For most of us, window shutters have become an architectural accessory rather than a practical necessity. Like earrings or a tie tack, shutters add a dress-up flourish, though their roots are strictly utilitarian. These window coverings have been used for centuries, first inside, then outside.
Most popular are plantation shutters, which is the style we chose for our example of interior installation. The strong horizontal shadow lines can invest a room with late-afternoon drama. The slats we selected are in a fixed position; others have slats that are adjustable, which allows precise control of streaming sunlight.
Most do-it-yourselfers purchase shutters at a home center or over the Internet. If price is a primary concern, standard-size shutters from a home center are your best bet. Or, you can custom-order locally, by phone, or over the Internet.
Shutters can be mounted either inside the window frame or out. The inside-mounting method positions the units within the frame with 2 hinges attached to the jambs, resulting in a snug fit. This usually requires custom-ordered sizes.
Regardless of the mounting style, start the project by measuring your windows. For an inside mount, measure from the sill to the top inside of the jamb. For the width, measure from jamb to jamb, once about one-third of the way up from the sill and once about one-third of the way down from the top of the frame. If the window opening is not square, trim shutters accordingly or add a shim of tapered wood under the hinges.
For an outside mount, the style of the window casing determines the measurements. Measure the height and width of the area you want to cover with shutters. If the casing has a flat surface, you can attach the hinges directly.
However, if the casing surface slopes, you should butt a block of wood against the casing. Make the block about 1 1/2 inches wide, slighter longer than the hinge, and at a thickness that is flush with the casing. If you have windows more than 3 feet wide, you may want to order four or even six narrow shutters and hinge them together. (There is no "correct" number of shutters to use for windows of a particular size.)
Shutters come in a variety of finishes. We chose unfinished shutters and painted them so we could get the exact shade we wanted. Before painting or any other finish work, first make sure that custom shutters fit by holding them at the window. After applying any finish, allow an extra day of drying before installation so finished surfaces are fully hardened.
Screws and hinges may not be included with your shutters. If not, they are readily available at home centers. Before mounting the hardware, lay the shutters on the floor in front of the window to check that everything is right side up. Attach hinges about 4 inches down from the top and 4 inches up from the bottom. Always drill pilot holes at the spots where screws will be attached, being careful not to drill completely through the shutter frame. Here's a tip that will stop you from drilling through: Determine the depth you want to drill, then wrap masking tape around the drill bit marking that depth. Drill to the depth of the tape and stop.
Before attaching a hinged shutter to the frame, hold each one in place to determine where pilot holes will be drilled for the hardware. There must be a slight gap between the shutter and window frame at the top and bottom. Pull shutters forward enough to allow them to swing easily. Mark the spots for hinge holes and drill pilot holes.
Simply hold the shutter up and attach screws at the pilot holes. If a latch is desired, put in pilot holes first, again being careful not to drill through the shutter frame. Attach hardware, and you're done.