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Faux Wood vs. Real Wood?
MDF (Medium Density Fiber) shutters are also called “hybrid”, "Woodlore" and “composite” along with some other trade names. All of these window coverings are made from MDF as the base material. MDF is basically sawdust mixed with glue 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 deceivingly look very much like more expensive wood shutters. They are stable in smaller sizes and resist warping. The 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. The material is brittle and can easily break under impact. The material is very heavy and it will eventually sag under stress over a long period of time. This material is rapidly becoming a major part of the window covering market due to its low cost and the lack of consumer knowledge.
Inside of an MDF shutter
Faux Wood vs. Real Wood Shutters
At Elite Shutters, we have always been innovators and are in fact responsible for many of the shutter designs available within our industry today. Even though we've tried to keep an open mind when it comes to alternative materials offered for shutter construction, we do feel that the plantation shutter industry was far less confusing for consumers before the onset of faux wood materials introduced in the mid to late 1990's. In this section, we share our 20+ years of experience (pros & cons) in working with various different types of faux-wood shutters. Learn about our wood shutters here >>
Many consumers are often "sold" on the idea that plastic, poly, and pvc materials are somehow superior to real wood as they would never need painting, would never crack, chip, fade, and so on. They are even told that faux wood insulates better than real wood when in fact the two insulate almost identically the same. Originally, there was only one type of PVC faux wood material used in shutters. Now there are so many that it is confusing to keep up with them all. Some of the most common types are the Poly/PVC material (your best option) and then Composite MDF material (the worst option) which is comprised mostly of compressed wood and sawdust that's been fused together with a ton of chemicals and then covered with a thin vinyl covering to help mask what's really underneath. Interior grade MDF materials are commonly known to quickly disintegrate if they ever get wet and are also extremely heavy so they tend to have the most sagging and bowing issues. MDF composite is the one faux wood material that we will NEVER recommend for interior shutters. There are also hybrid shutters where wood and faux wood materials are mixed together and there's even vinyl and vinyl clad shutters with some being hollow, and some that are non-hollow and even some have aluminum core materials ... and the list goes on and on ...
You find that most if not all faux wood shutters are marketed as being friendly for our environment while in reality the faux-wood manufacturing process being mostly bi-products of the oil and gas industry creates a great deal of pollution as well as toxic waste. While many consumers of faux-wood shutters may initially have a good experience, they often find that over the years the extruded color of the material can in fact fade, yellow or discolor, scratch, and even stain on certain occasions. In fact, most faux-wood shutters now have to be painted with a finish coat to keep them from discoloration. These materials will often become brittle with age and sun exposure which actually makes them more prone to breakage and cracking than their wood counterparts. Faux woods also tend to be a very heavy material, often twice the weight of wood which creates many limitations on design, installation and can actually "sag" in the window after time has passed. PVC, MDF and other similar materials have also been found to emit their internal toxins embedded from the manufacturing process into your homes environment once heated or exposed to heat such as by the sun within your windows.
Today, most faux-wood products are sold by franchise operators & big box retailers. These companies often exist on volume selling by undercutting the wood prices in order to maintain a presence in the market place. Sadly, all too often their primary motivator is to achieve the highest profit margin, not by the legacy of their brand.
Over the years, we have seen it all and experienced first hand the outcome of some of these products. There are a few applications we find appropriate for a faux wood shutter such as if there is a window to be shuttered inside the shower (yes, it happens!) or inside garages or attics. We put a custom color finish coat on our faux line to keep it from yellowing in the window. We only offer a solid polymer extruded shutter (never MDF) and we must limit it's warranty to 10 years as compared to the Lifetime Warranty offered on our wood shutters. At the end of the day, authentic real wood shutters, when made with the highest quality wood grades and finished with premium paints or stains, are still today and will always be the preferred and superior material of choice for true custom interior shutters. The premium North American Hardwood we use for our plantation shutters is sourced from sustainable and responsibly managed forests and is finished with completely non-toxic finishes. Learn more about our wood shutters here >>
One way to tell if a faux-wood shutter is an import is by the price. Because the synthetic material has to be created in a manufacturing process, formed, milled, cut, assembled and finished like a wood shutter, the cost is sometimes higher than wood. Most likely, the lower-cost faux products are not made in America. Many companies also import the components and assemble them in the USA. The foreign companies also hide under different company names that sound American. All too often consumers who buy these products have no idea their products are from China or other from sources outside the USA. If you have a project where faux-wood is needed due to the environment the shutter will be subjected to then we do offer an American made Polymer Shutter that will work well as an alternative to our woods.