Exterior Shutters: Basics About Buying and Installing Exterior Shutters for Your Windows

By Lee Wallender, About.com guide


Exterior shutters can really dress up an otherwise plain house. But what kind of exterior window shutter do you want, how are exterior shutters installed, and can you do it yourself?

Exterior Shutters Q&A

Q: What are exterior window shutters?
A: Exterior shutters come in either of two forms: functional or non-functional (also called decorative shutters). Functional shutters are hinged and latched, and can be closed up in the event of severe weather.

Non-functional shutters cannot be closed. Non-functional shutters can be spotted in an instant, even when you are driving by on the street, because they are too narrow to shut across the entire width of the window.

Q: Is it easy to install exterior shutters by yourself?
A: Yes. The non-functional variety of shutter can easily be mounted on vinyl or cement board siding, or even masonry, using included mounting hardware.

Drill a ¼” hole through the shutter and into the building siding and sheathing. Then, tap in the shutter “nail.” This nail holds the shutter firmly to the building, and its head looks like a button on the outside of the shutter and is barely noticeable.

Functional window shutters are a bit more work because this means installing hinges and ensuring that the shutters meet exactly in the middle.

Q: Are vinyl exterior shutters paintable?
A: Avoid the paint issue in the first place by choosing the right color shutters. If you have faded shutters, then do yourself a favor and simply purchase new shutters. You will save yourself much heartache by doing this rather than trying to paint old vinyl shutters. However, to answer your question, yes, paintable vinyl shutters can be purchased if you cannot find a type of shutter with just the right color.

Exterior Shutter Basics

  1. Types and Styles of Exterior Shutters
    The ubiquitous style of shutter—the kind with the horizontal slats—is called a louvered shutter. Second in popularity is the raised panel shutter, which looks somewhat like the panels on a six-panel door or kitchen cabinet.
  2. How to Measure for Shutters – Vertically
    You can probably already guess that the shutters need to be the height of the window. But you should know that builders often install windows of incrementally different sizes: two windows that look the same may actually be different sizes. So, measure each window height individually.
  3. How to Measure for Shutters – Horizontally
    Horizontal measurement of exterior shutters is quite a different matter. While you may be tempted to “eyeball it,” use these measurements provided by ShutterContractor.com to get accurate figures. The number provided in bold type is the width of the window.

18″ or smaller – 5¾” or 8½”

18″ to 24″ – 9″, 9¼”, or 11″

24″ to 28″ – 12″

28″ to 36″ – 12″, 14½”, or 15″

36″ to 40″ – 14½” or 15″

40″ to 43″ – 14½”, 15″, or 16½”

43″ to 48″ – 16½”

48″ to 50″ – 16½” or 18″

50″ or larger – 18″