ABOVE: Custom Shutter Company’s “seahorse” cut-out shutters.
Shutters and exterior blinds are often associated with earlier periods; they’re prevalent on Cape Cods and Greek Revivals and romantic Victorian homes. During the Arts & Crafts period, shutters were used on some bungalow variants. They were standard, too, on the cottage and revival homes of the same period, especially Dutch Colonials and Storybook houses. If you are going to use them, keep these tips in mind.
Tips for Buying and Hanging Shutters
1. One of the worst historical inaccuracies is the manner in which window shutters are hung. Shutters were originally intended to be a weather barrier and ventilation device. Therefore, they are designed to “swing” like a door and close up tightly inside the window casing or frame. Shutters are hung on the inside, repeat, inside of the window casing (next to the sash). This is probably the most common mistake homeowners make. And do not lag-bolt your shutters to the clapboards. Whether you will actually ever close them is unimportant; they should look like they’re ready to go.
2. Shutters should be the same shape as the window sash that they are covering. The countryside is littered with round-head windows paired with rectangular shutters, and sashes framed with disproportionally wide or narrow shutters.
3. Authentic shutters were made of wood, preferably rot-proof red cedar or mahogany. (These should also be constructed with mortise and tenon joints, and pegged.) Today, some high-quality, operable, period-look shutters are made of composite materials that are moisture, rot, and termite resistant. Others incorporate weather-impervious, marine-grade fiberglass.
4. When measuring a window opening for shutters, take care to determine whether the opening is still truly square (it probably isn’t), the depth of the reveal, which is the thickness of the channel allotted for the shutter, and appropriate amount of clearance needed to permit the opening and closing. The shutter manufacturers are more than happy to assist the homeowner with all this preparation for ordering.
5. If you’ve chosen shutters with louvers, make sure the louvers face down and towards the house when they’re in the open position. That way, should you ever need to close them, the louvers will direct rainwater away from the window, rather than against it—a real consideration if anyone in your household tends to leave windows open during a thunderstorm!
Types of Shutters
While the most common kind of exterior shutter is the fixed louver (immobile horizontal slats), there are several other forms including:
Movable Louvers, equipped with a slender post that allows the occupant to adjust the angle of the louvers for light, privacy and ventilation.
Paneled shutters, which have solid beveled or flat planks that are occasionally embellished with cut-out patterns such as diamonds, fleurs de lys, animals, sailboats, acorns or pine trees, etc.
Board and Batten Shutters, which are long vertical strips with or without gaps between them and then secured with cross-members. A variation of this is Tongue and Groove Shutters, which have the interlocking planks similar to bead-board.
The Bermuda Shutter is another configuration: a single, full-width, louvered panel that is hinged from the top and swings out at the bottom, like older wooden storm windows.
A Word on Hardware
Hinges, pintels, and shutter dogs: the hardware that fixes your new shutters in place should be just as authentic as the shutters themselves. Strong hinges and flexible pintels (or hinge pins) look right and permit the shutter to operate in a functional and historically correct manner. Hinges should be affixed to the correct side of the shutter and casing, or they will break the glass when you close them. They are designed to allow you to lift the shutter off the pintel without the use of tools.
Shutter dogs may appear decorative at first glance, but without them, the shutter will bang against the house. Another method of holding the shutters in place is a sill-hook, often used in buildings with masonry facades. These attach to the window sill and are concealed behind the shutter.
Shutter Hardware Sources
Acorn Mfg. Co. (800) 835-0121, www.acornmgf.com
Ball and Ball (800) 257-3711, www.ballandball.com
Brandywine Valley Forge (610) 948-5116, www.bvforge.com
Charleston Hardware (866) 958-8626, www.charlestonhardwareco.com
Crown City Hardware (800) 950-1047, www.restoration.com
Kayne & Son Custom Hardware (828) 667-8868, www.blacksmithsdepot.com
Van Dyke’s Restorers (800) 558-1234, www.vandykes.com
Williamsburg Blacksmiths (413) 268-7341, williamsburgblacksmiths.com