or damp environments, but often have sagging issues in larger openings with wider or multi-panel installation.

Recently, several foreign manufacturers have begun exporting shutter products into the United States using different materials, including Basswood, MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard) and other composites. While all of these can work well in some applications, they can have serious issues making them simply not the best choice for many types of windows, despite a temping lower price point. There is also controversy centering on the use formaldehyde in MDF manufacturing capable of “off-gassing”, especially in warmer environments.

What to look for
Though the right quality shutter will last for decades, the most common mistake made by buyers is purchasing a lower quality material or construction than what is indicated by their window environment, and an error of this kind can be expensive. Even low-end shutters can look nice when new, however, most problems stem from using the wrong inherent construction with consequences not revealing for several months. Making a selection even more difficult, the average consumer must often rely on the not-so-impartial advice of retailers carrying only one or two lines of shutters.

Most experts agree that the best way to reduce the risk of purchasing the wrong product type is by shopping with a company carrying several types and levels. It may be wise to avoid companies carrying multiple types of window products in favor of direct distributors specializing exclusively in shutters. Direct distributors often provide significantly better value and are more likely to offer unbiased information than the “big box” stores. When it comes down to making a decision between using the right shutter construction quality versus, perhaps, that new wide screen T.V., think twice about stretching your dollar at the sacrifice of shutter quality. When budget is concern, it may be wiser to consider doing fewer windows and staying with the best shutter for the job.

It is also prudent to look for a comprehensive written warranty, and a transferability clause can be especially important if a future home sale is a possibility. Most quality manufactures will allow at least one warranty transfer, a plus to a home buyer. Remember that a warranty is only good as long as the company that issued it is there to stand behind it, so a call to your local Better Business Bureau is always a good idea.

How much to spend
Once a decision is made determining the best shutter quality for your home, the only remaining factor is cost, and prices can range substantially depending on the quality chosen. Plantation shutters typically will cost less than draperies, but two to three times more than ordinary blinds. Some companies price on a “per square foot” basis, which can work in the buyer’s favor for small windows. Others use a “price grid” method, more advantageous for those with larger openings.

Whichever method is used, the old adage of “you get what you pay for” is quite apropos in the world of plantation shutters. For those willing to do the necessary research, the reward is a window covering that will transform most homes into an energy efficient, elegant showplace. Picking out the right ones for you isn’t rocket science, but it pays to do your homework.

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