DIY Exterior Shutters

  • Window Shutter
  • Transcript

    LESLIE: Well, shutters look great and add curb appeal but most of us have shutters that are purely aesthetic. So, real shutters, they’re functional and they can actually help safeguard your windows in a storm and keep out the harsh summer sun. There are some exterior shutter projects.

    TOM: Ah but how do you install the real deal? We’ve got expert advice on exterior shutter projects standing by in the form of This Old House general contractor Tom Silva.

    Welcome, Tommy.

    TOM SILVA: Well, thank you. It’s nice to be here.

    TOM: And I’ve got to imagine that no one has probably installed more of these in recent times than you guys.

    TOM SILVA: Well, I’ve got to say that you hit a real soft point with me because shutters are my pet peeve. And I drive around and I see so many shutters installed incorrectly and it drives me crazy. And I drive around with my wife and now she’s at the point where she says, “Oh, look. No, those are wrong and those are wrong.”

    TOM: Only when she wants to annoy you, right?

    TOM SILVA: But you’re right: shutters are a good thing. Years ago, they were meant to protect your windows because they didn’t have storm windows or insulated glass. In storms, you would close them and keep the rain and the wind from – and if you’re away, it would close up the house, too. But the shutters have to be measured correctly, installed correctly to fit correctly.

    TOM: So many times, people are just using their exterior shutter projects as an aesthetic, you know. They’re fiberglass or some form of plastic and just simply attached to the side of the window to create the allure of shutters. But you’re right: they really do have a structural and a weatherproofing function to them if they’re built correctly.

    TOM SILVA: If they’re built correctly. Think about the louver on a shutter. If you look at the house and you say, “Well, there’s the shutters. They’re on the side of the house. They look alright.” Well, they’re too far away from the window. They’re too high to fit in the opening of the window. You think about the louver when it is shut into the opening. The louver is meant to shed water away from the window. If you take the shutter that you’re looking at that’s aesthetic, if you turn it and close it into the opening, when it rained all the rain would drive into the window.

    TOM: Go right through the louvers and head right to the window.

    TOM SILVA: Because the louvers are upside-down right from the beginning.

    TOM: Yeah.

    TOM SILVA: But yeah, you’ve got to think about the opening of where the window is. That’s how the shutter is supposed to fit: inside that window opening, not outside the window casing.

    TOM: Now, you’re not going to find these in the aisle at the home center but I presume there’s a way that you could order these built to the correct size for exterior shutter projects?

    TOM SILVA: Yeah, there are companies that will come out and measure for you. There’s all kinds of wood shutters. There are combination fiberglass and PVC shutters that hold up fantastic to the weather. They have shutters that will movable – their louvers are movable or stationary, all different styles and designs along with hardware, also.

    LESLIE: Now, are there any rules with shutters that make them – having to comply with hurricane resistancy? Because, essentially, in their original usage, they were protecting the windows. But now, even though – if they operate, they might just be aesthetic but still operable. Do they have to comply to those rules?

    TOM SILVA: They don’t have to. Some manufacturers, I believe, are making them for hurricane-proof but it’s – the hardware that’s going to hold them shut is the real deal. And the hardware for shutters are not – well, good shutters, installed correctly, are not cheap anyways. But it’s very important to install them correctly.

    TOM: Now, if you are fortunate enough to own a home that has traditional shutters, you need to keep them in good condition. I imagine painting them is especially important since – at least on the side that’s usually open against the building. It’s very moist, it’s very damp, it’s very conducive to decay.

    TOM SILVA: Mm-hmm. Yeah. And also, you’ve got to think about what happens back there. Lots of times, birds will nest back there. You’ll get bees and yellow jackets basically nesting back there. But I like to take – I have shutters on my house and I actually pull them away – they’re on hinges – take the dogs, spin the dogs, take them out. And then I clean behind them yearly with a garden hose. I just spray a garden hose up there. And if I have to take a brush like a – for my car – I wash the car with – and I just maybe wash the house and then rinse it off really well. It’s good to keep it clean.

    TOM: So, Tommy Silva is the only guy in America that if you said, “Hey, what did you do this weekend?” – “I washed my shutters.”

    TOM SILVA: Yeah, yeah. Well, I don’t do it every weekend.

    TOM: Oh, OK. But it is your pet-peeve project.

    TOM SILVA: It is a pet-peeve project, yeah. If shutters are done right, they really do a good job on basically saying something special about that house.

    TOM: Absolutely.

    LESLIE: Now, if you are going with just the aesthetic fiberglass ones that you’re putting on the side to look like a shutter – which you’re making a face at me right now – I mean it annoys me when I see them and you don’t take the extra step to put up a hinge or to put up the fake hardware to at least make it look like it’s trying to be something.

    TOM SILVA: Yeah. Well, you’ve got to – then if you’re going to take the time and you’re going to put a shutter on that’s really not correctly done, you’ve got to get it close enough to the window so that it will swing into the opening. Make it half the width of the opening so that when it looks shut – so at least it’s sized correctly. I’m just tempted to say, “Take that fiberglass shutter and hang it upside down, so at least the louvers are right.”

    TOM: Just to make it right. Yeah.

    You know what really bugs me about that? We have homes that are sided with vinyl, we take every precaution to make sure everything is watertight. Then when they do exterior shutter projects they slap the shutters up there and drill six holes right through the vinyl, you know?

    TOM SILVA: Yeah, exactly. It’s so true. It’s so true. If you’re going to do it, you’re going to drill that hole, put some caulking in the hole before you put the screw in there. Again, water is the enemy.

    TOM: Do it once, do it right and don’t do it again.

    Tom Silva, the general contractor on TV’s This Old House, great advice on exterior shutter projects. Thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    TOM SILVA: Always a pleasure to be here, guys

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