Functional exterior shutters attach to the trim around the window (the casing) and swing into the window opening, resting flush with the casing when closed and latched. When open, the shutters stand proud of the house, held in place by a pivoting metal tieback (also called a shutter dog), a hook, or a catch.

Provided with measurements, companies will custom-make shutters to fit your window openings. Taking the measurement is a critical first step - there should only be a 1?4-inch gap on all sides of the shutters when they?re closed, leaving little margin for error. Positioning the shutters so they sit this way is where most homeowners run into difficulty, says This Old House general contractor Tom Silva. ?Shutters are meant to fit inside the casing,? he explains. ?Many people think they?re supposed to hang outside the casing, but that would make it impossible to close them properly.?

Give yourself a day to get the shutters painted and the windows prepped. Between coats, count the hardware pieces to make sure you have enough of everything for each window. Remove any old shutters on the windows, expecting that you?ll need to touch up some paint, fill with caulk, or just clean out the cobwebs and dead bugs you?ll find back there. You will also need to remove storm windows if you want the shutters to operate.

With everything prepped and ready, the biggest challenge you face is positioning the hinges so the shutters swing straight and close smoothly. This may take some trial and error on the first pair, but the work gets easier once you get the hang of it.
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    Tools List

    • painter's tool
      5-In-1 Painter's Tool
      to help with any necessary scraping or casing touch-ups
    • caulk gun
      Caulk Gun
    • sawhorse
    • paint brush and roller
      Paintbrush and Roller
    • hammer
    • drill
      Drill/Driver with a set of common driving and drill bits
    • four-foot level
      4-Foot Level
      to align shutters and hardware
    • adjustable wrench
      Adjustable Wrench

    Shopping List

    1. Exterior Shutters

    Home centers sell many exterior shutters in stock sizes, but if you want them to be movable and fit snugly in the window opening, they have to be custom-made to your specifications. You will need to order three to six weeks in advance. Many manufacturers have online catalogs and will talk you through choosing a style appropriate to your house. Look for models made from rot-resistant wood, such as mahogany or cedar, with strong ?pegged? mortise-and-tenon joints. If you plan to paint the shutters, order them primed.

    2. Hinges

    Ask for recommendations on period-appropriate hardware for the shutters you?ve chosen, beginning with hinges. Beware, though:Some hinges require chiseling out mortises on the shutters and casing. Depending on the detail of the trim around the window, you may also have to decide between hinges that rest on the casing or just outside it. So make sure you and the manufacturer?s rep both understand the layout of your window casings. If you?ll be attaching hardware to masonry, ask for masonry fasteners.

    3. Tiebacks

    or other latching hardware to hold the shutters open. Shutter dogs are traditional, but simpler catches, spring latches, or hooks and staples are also available.

    4. Pulls & Latches

    To help you grab the shutters from inside and lock them when shut.

    5. Capping

    to protect the vulnerable top edge of the shutters from the elements (optional).

    6. Exterior Paint

    7. Exterior Painter's Caulk

    8. Shims

    9. Silicone Adhesive

    To attach the capping to the top of the shutter.