Whether you are a window coverings dealer or fabricator, there are certainly many options and complex choices when considering adding shutters to your current offering. Here are some of the important things you will want to consider about new engineered wood shutters that are now offered by Comfortex Window Fashions.
• Material Quality—Many new materials have been introduced to the window treatments industry over the past several years as alternatives for 100 percent wood. Many of the composite wood products developed for blinds and shutters are made with recycled wood material combined with high-tech resins or thermal polymers. The structural integrity and surface finish varies from product to product, but overall, the quality has improved as the manufacturing technology has improved.
One of the most prevalent consumer comments about these new wood alternatives is that the look and feel of the material is too far a departure from their traditional 100 percent wood counterparts. Consumers no longer have to compromise. Woodwinds® Plantation Shutters, one of the newest wood composite entries into the fast-growing shutter market, preserve the look and feel of traditional wood shutters.
Unlike 100 percent wood products, wood composite materials are manufactured with a consistent smooth surface, free of knots and other blemishes found in 100 percent real wood. Woodwinds composite shutters provide a semi-gloss finish that every wood finisher strives for and every quality-conscious consumer demands.
• Performance and Durability—Technical innovation has allowed wood composites to surpass expectations in performance and durability. Like vinyl or composite siding for homes, many of these new wood alternatives are very resilient to harsh climate conditions such as prolonged exposure to direct sunlight, temperature extremes and humid or damp conditions. These highly innovative, engineered materials can withstand many years of abuse and still look and perform like new.
The finish, or cap material, on the Woodwinds slats and louvers is 20 times thicker than paint and provides a resilient coating that resists chipping, cracking, peeling and is fully UV stable so it will not discolor with age. Since the outer finish is non-porous, these products can be used in humid or damp applications without any worry of damage or degradation. The Woodwinds material will not warp, twist or bow even under extreme environmental conditions due to a fully encased wood composite core.
• Cleaning and Maintenance—To maintain proper operation and fit, 100 percent wood shutter units may require occasional adjustments to compensate for natural warping, twisting or bowing of the material. In harsh climate applications, wood may require periodic refinishing to maintain or restore its original beauty.
Faux wood and wood composite materials generally need little to no maintenance. Using a vacuum brush or feather duster on a regular basis will keep all surfaces bright and clean. The surface is non-porous; therefore, soap and water can be used without the fear of damage to the material. The finish will prevent any absorption of moisture or liquids and guarantees a stain-free, UV-stable surface for the life of the product.
• Fabrication Time, Capital Investment and Labor Savings—For shutter fabricators, or those looking to fabricate, Woodwinds Plantation Shutters are clearly a giant step forward in design over older systems. The “adjustable” bottomrail height allows for all panels to be built to the exact height required. This eliminates any need for a final height cut-down and touch-ups on the top or bottom of the panel.
The pre-punched stile hole strip insert eliminates the stile boring operation required with other shutter designs. The profile of the rails, combined with the angle cut of the tilt bar, negates any need for mouse holes, but still allows the louvers to close tightly in both directions.
These specific design attributes can save a fabricator literally tens of thousands of dollars in tooling and space requirements, not to mention the labor savings on each unit.
One hundred percent wood materials generally are shipped to fabricators in various sizes based on the yields of particular milling runs. This means that a fabricator will receive box lengths ranging from three feet to 10 or 12 feet. Engineered materials are generally extruded in consistent 12-foot lengths, making it considerably easier to manage inventory and greatly reduce scrap rates. Wood composites materials are extruded with a consistent finish eliminating the need for extra sorting or inspection, resulting in a significant labor savings.
Setting up the proper fabrication space with dedicated paint areas or booths with proper ventilation, tools and protective devices can be a cumbersome and expensive endeavor. Removing the finishing process from the shutter fabrication equation saves the fabricator a tremendous amount of time, material and labor costs. Most faux wood and composite materials, including Woodwinds, are manufactured as pre-finished material that requires minimal or no additional finishing by the fabricator.
• Environmental Friendliness—Wood composites are created using environmentally friendly components and processes. The finishing process for 100 percent wood may produce solvent fumes, fine particulates and carbon monoxide, which all contribute to air pollution. Improper disposal of byproducts of the finishing process can contaminate soil and water with solvents or other toxic materials. For wood shutter fabricators, educating themselves and their employees on safe material handling and disposal is all but eliminated by choosing to working with wood composite materials.
Using recycled wood, innovative manufacturing techniques and new materials in place of natural wood products reduces the demand for virgin wood and helps preserve the world’s forests. Most wood composite materials produced for blind or shutter products are recyclable, further helping to preserve the environment by limiting solid waste.
According to the Environmental Investigation Agency (www.eia-international.org), every year approximately four billion trees are cut down worldwide. Most of the timber is used for fuel, building materials and consumer products. The demand for forest products continues to grow as the world’s population grows. Between 1990 and 1995, there was a net global forest loss of nearly 44,000 square miles per year. This equates to roughly 33 football fields per minute!
As we move forward, it is clear the Earth cannot sustain this rate of deforestation indefinitely. Although reforestation efforts continue to grow, the fragile ecosystems that have been disrupted or destroyed by commercial logging can take decades or even hundreds of years to repair themselves. Some will never recover.
As an intelligent, environmentally aware generation, we must invest in the development of new products and technologies that will allow us to conserve natural resources and pass a clean, healthy planet to the next generation. Forests are much more than just trees—they purify our air, protect our soil and provide food and shelter for millions of species.
As you can see, there are several important things to consider when deciding which shutter product to sell or fabricate. There are many reasons to choose one particular product over another including material quality, durability, product design, maintenance and even environmental concerns. As a window treatment and business professional, the decision is ultimately yours. Now with advanced technologies from Comfortex, you no longer have to compromise finish and performance when you choose an engineered wood product.
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Shane Brunell is senior product manager, Comfortex Window Fashions, Maplewood, NY, (518) 273-3333; (800) 843-4151; www.comfortex.com.