Here is how the system works. Almost all the raw components for your shutter are made in China – with very few exceptions. If someone claims your shutter is made in America, they generally mean that Chinese components are cut to size and assembled in America. There are still a few companies that are pouring the PVC in the states – but they are not a very big portion of the market because they cost more for the same basic material.
That leaves us with deciding whether your shutter, made from Chinese components, will be cut to size and assembled in China, Mexico or America. Primarily, it is a time verses cost trade-off. The Chinese cut and assembled are less expensive but take about 8 weeks from order to install, because they are sent by cargo ship across the Pacific and then through US Customs. From there, they are distributed throughout the States and eventually to your home or business. The quality is excellent – frankly, better tolerances then shutters assembled in Mexico and about half of the American assemblers.
On the other side, you have US fabricators who purchase Chinese components by the container and warehouse them to fulfill your order as placed. These shutters are generally delivered in 3-5 weeks. Their quality is variable. Some operators take great pride, others assemblers are bigger with lower paid workers and their quality is less exact. Additionally, these shutters generally cost more per square foot because of the increased labor and overhead costs associated with fabricating in the US. Also, the large fabricators in China have some of the most high tech equipment for fabrication – giving themselves a slight quality advantage.
So which way should you go? If you are looking for the best value shutter, then go with one of the large Chinese brands. You will get the best bang for your buck. If you are looking for a unique design choice, fast turnaround, or high end finish then choose carefully from among the US based fabricators – probably best to pick a middle sized one where they have a craftsman type attitude. This is becoming harder and harder to find as the market is continually squeezed by high quality, low cost, white PVC and basswood shutters. The sales volume difference from Chinese fabricated to US fabricated is probably a 100 to 1 in Arizona.
We use to carry some of the higher end designer brands, hoping to support American fabricators, but found time and time again that most people desired the value of the Chinese fabricators, and were willing to wait the extra few weeks for their product with a lifetime warranty.
We hope this brief explanation helps you better understand the industry from which you will choose your plantation shutters. If you would like an idea of what you shutter project will cost from a large Chinese fabricator, then check out our online shutter cost estimating calculator.