1. Mortise and Tenon joints.
Shutter panels need to remain straight and true to close and function properly. Most manufacturers use round wood dowels and/or glue to hold the side rails (called stiles) to the top and bottom rail. Shutters made this way will look great when new but over the years temperature fluctuations in the window may cause the glue to dry out and fail and the dowel to shrink. When this happens the panels don’t work properly and may even fall apart.
Mortise and Tenon joints are more time consuming and expensive to make but the panels will remain straight and true for a very long time. Much of the antique furniture and many of the doors in our houses in New Orleans are made with Mortise and Tenon joints and are still working great after 100+ years!
2. Engineered Stiles
The stiles are the vertical sides of the shutter panel that the louvers fit between. You’d think you would want that stile to be a solid piece of wood, right? Well, have you ever looked at a new fence and seen the one board that is warping? A solid piece of wood can warp, and if that happens the shutter panel won’t close properly. An Engineered Stile is made of multiple layers of hardwood laminated together; it won’t warp or twist and will always remain straight and true in your window.
3. Quarter-Sawn Louvers
Most people that sell and install shutters have no idea what a Quarter-Sawn Louver is or why you would want it in your shutter. Basically, it is a way of cutting the louver from the log to reduce the natural cupping and twisting inherent in wood. It uses more wood to produce the louver but results in a tighter, more even louver that closes uniformly.
4. Prescription Wood Conditioning
Ever seen what happens to a piece of antique wood furniture that is moved from New Orleans’ humid climate to Phoenix’s arid climate? The wood dries out, splits and cracks develop, seams separate; it’s not pretty. The reverses happen moving furniture from Phoenix here; the wood swells with moisture, doors stick, drawers won’t open. What’s this have to do with shutters? A good quality shutter dries the wood to the average humidity level of the area where the shutter will be used – we call it Prescription Wood Conditioning. This ensures the shutter will work smoothly and properly for many years.
5. Tension Adjusting Screws
Although this is really simple it is amazing how many shutters don’t have it. Opening and closing the louvers can cause wear on the mechanisms. If you’ve ever seen shutters with “lazy louvers” that won’t stay in a position it’s because they’ve worn and there is no way to adjust the tension. Look for a screw in the side of the panel to tighten them up.
If the shutters you choose have these basic features, like the PureVue line from Budget Blinds, you are ½ of the way to a beautiful and functional window covering! Unfortunately, just having a great product isn’t enough – it still has to be installed to work properly and not void the warranty. We’ll cover installation in another column.