Plantation shutters are probably the most popular window treatment currently in Australia.

They can be a pricey item, yet their popularity suggests that other factors far outweigh the cost. But what should you look for when purchasing shutters so you don’t make costly mistakes?

Not all shutters are the same; in fact many are vastly different and you truly get what you pay for. My suggestion first and foremost is to purchase the absolute best shutters you can, as they are an investment and will last over 15 to 20 years if the correct product is sought. If you are simply shopping to get the cheapest price, chances are you will also get the cheapest and poorest performing product, regardless of the sales spin involved.

Good quality plantation shutters can provide excellent protection against heat and cold. If expertly fitted, heat and cold transfer is significantly reduced, thus also reducing energy costs for heating/cooling. One important point to note however, is that plantation shutters are not 100 per cent block-out due to the construction; two millimetre gaps around the edges and some light seepage through the blades is to be expected.

Beware cheap plastic (sometimes called polymer or polyresin) shutters. These claim to have thermal benefits but cannot withstand the strong Aussie westerly sun. Some of the new plastics available are technologically advanced, cheaper than timber and claim to be high performing. However, many have frames that may warp over a period of time, and the polymer finish can yellow with age.

Timber is by its very nature a thermal product, as it is a living breathing organism. Aluminium is not particularly beneficial indoors if you require thermal protection; it is somewhat helpful, but basically can be really cold to touch in winter and can get quite hot to touch on sunny days. Aluminium is ideal for wet areas and external use. It is impervious to moisture, anti-corrosive, and lightweight yet strong.

Various timbers are used in the production of shutters, but not all timbers are alike. Hardwoods are the best performing, but look for forestry sustainable products, with panels made from solid pieces of timber (not timber veneer wrap over MDF). If you’re serious about the environment and your carbon footprint, then these products are for you.

Look for the following when considering purchasing plantation shutters for your home:

1. Mortise and tenon (dovetail) joins on corners. These joins overlap and are very very strong, ensuring that the panels are unlikely to come apart at the corners.

2. Adjustable screw to tension blades as they age. As shutters get older and you are continually moving the blades, these blades may eventually become slightly loose. If you have no access to them to make a simple adjustment (you only need a screwdriver), the blades may fall out and you will need to pay a professional to re install them. Tensioning is really a simple part of routine maintenance.

3. Anti-corroding hinges, especially if you live near the coast. There is nothing worse than outlaying thousands of dollars for your shutters only to have them installed with cheap nickel hinges that corrode when exposed to salt air. Always seek out stainless steel or galvanised hinges.

4. Warranty on the paint finish. Many shutters have only one or two coats of paint, which is nowhere near what should be provided. At minimum, you require an undercoat and two top coats for a good finish. There is no job more tedious than having to repaint your shutters because the provided finish was inferior.

5. Opportunity to colour match shutters to your décor. Most shutters come in a limited number of standard colours; generally white-based. If your décor is more colour specific, you might like a special colour on your shutters. Most reputable suppliers will be able to paint your shutters in any colour and get it perfect!

6. Large range of frames. Not all shutters will require frames. However, if you have no architraves, a frame will always improve the look of the shutter and it is great to have a nice selection of profiles to choose from to match the decor or heritage of the house. Make sure that frames do not cost extra!

7. Easy to understand warranty on structure. Please do not get taken in by a lifetime warranty! I cannot stress this enough. A lifetime warranty is very generalised and really, what is the ”lifetime” of a shutter? Five years? 10 years? Certainly not till you die! This is an open-ended form of warranty and misleading. Get a written warranty with a specific time frame (anything from 10 to 20 years is good) and also find out what the warranty covers. If you install the shutters yourself, you may void the warranty.

8. Qualified installers. Make sure the installers have been in the game for at least five years or they are provided directly by the shutter company. Handymen can probably successfully install your shutters, but if you are paying a premium for the product, it is worth every cent to get a professional to install them. That way if anything goes wrong, the responsibility is on the fitter and supplier, and not you! Handy dads and husbands are great, but not for shutter installations.

9. Recommendations from friends and colleagues. If someone you know has recently purchased shutters, ask them about their experience. Have a good look at their shutters. It is also a great idea to get a recommendation from someone who has had their shutters for at least a year or two. If the shutters still look awesome, you know you are on a winner!

10. Finally, don’t just purchase shutters because they are trendy. Shutters do not suit every window and you really need to seek advice from an unbiased expert. There may be better alternatives for you.