Tools & Materials
Sunlight streaming through windows can be an annoying distraction. Not to mention the neighbors who have more evening hours to look into your brightly lit living room. You could install shades to foil prying eyes, but swinging wood shutters would definitely be more interesting.
Interior shutters were the original “window treatments,” commonly used in Southern and urban houses, and they’re still a great way to add architectural and historical detail. They also help keep out winter’s chilly winds or summer’s oppressive heat. And they’re easy to install on any window because they attach to a thin frame that either sits inside the window opening or around the outside of the casing. As long as the frame is positioned correctly, the shutters will swing freely – and close out the day’s distractions with a satisfying click.
Interior Shutters Overview
Historically, interior shutters attached directly to the window jamb or casing and folded neatly into deep-set pockets next to the window. That’s not an option with retro-fitted shutters, which remain in plain sight open or shut.
For the best-looking installation, you’ll want your shutters to rest parallel to the wall when open, not askew like a half-opened door. That means the folding point of the hinges needs to protrude beyond beyond the casing. The best way to accomplish this is by attaching the shutters to a frame.
The frame that holds the shutters can be two simple hanging strips inside the window opening. Or, for windows that are out of square, a three- or four-sided frame around the outside of the casing will work better. Here we used the inside-mount shutters, which leave the Greek Revival molding on our window when they are pulled closed.
The trickiest part of the process is figuring out how to position the hanging strips on the jamb. To align them, you must fasten the hinges to the shutters, then hold the shutters at the windows in an open position the hanging strips to the jamb. To align them, you must fasten the hinges to the shutters, then hold the shutters at the windows in an open position parallel to the wall and mark the wall where the hinges fall on the jamb. That provides a guideline for the hanging strips. Once they’re in the right place, setting the shutters in the window opening and mounting them on the strips is quick and simple.
Measure the Window Opening
Measure horizontally between the window jambs in three places: top, middle, and bottom. Measure in three places vertically as well.
Take the smallest of both sets of measurements and send them to the shutter company for custom shutters.
Tip: Use a folding rule with a sliding extension, rather than a tape measure, to get the most accurate inside measurements.
Prep the Shutters
Position each pair of shutters on the edge with hinge mortises facing up and the louver-control bars oriented toward each other. (This assures that all the bars will face the room when the shutter is hung and allows one shutter in each set to open right while the other opens left.)
Seat a hinge in a mortise. Fit your drill/driver with a Vix bit. Position the bit in a hinge screw hole. Drill a pilot into the shutter, repeating for all hinge holes.
Note that most shutter hinges are factory-configured to open to the right, meaning you’ll likely need to remove pins from half and reinsert them upside down, so that each right-side hinge has a left-side counterpart.
With a Phillips-head bit in the drill/driver, screw all hinges to the shutters.
Install the hanging strips
Have a helper hold a shutter in the open position against the wall with its hinges flipped out so they sit inside the jamb. Adjust the entire unit so its hinges protrude from the jamb just enough to allow the shutter to clear the casing when it’s parallel to the wall. Pencil a line on the jamb behind each hinge.
Hold the hanging strip against the lines. With a ⅛-inch drill bit chucked into your drill/driver, bore pilot holes (one each at top and bottom) through the strip and into the jamb.
Now with a square-head bit in your drill/driver, screw the hanging strip to the jamb. Repeat on the other side.
Tip: Drive the screws into the hanging strips at an angle to keep them from working loose over time.
Align the Shutters in the Opening
With your helper, place both shutters in the window opening and slip shims in at top and at bottom to hold them in place. Adjust the shutters to create even spacing along the window jamb and between the shutters.
Mark the casing at the top of each hinge knuckle. Set shutters aside.
Mark Hinge Positions on Casing
Using a combination square, transfer the mark on the casing to a line on the jamb and then the hanging strip. This mark will show you where to line up the hinges on the window.
Tip: When marking the hinge locations, use the top of the knuckle, not the pin, as a guide. This will correspond to the top of the hinge plate.
Hang the Shutters on the Strips
Before hanging the shutters, screw magnetic catch plates to their bottom (or top) inside corners.
Open a shutter and position it so that the L-shaped hinges sit snugly in the corner created by the hanging strip and window jamb. Align the top of each hinge plate with its line.
Mark the screw holes and once again set the shutter aside. Use a 1/8-inch drill bit to make pilot holes at the marks.
Loosely screw the hinges to the hanging strip with a Phillips-head screwdriver. Close the shutter and make sure it’s even all around. Adjust it as necessary, then tighten the screws.
Tip: Use a handheld screwdriver instead of a drill/driver in tight spots. It gives you more control, so damage is less likely to occur.
Install the Catch Magnet
Stick a catch magnet to the metal plate on the shutter. Close the shutter, making sure it’s flush with the front of the window.
With the magnetized catch sitting on the windowsill, mark the location of its screw holes.
Remove the catch from the shutter and position it atop the marks on the sill. Screw the catch to the sill with a Phillips-head screwdriver. Repeat for the other catch.
Tip: A shutter (or door) is correctly aligned when the two halves of each of its hinges rest fully and squarely against each other when it’s closed.