Wood Shutters are Wood Shutters, Right?
As with plastic or poly shutters, there are different grades and quality between wood shutters. The quality is most noticeable in how they are built or how they are finished. What you may not see is what wood is used in their construction. This post reviews what is used to make wood shutters and why it matters. Traditionally plantation shutters are constructed using premium hardwoods. In the past, the species of choice was Hard Maple, but other woods were used such as Alder, Cherry, and Birch, to name a few. These are beautiful hardwoods; however, they are no longer economical from a cost perspective, nor are they generally environmentally sustainable as they are very slow growing. The most common hardwoods used today are Basswood and Poplar. Truthfully they span the line between softwoods and hardwoods. Although classified as a hardwood, they are on the softer side of the category, but this is a good thing. Basswood and Poplar are less dense than harder woods and thus weigh less. The weight of a shutter will impact the maximum panel size (the heavier the shutter, the smaller the maximum size). Basswood and Poplar also accept paint better than harder woods, plus they are relatively quick growing thus sustainable and affordable.
If Basswood and Poplar are excellent choices for building plantation shutters, what is the issue? There are two primary issues. A common strategy in the industry is to offer 'wood shutters,' not 'hardwood shutters'. To many, wood shutters are wood shutters, but that is not the case. More likely than not, if you purchase 'wood shutters' you are getting Pinewood. Pine is soft, not stable, and contains a high level of sap. Pine is not particularly strong, and it has a very high tendency to warp and does not paint well. Over time, the sap will seep out altering the finish. When I hear folks complain that their wood shutters warped in the Florida climate, the first thing I think of is Pine.
The second issue with wood is the quality of the hardwood. Premium hardwood is kiln dried to specific moisture levels. The proper moisture levels keep the wood stable and resist warping. Kiln-dried hardwood is expensive and lesser quality 'hardwood' shutters manufacturers will use wood that has not been kiln dried. Yes, you get Basswood or Poplar, but it will be affected by humidity far more than premium kiln-dried lumber. Just think of hardwood floors and furniture. It does not warp or distort in humidity or varying temperatures. It will expand and contract slightly but retains is shape because it is stable.
Pay a little more and get the quality you expect and deserve.