Basswood shutters are a natural product built to bring warmth and character to fine homes. Like marble baths, granite countertops, oak floors and fine wool rugs, basswood shutters are deep and rich materials that create an authenticity and sense of permanence synthetic materials cannot duplicate.
Plastic shutters, like linoleum and Formica, have their uses. Where price is the primary concern, or where the panels will regularly be wetted (as in showers or saunas) plastic may be less expensive and waterproof. But homeowners who can choose consistently opt for the real thing. Here’s why basswood has become so popular:
Basswood has a greater strength-to-weight ratio in its natural form than any other shutter material ever developed. Greater strength enables more custom shapes including longer louvers and extensions not possible with plastic or lesser materials.
In the abstract, when it comes to blocking light; ensuring that shutters are attached properly to walls; or allowing for light control; there are few real differences between weak, heavy materials and stronger, light ones. But, as a function of aesthetics, design features and construction, the differences between materials are huge. Properly designed Basswood shutters don’t need the bulky support systems, chunky panels and extra framing pieces that lesser materials require. This results in an elegant look that is also stronger and more durable.
Strong, light, Basswood louvers can be extended further to create fewer, properly proportioned panels. These panels look better, weigh less and require less framing. Plastic and other, weak, heavy materials can only extend short lengths before drooping. To compensate, the designers must build smaller panels and more of them to cover the same space. Each small panel is heavy and comes with its own additional, oversized framing and support requirements. On particularly large openings, the panel frames, shutter frames and build outs needed to support weaker materials can make the openings resemble fortresses instead of windows.
Well-made basswood shutters are known as the premium window coverings available. They typically increase resale values more than other window coverings, according to most real-estate estimators and brokers.
It is commonly accepted among real estate investors and professionals that, given a choice, buyers will choose to be surrounded by natural materials. As income levels and education rise, homebuyers increasingly invest in hardwood, bronze, marble and granite over laminated MDF (wood/glue slurry), plastic; Linoleum and Formica. According to most real estate experts, the relevant issue is not whether buyers are willing to spend more for natural materials over synthetics, but when and how much more they will invest.
Housing development builders are a proxy for this kind of decision-making both in terms of value and target audience. As a group, they spend millions in market research, focus groups and real world testing to isolate what customers value. Their collective goals are to determine the most important and cost-effective features to attract home buyers. This information is used to guide their investments to acquire those features. In Southern California today, shutters are the dominant window covering offered in the middle to upper middle class and upper class development market. Within this builder market for shutters, basswood shutters are the fastest growing segment. By proxy then, home builders are voting with their investment dollars that basswood shutters are the most attractive window covering investment in the upper half of the market today.
Basswood shutters have the best combination of several desirable traits: by far the most consistent color among domestic hardwoods – particularly compared to poplar and lesser woods; very tight and uniform grain – basswood’s close grains will resist moisture better than open grain woods; basswood is one of the hardest of the workable, furniture-grade woods – it will dent pine, ash, oak maple, etc.; basswood is naturally very low in sap – our kiln dried basswood is guaranteed to have 8% or less moisture upon installation and will never bleed sap.
Whenever you install fine interior plantation shutters in a woodworker’s home, something we’ve done many times, you’re going to have a serious conversation.The first clues the conversation is coming are the television surrounds and crown molding. They’re perfect. Then you notice a set of matching custom bookshelves in the den; a hand carved mantle built seamlessly into the adjoining stonework in the living room; some furniture with more inlays than you could ever get stock; and a small turned bowl so elegant the thought of putting peanuts into it makes your stomach hurt. These visual cues though are merely a buildup to the garage. All of this without the garage is merely a pleasant exchange about interior shutters between aficionados of fine craftsmanship. But, if the garage has eight or more pieces of well oiled woodworking equipment; if there’s a lathe, a scroll saw, dado jigs, 10 to 15 assorted clamps, a set of mallets and cold chisels and the whole thing is as neat as a pin, you may as well get a cup of coffee and a comfortable chair, because you’re in for a debate.
If Basswood is good for interior shutters, wouldn’t oak, maple, walnut (insert tree here) be better?
No, the other furniture-grade hardwoods all have non-uniform grain patterns. Fine interior wooden shutters depend upon the uniformity and integrity of their louvers to reduce structural variability. Louvers are relatively thin and unsupported and therefore particularly susceptible to swirling grains. We couldn’t extend the louvers or control the gaps between louvers as well with “fancier” woods.
I saw some great interior shutters made of poplar. Poplar is cheap. Why don’t you use poplar for your interior shutters?
Poplar would be an excellent material for interior shutters except for its inherent color variations. Unlike Basswood, which is uniformly tan, a single unit of Poplar stock comes in everything from white and dark green to light gray and near black. Covering these color differences requires layering the panels with a lot more paint solids. This means using either a thick, brittle undercoat (like Gesso or calcium carbonate) or layering the panels with additional top coats. In either case, the extra paint affects the gaps between moving parts and builds up a thick layer around the wood that tends to crack or shatter if struck. Fine interior shutters should be built with a minimum of gap variances and to withstand a lifetime of normal use.
How do you know the wood in your interior shutters has 8% or less moisture content?
All of Elizabeth Shutters’ wood comes from Basswood mills in the Great Lakes region and Canada. These mills guarantee the wood specifications and are required to keep current certificates on file attesting to kilning and moisture content. An inspector from the state or province must certify that the wood is kiln-dried to a given time and level. More importantly, Elizabeth Shutters processes over a million square feet of Basswood for interior shutters per year. Each piece is handled multiple times for cutting, shaping, sanding, assembly, etc. The only weight variable that exists in Basswood is moisture content. If wood came in that was wet, it would be too heavy, and we would send it back. Our suppliers are well aware of this and Elizabeth Shutters has yet to return a load of wood for moisture content.
How do you know your interior shutters will never bleed sap?
Obviously, Elizabeth Shutters can’t absolutely guarantee the future, no one can. All we can do is promise to replace or repair our shutters if they do bleed sap. But, we’ve been making interior shutters out of Basswood for over 30 years. We process over a million board feet per year. We see the wood when it comes into our factory. We see the wood as we process it. We see the finished panels when we complete the process; when we pack them up; and again when we install them. Sometimes, we see the panels yet again when we come out to install more interior shutters. Our customers see them every day, and have seen them for over 30 years. No sap, yet.
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 fingerjoints, 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.
Low Price Guarantee
Elizabeth Shutters will meet or beat any comparable big box or chain store bid.
Elizabeth Shutters is the only major U.S. shutter manufacturer to build our standard painted shutters with whole basswood and acrylic lacquer. We offer this product at the same price as others who employ cheaper finger-jointed or lesser products coated with water-based paints.
-Angie's List SuperService Awards 2011-2014
-San Diego Union Tribune "Top Shutter Company" 2011-2014
-Los Angeles Times "Best Shutter Company" 2011-2014
-Best of TrustLink.org 2011-2016
-Google+ 5 stars
-Yahoo Local 5 stars
-Angie's List SuperService Awards 2016