Tools & Materials
So what if you want to crank up the Bob Seger, slip on the dark sunglasses, turn up your collar, and slide across the living room floor in nothing but your underpants and oxford shirt? Go right ahead—what you do in the privacy of your own home is, frankly, nobody’s beeswax. Just do the neighbors a favor and shutter the windows.
Functional exterior shutters, which swing shut when you need them to, will do the job quite nicely. As This Old House technical editor Mark Powers shows on the following pages, you could put several pairs up in a weekend. Then, aside from privacy from prying eyes, you’ll also get relief from the summer heat, a barrier against storm winds, and a sure defense against arrow attacks (if you’re a 17-century colonist, that is).
The bonus: Studded with hammered-iron hardware and a bright coat of paint, shutters will dress up the front of your house and add to its curb appeal. Which, we’re guessing, is a better way to attract attention to your house than your half-dressed homage to Tom Cruise.
Hanging Exterior Shutters over
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.
Paint or finish the shutters
Paint or stain and finish the shutters before installing them.
When painting paneled shutters, use a small roller to coat the panels first, then tip off the paint with a brush. Next use a brush to paint the horizontal rails, then the vertical stiles, with long, feathered strokes.
When painting shutters with movable louvers, make sure to open and close the louvers after you paint them to keep them from sticking.
Always paint all six sides of the shutters—including the top and bottom edges—to protect them against moisture infiltration.
Shim the shutters in place
Place one shutter in the window opening. Have a helper hold it as you shim it tight at the top and bottom. Position the other shutter the same way.
Once both shutters are firmly in the window casing, carefully reposition them so they’re centered and surrounded by a ¼-inch gap on all sides. Shim them all around
TIP: A shutter’s wider rail always goes at the bottom. On paneled shutters, the simpler panels should face out when the shutters are closed. On louvered shutters, the louver openings should face down when the shutters are closed.
Install the upper hinge pintles
Hook the two parts of a hinge together and position them at the top of one shutter. Center the strap on the top rail and the pintle (peg) on the casing. Using a level, check that the pintle is plumb. Mark the locations of the screw holes for both the strap and the pintle on the shutter and casing.
Set aside the strap. Using a drill/driver fitted with a drill bit sized for your hardware’s screws, drill pilot holes at the marks for the pintle. Screw the pintle to the casing. Repeat this step for the other upper pintle.
Install the lower hinge pintles
Using a level, draw a plumb line down the casement from the top pintle to the approximate location of the lower hinge. Use this as a reference for positioning and marking for the lower hinge, centered on the bottom rail, in the same manner as above. Screw the two lower pintles to the casing.
NOTE: This process works for the strap hinges shown here. Check the manufacturer’s literature for instructions for other hinges.
Fasten the hinges to the shutter
Remove the shutters from the window opening and place them on sawhorses. Using a drill/driver, bore pilot holes at your marks through the strap on the top and bottom rails. Screw the strap hinges into position with the screws provided.
While you have the shutters on sawhorses, position and fasten one pull and the bolt for the latch to one of the shutters. Place them just below the middle of the shutter, where they can be reached through an open window (see photo at Step 8).
Hang the shutters in place. Make sure they swing comfortably and close all the way.
TIP: To keep your drill bit from going all the way through the shutters, wrap a piece of tape several times around the bit at the depth of your screw so you know when to stop.
Mount the shutter dogs
Assemble the shutter dog and the lag bolt that holds it away from the house. Open the shutters all the way. Position the dog on the siding under the shutter, 4 inches in from the shutter’s outer edge and 1 inch below the bottom edge. Holding the bolt up against the house, check that it has enough contact with the shutter to hold it open. Then spin it sideways and check that the shutter can clear it to swing closed.
Once you’re satisfied with the dog’s position, mark the bolt’s location. Drill a pilot hole at the mark. Using a wrench, twist the bolt into the siding. Repeat the process for the other dog.
Attach the locking hardware
Close the shutters and move to the inside of the window. With a helper holding the shutters closed, position the other pull in line with the one you attached above. Mark the screw holes, drill pilot holes, and attach the pull.
Position the latch in line with the bolt and the pull below it. Slide the bolt into the latch to make sure the shutters will lock properly when closed. Mark the screw holes, drill pilot holes, and attach the latch.
Attach the copper capping
Squeeze a bead of silicone adhesive on the underside of the copper capping and slide it over the top edge of the shutter