This outdated post has been updated with a more current and more detailed post about shutters…
Thinking of sprucing up the exterior of your home with some shutters?
(get ready… here comes a 2 minute rant!!)
Please, please, please read these shutter do’s and don’ts before you start! Hopefully then you can avoid the same mistakes so commonly found with shutters in the Midwest!!
I’ve traveled across the USA, coast-to-coast, East-to-West and North-to-South… Pretty much every other place ‘gets’ how to size and mount exterior shutters.
EXCEPT for the Midwest… I’m convinced it is especially bad in WISCONSIN! (I can pick on Wisconsin, that’s where I’m from!)
Last week I was giving a little ‘client design’ input for someone working on the exterior of their house, I was trying to explain how to measure and mount shutters for it. My friend took note, but then came back a few days later and asked, “but why is it then that all we see around here are shutters mounted the wrong way?”
I don’t know! But once the ‘shutter light’ goes on, and you know how they are supposed to look, the incorrect ones look a bit silly.
Maybe it’s because we’re so far from the ocean, because apparently for some reason the folks in the Midwest forgot what shutters were originally made for and started turning them into more of a ‘window trim’ look than what they were intended for.
Knowing and understanding what shutters were supposed to do, helps to see how they should be mounted. Shutters were created to swing across the window and tightly close, keeping the window glass protected and secure from intruders, storms, cold or sun. For that to happen, when they were swung shut, they’d actually need to fit inside the frame of the window, (not over the top of the trim, but inside it!). That means where they’re mounted when they’re open would have to be over the trim. Check out the detailed pics below to better understand what I mean.
Here is an example of what we typically, and most incorrectly see in the Midwest:
Before you think I’m pointing fingers at you all doing it wrong, while I’m sitting on my high horse being ‘the shutter expert’… haha… I’m not!… I’ve been there! I actually have, in complete ignorance, hung shutters on a property we renovated a few years back, totally wrong! Now that I know how wrong they are, it’s an eyesore to me, and a bit embarrassing! (I plan to remove them this spring when I repaint)
After being educated with seeing shutters properly installed, as well as reading up on shutters a bit, I finally get it. I’d love to pass this info on to you and have you fix yours too! Let’s re-educate the folks in the Midwest on how it’s supposed to look!
One more quick ‘don’t’…
Here is another mistake… to put flat top shutters with arch top windows:
This is actually another property we own. Okay, so this shutter mistake I’m not responsible for, they were like that when we bought it. (bam! See how quickly I blame someone else?) I am glad to say that though they were like this, they are no more! This last year we had it painted and I was thrilled to finally get those inappropriately shaped shutters off! (The brick work and opening is arched, but unfortunately the replacement windows aren’t arched, but that another story!)
OK, enough of the ‘shutter don’ts’. Now let’s see how lovely properly sized and hung shutters can look.
Here are several shutter examples from a recent trip to the oldest town in America, St. Augustine, Florida, (what a charming town! I will write a post about our trip there). I always think it’s the best to go back to the classics to understand the right design.
Shutter dogs are the little pieces of hardware that are mounted on the wall of house and rotate to hold the shutter in an open position, or to release the shutter so it can be closed.
You know how in those old movies when someone hears something banging in the upstairs bedroom on a dark stormy night, though fearful of the ominous noise, they still proceed into the shadowy room only to discover it’s just the shutter? Whew! Probably a fairly common occurrence to have the shutter dog rotate just enough to let the shutter swing freely in the wind. (Unfortunately, after they go to fix the shutter, being filled with relief it wasn’t the dreaded madman, don’t they always turn around to find the crazed intruder already in the room?!)
Another scary story is the cost of shutters! Shutters, as in the real ones that are mounted with hinges, shutter dogs, and actually swing closed can be very pricey. But I have a compromise. If you can get the shutters in the proper size for your window, you can ‘fake’ the rest!
Here are some shopping choices for shutter hinges. Then if you mount the shutters, (properly placed next to the window please!) using hidden mounting strips from the back like these, (affiliate shopping link) (instead of screwing through the face of the shutter and popping on those ‘caps’ over the screw heads), you will create a shutter that looks like it is hung on hinges. It will be very believable and a truly lovely accent to the exterior of your home. I plan to do just that this summer and I will post about it when I do, to show you how to ‘fake’ properly hung shutters!
So maybe they won’t be as cheap as the off the shelf standard 12″ wide shutters that mount embarrassingly flat on the side of the window like a wide hunk of extra window trim, but they also don’t have to be the price of solid redwood shutters mounted with real hand wrought iron hinges either. There is a compromise, and it can look pretty darn good!
Here are more carpentry tips and ideas:
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