doors, windows, hardware

Shutters & Shutter Hardware

Here are three major considerations to take into account when specifying wood shutters for a residential project.

Click here for a list of suppliers of shutters
Click here for a list of suppliers of shutter hardware


With the myriad of options available today, how do you begin to select wood shutters for your home or residential project? The best way to achieve good fit and functionality, and to satisfy your own personal aesthetic tastes, is to break the process down into the three key components: shutters, hardware and installation. Fall short on one of these, and the entire project will suffer. Do all of them well, and your shutters -- and your home -- will look extraordinary.


A quality, custom shutter manufacturer will produce results that satisfy the most discriminating of clients -- such as this pair of combination louver-panel shutters with fleur-de-lis cutouts and classic hardware. Photos: courtesy of Timberlane

This charming Pennsylvania farmhouse displays a traditional shutter placement: paneled shutters on the first level and louvered shutters on the upper levels.

SHUTTER SPECIFICATION
Louver vs. Panel? Traditional applications call for paneled shutters on the first level and louvers on all others. But this is not always the case; in the South, it is not uncommon to see louvers on all levels and in other areas, panels on all floors.

Board and Batten
Frequently used on single-story homes, barns and cottages, board-and-batten shutters provide a country look. Lately, they have been gaining in popularity and are often placed on commercial residences in conjunction with a French Country look.

Bermuda Shutter
Designed for the tropics and often used for sun screening and moderate storm protection, one shutter panel will usually cover the entire window. It is hinged from the top and installed with a custom-fit support arm to keep the shutter in an open position -- perfect for capturing ocean breezes during long afternoon siestas.

Sizing
Whatever style you choose, correctly sizing the shutter to your window is critical! A few manufacturers will build shutters to your specifications, so make sure your measurements are accurate. Whether your shutters will be functional or not, size them as if they would be. Always measure from where the shutter would sit in the opening -- often the window casing or brick molding not the actual brick or stone opening.

Rail and Stile Dimensions
The dimensions of the stiles and rails should be proportionate to the overall size of the shutter. The center rail should be offset to the sash line. When shutters are functional, they are latched from the inside. The window sash should not block the slide bolt.

Wood Quality
Look for a manufacturer that uses a high-quality, decay-resistant wood such as western red cedar or mahogany. Vertical-grained wood is preferred; it is more resistant to twisting and warping, producing a more stable shutter. Thicker is also better; look for a manufacturer that uses 1-5/16-in.-thick rails and stiles.

Joinery
Look for shutters that use pegged mortise-and-tenon joints. The pegs lock the tenon tight in the mortise, aligning the rails and stiles to form continuous integrity. Avoid screwed, doweled or butt-glued joints, which will fail more quickly.

Protecting Shutters
Buy a shutter with capping. Copper is an attractive option; aluminum is functional and more economical. Use a good primer before painting your shutters. Many manufacturers will do this for you. Re-coat any failing paint immediately to ensure longer life for the shutters.

HARDWARE SPECIFICATION
Shutter hardware is as critical to the overall look of your shutter project as the shutters themselves. Some of your primary considerations should include:

  • Do you want the shutters to be functional?
  • What kind of window casing details do you have?
  • What are the size and weight of your shutters?
  • What stylistic look are you trying to achieve?
  • What is your budget?

Hardware Material
If your shutter hardware is properly painted and cared for, you should expect it to last a very long time -- possibly longer than you will! Stainless steel hardware is also an option. Although stainless steel hardware may provide additional durability and longevity for any installation, stainless steel hardware is highly recommended for coastal applications or in any humid climate where rusting may be an issue.

Hardware Styles
There are many different styles of hardware to choose from, and a good supplier will take the time to talk to you about your personal preferences. At a minimum, you will need to select hinges and some form of tie back (shutter dog or otherwise). You may also want to consider locks, pull rings and bullet catches.


A well-made, recessed-panel shutter. Note the rabbet on the side, indicating the shutter is operable. Hardware includes a "hook and staple" tieback, pull ring, slide bolt, plate pintel, and a New York "L" hinge.

INSTALLATION
Selecting a reputable, high-quality installer is your best bet for a top-notch installation. That said, there are some important details you should take into account:

  • Determine if there's a suitable mounting surface.
  • Note if there are any restrictions or obstructions.
  • Take into account the condition of the window frames. Are there signs of rot or decay?
  • Make sure you accurately measure every window. All windows are not created equal, and you are likely to experience slight dimensional variations among your windows.
  • Determine the offset for your hinges. This will depend upon your hinges. Are they window frame-mount hinges or jamb-mount hinges? To accurately measure the hinge offset, place a flat piece of wood along the wall, extending beyond the window frame.
  • For Window Frame-Mount Hinges
    Measure from the window frame to the back of the wood. This dimension is considered your offset and is used when selecting hinge offset.

    For Jamb-Mount Hinges

    Measure from the back of the window frame jamb to the back of the wood, and then add the thickness of the shutter. This dimension will tell you how many "inches open" you need when ordering leaf-style hinges.


    As mentioned above, hiring a skilled installer will alleviate many of the issues frequently encountered in shutter installations.

    IN SUMMARY, NOTE THESE DO'S AND DON'TS

    By all means, do:

    • select the appropriate style shutters for your home;
    • size the shutters correctly to your window;
    • finish them with a high-quality paint and primer;
    • use capping on your shutters; and
    • purchase high-quality hardware.

    By all means, don't:

     

    • use shutters that are poorly fabricated;
    • screw them to the house;
    • put the louvers facing up; and
    • install shutters upside down.

     

    Click here for a list of suppliers of shutters
    Click here for a list of suppliers of shutter hardware