After years of seeing mini-blinds everywhere, homeowners and decorators are coming back to slats of wood or wood alternatives (faux wood) in a big way. Several options are available, with pros and cons for each.

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Definitions

Many people use the terms "faux wood" and "composite" interchangeably. A composite blind could be considered a type of faux wood blind. But all faux wood blinds are not composites. Most composite blinds are made of a mixture of wood pulp and synthetics--PVC or other plastic resins. Non-composite faux wood blinds are PVC only, made from an extrusion process (like squeezing toothpaste from a tube). Often the extruded material contains at least some recycled plastic.

Wood vs. Alternatives

Wood has a tendency to warp, especially in hot or humid environments. Wood blinds may have to be repainted and are harder to clean than alternatives. They are more expensive than faux woods as well. But "faux" means "false," and nothing looks more like wood than the real thing. Wood-alternative blinds are made to resist warping and chipping. They come in wood tones or colors They tend to be heavier than wood and may need more "ladders"--cords or tapes running through the blinds--for support. They are also less expensive.

Which to Choose?

All wood and wood-alternative blinds avoid the problems of more flexible metal or vinyl blinds. The more solid slats of wood or wood alternatives are easier to clean, less likely to bend, and offer a classic look appropriate in traditional or contemporary settings.

Composite vs. Extruded Faux Wood

Extruded faux wood blinds with no wood product appear to resist warping better and are more suitable for high-moisture rooms like kitchens and baths. The composites containing at least some wood tend to look more like wood, especially in wood-stain finishes.

Environmental Concerns

If you're into saving trees, a no-wood product like the extruded blinds would be a good bet, especially if they're made with recycled materials. If you want to avoid plastic compounds, go with the wood. Composites offer a compromise halfway between, and often are made with recycled wood and synthetics. Be sure to ask your retailer about the use of recycled material if that is important to you.