If you walk by a popular shopping district after dark, it looks completely different, though you can’t quite figure out why – especially if it’s a path you routinely use. It may seem naggingly unfamiliar, but you can’t put your finger on what has changed. Here’s a hint. During the day, you see a series of sparkling windows, inert mannequins, and colourful shopping displays. At night, it looks like a grey solid wall. Depending on which part of town it is, the ‘wall’ may be embellished with graffiti, or the ‘wall’ itself may be in bright colours.
Come back in the morning and you’ll hear a distinct whooshing sound as those ‘walls’ are yanked open, one by one. That’s part of the beauty of roller shutters. When you close them, they create an opaque barrier that offers both protection and privacy. Some roller shutters are so strong that you can drive a ute through them and they still won’t open. In tornado-prone regions, they can withstand gale force winds and bush fires, though they’re not always impervious to flooding. You can even get perforated shutters for natural light.
What are they made of though? It really depends on the brand. Some companies make their shutters using 18-gauge steel. These are worked into horizontal slats that overlap for added discretion and sturdiness. Steel has the advantage of being rust-resistant, and steel slats are galvanised for added weather protection. Sometimes, they’re powder coated, or topped with a layer of ultraviolet resistant paint. For steel shutters, the rod that threads through the slats is made of steel as well. There may be two or three of them – one at either end and a third in the middle. The rods are made from cold steel in various dimensions and thicknesses.
Other brands prefer to use lightweight metal, so they opt for aluminium. It’s far more flexible and can be worked into multiple shapes and designs. However, because aluminium is more malleable than steel, it’s more susceptible to dings and dents. It may also not be strong enough to withstand wind in its natural form. Aluminium shutters are therefore designed in multiple layers, for added strength. They can be used in their standard glossy form or coloured for added aesthetics. However, in steel shutters, the central rod is sometimes built out of a T-shaped aluminium bar that’s latched to the bottom slat. It offers a neater finish, and can be reinforced with rubber matting to make your shutters waterproof.
Polyvinyl chloride is an increasingly popular component for shutters. It’s a light material that’s easy to dismiss, but it all depends how you use it. Being plastic, it’s low-cost and low-maintenance. Just wipe the slats or hose them at high pressure. You can also vacuum them with a brush attachment, to get rid of surface dust. The plastic itself isn’t solid, so PVC shutters are often designed using multiple layers, just like aluminium. PVC takes colour better than any other shutter material, so it offers the widest range of decorative options. Some brands avail your PVC shutters in over 30 shades, each one containing UV protection.
When you opt for aluminium or PVC slats, they need an MVP to keep them honest. This line-backer (um … that’s a fullback in Aussie rules) is insulation foam. Certain brands will make triple-layered, double-sided shutters with aluminium / PVC on either side and insulation in the middle. This process is repeated for each slat, and the slats are then threaded through springs, rods, or wires and overlapped for added strength and warmth. This type of shutter can resist physical force and bad weather while cutting down your power bills. In cold seasons, they retain internal heat while blocking out cold winds. In summer, you can open the shutters for cooler temps and better circulation.