How We Work
Basswood shutters are recyclable, biodegradable and renewable. Elizabeth Shutters is the only major shutter manufacturer in California using only 100% whole, North American basswood for both painted and ready-to-stain shutters. Other manufacturers have switched to finger joints, laminations, “engineered woods”, “plastic woods”, vinyl-wrapped, fillers or lesser woods to drive down cost. All of these are considerably less expensive than natural Basswood, but each comes with drawbacks. 100% natural basswood won’t de-laminate (split) like laminates and vinyl-wrapped, pressed wood; won’t crack or swell at the seams like finger-joints; and won’t fall apart or sag like pressboard or MDF. We recommend avoiding these materials particularly in large openings, cantilevered panels, and in openings exposed to direct sun or where they may be exposed to moisture.
When it comes to custom wood shutters, engineered woods are cheaper, but whole wood is better. Shutter manufacturers have tried a wide variety of wood fabrications to drive down the price of Basswood. The truth is, Basswood is expensive, but still the best material for custom shutters. Here’s why Elizabeth Shutters uses only 100% whole Basswood.
Custom wood shutters are unique in terms of finish and environment. Alone among interior wood products, the finest shutters are built to custom cabinetry standards while withstanding temperature and sun extremes applicable to a lawn chair; and resisting moisture and decay to the greatest extent possible. Whole wood shutters handle these extremes with great aplomb (enabling a lifetime warranty). Combinations of wood and glue, on the other hand, react to heat, cold, ultra-violet rays and water quite differently.
Among the variations in “Hardwood” or “Basswood” shutters are laminated hardwood (plywood), vinyl-wrapped, laminated hardwood (plywood with a plastic coating), finger-jointed hardwood (small pieces cut up and glued together zipper style), HDF (High Density Fiberboard, a densely packed slurry of glue and wood slivers poured into molds and set-like Jell-O, to create stiff panels of “wood”), MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard, like HDF, but less dense; commonly used in inexpensive office furniture), Pressboard (see MDF) and combinations of the above. Each comes with its own inherent problems.
Wood and the glues used to bind “manufactured” woods expand contract, harden, stretch, absorb ultra-violet light and chip at different rates. These differences can be masked for a time by a thick coat of paint. However, shutters are usually placed in direct sun; exposed directly to open or poorly-insulated windows; and opened, closed and adjusted repeatedly over a lifetime. These environments stress the shutter materials in precisely the way that wood and glues fail: by forcing the materials to change in the same way over time. Rather than remain whole, wood/glue combinations tend to separate over time revealing glue lines, bleed-thru, de-laminations, splits and cracked paint.
Each time wood is cut against the grain (cross cut) fibers at the ends are broken and the wood’s natural resistance to water, rot, insects and other decay is reduced. This is why decay almost always starts at the cut ends of wood. Fine wood shutters should be built to last a lifetime. Whole wood shutters have the fewest crosscut ends and are therefore the most resistant to decay. Compared to whole wood, finger-jointed wood typically has three to thirty times the number of cross cut ends, while laminated; HDF and MDF have virtually an infinitely greater number. Exposed to moisture or rot, whole wood panels may resist decay for weeks or years. At the other end of the scale, exposed MDF panels will soak up moisture like a sponge.