For years, shutters were made of wood, and only wood. Then came composite shutters made of a mix of PVC and wood or a fiberglass mix. Composite shutters look like wood, but have properties that make them more weather-resistant. In some ways, composite is superior, but there still are situations where wood shutters are best.
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A new set of wood shutters and a new set of composite shutters are pretty much indistinguishable. Even when they have a stained wood finish, you would have to look closely to tell that a composite shutter isn't solid wood. Composite shutters aren't painted like wood shutters, so there is no peeling paint to contend with down the line -- but that also limits your color choice. Wood shutters can be painted any color you desire.
Wood shutters are generally much heavier than composite shutters, but they're not necessarily more durable. After a few years, the wood shutters will start to look more weathered as long-term exposure to the elements take effect. Composite shutters are resistant to moisture and UV rays, so they weather more slowly. The surface of composite shutters may yellow over time, however, and unlike with wood shutters, you can't refinish and repaint them like you can with wood shutters.
Wood shutters are generally much more versatile than composite shutters, because they can be made to fit very large or odd-sized windows and custom-made for odd-shaped windows. Composite shutters are only designed to fit square or rectangular windows in standard sizes, but even standard-sized wood shutters can be custom-fit with woodworking tools, where composite shutters can't be altered. Composite shutters come in a limited number of finishes, mostly stained in wood-like hues or shades of white.
New unpainted wood shutters generally cost much less than new composite shutters -- as much as half the price of top-of-the-line fiberglass composite shutters. While less expensive composite shutters still are more expensive than plain wood shutters, they don't need to be painted. Factoring in the expense -- and time -- of painting wood shutters, the overall cost of wood shutters and most composite is roughly the same. When you factor in the fact that the wood shutters will likely need to be refinished or replaced in a few years and the composite shutters won't, however, composite shutters can save money in the long term.