Everything America Gets Wrong About Exterior Shutters

Kim Lewis
by Kim Lewis

We are in Florence at the META 2019, and it’s the 83rd Artisan Fair market. Everything here is handmade, so we are in the perfect place to show you what exterior shutters should look like and how they’re built.

Now, you may be wondering, are exterior shutters outdated nowadays? And the answer is that they’re absolutely not. Shutters still play a big part in design, even though the purpose of shutters has evolved over the years.

Honestly, I'm so excited because, in terms of exterior architecture on homes, shutter issues are one of my biggest pet peeves. During Extreme Makeover, we would try to save money and stay on budget, which caused us to make some mistakes along the way.

With that lesson learned, I’m going to show you what to look out for when you're thinking about adding shutters to the architecture of your house. These are the things to do and not to do during your home improvement project.

Examples of shutters

A shutter started out purely for functionality, not decorative use. They were originally there to add ventilation to the home and to be able to block out the sun.

Maybe during a summer day, you could get the light in, but it also helped shade your furniture, so it wouldn’t fade as a result of direct sunlight. With that being said, here are some of the mistakes I see with the use of exterior shutters these days.

How to measure for exterior shutters

How to measure for exterior shutters

One of the biggest mistakes we make in terms of shutters for exterior homes in America is that a shutter should be the same size and the same height as your window. If it's shorter than your window, it's wrong, and that’s why it’s so important to learn how to measure for exterior shutters before you install them.

Exterior shutter example

Shutters were meant to be closed in and encased on a window, so if they’re shorter than the window, they’ve been measured improperly.

How to install exterior shutters

How to install exterior shutters

Another mistake that people make when they're attaching shutters to the exterior of a home is that they nail the shutter to the siding. If it is nailed to the siding with no hinge, it's also inauthentically hung, and that drives me crazy.

How to paint exterior shutters

This is a beautiful shutter. It has hinges, and it's encased in the window, just as it should be. Now come check out the details. We've got a framed opening.

Notice that the shutter is the same height as the window behind it. It's encased in there so that the shutter closes in on the window properly. This is a properly mounted exterior shutter.

How to paint exterior shutters

How to paint exterior shutters

For those of you who are trying to get a shutter that lasts longer, you don't have to go with vinyl. This is a wood from Africa. It's a dense, almost mahogany-style wood that's been painted.

And researching how to paint exterior shutters the right way is key to making them look this good. I’ll give you a hint; it’s best to remove them and spray them with oil-based paint or latex paint if you do go with vinyl shutters.

Half split shutters

Half split

Now, I want to show you a really cool feature that shows the functionality of this particular shutter. Not only is it beautiful, but it's also functional. There is a half split here, so if you prop it open, different holes allow you to ventilate the home without letting the sun in.

This is such a beautiful feature. It's a few extra dollars to get this since they hand-make these, but it's totally worth it. If you're going to do shutters, do them right.

Mounting hardware onto shutter

Mounting hardware

You also can get the mounting hardware so when it's open against the house, it doesn't flap with the wind. In other words, you'd have a mounting block on the side of the home, and that's how you keep it open.

So I just wanted to point this out to you guys because this is a properly done shutter. It's functional and decorative, and it's not fake. It's totally authentic to the architecture.

Exterior shutter dos and don’ts

The next time you're looking to update the exterior of your house, be sure to follow these tips for exterior shutters. Don't make the mistakes that we've made ever since the 1920s in America.

Let's go back to the old European architecture and the history of why shutters were created, how they functioned, and why they looked so beautiful and decorative all at the same time. What type of exterior shutter do you enjoy most? Share your favorite down below.

Join the conversation
2 of 12 comments
  • DOD DOD on Mar 30, 2024
    I enjoyed this article. Even if you'll never use a functioning shutter, ie. close them. They hinges give them authenticity and not just "stuck on". I'd also like to make a suggestion, if I may. I don't know how to say this without sounding too blunt. All the writers/designers here clearly are professionals and have excellent ideas and suggestions. But, as someone older than 25, the use of "you guys" in the middle of a well written and professional article is jarring. Really, no one except teenagers and very young 20 something actually use those words in a conversation. And, it's definitely not in any book you'll find about writing professionally. I don't think it's sounds stuffy to just eliminate it. No need to substitute anything. Just say, "you". Really you're speaking to the reader and as a reader it's more friendly to appear to speaking to that one person not ALL the hundreds or thousands of people reading. Does that make sense? It's also just a bit jarring for anyone who learned rules for proper writing. It makes you sound much less experienced and competent than you are and I can't imagine that's your goal? Hope this doesn't sound too critical. It's some gentle feedback and a suggestion. It's nice to remember your audience is a range of ages, not just the "under 25's" . I'll keep reading this newsletter whatever you decide. (but, I'll still cringe a bit at "you guys".) Thank you for sharing you experience and insight. Cheers!
  • Jim Cox Jim Cox on May 01, 2024
    Until this post I had not seen a functional shutter in 20+ years.