Natural Handyman's Links Library section header
Natural Handyman's Home Page Home repair articles and do it yourself tips Home repair contests at Sweepstakes Central Do it yourself books on a variety of home repair topics Tools Natural Handyman's Question and Answer archives Find a handyman or contractor for those small home repair jobs Select links to home repair and do it yourself products and services Advertising options on the Natural Handyman website Comments and questions

Return to Window Maintenance, Repair and Design Articles

How to Identify a Quality Interior Shutter

This article courtesy All About

Quality shutters look better, install easier and last longer.  Raise your "shutter IQ" and find the best shutter deal for your home!

1. Shutters should have proper louver tension

The shutters louvers should be smooth and stay in the desired position throughout the lifetime of the shutter. Some manufacturers feature “tension screws” on the side of each shutter panel, with one tension screw required for each louver section. The problem with tension screws occurs over time, when tightening the screws becomes necessary on a regular basis. Eventually, the louvers within a single shutter unit will not have uniform tension because the louver sections adapt to the tension screw differently. Polywood, vinyl, fauxwood, and synthetic shutters usually have an extremely tight louver tension. It is then difficult to put the louvers exactly in the desired location, and the rotation of the louvers is difficult. The best technique for providing uniform tension that will remain constant is a split nylon pin tension system that requires no maintenance.

2. Shutters are built from a quality material

Wood is the most preferable material for building shutters, and not all woods are made alike. Basswood is a superior wood because it is among the straightest of hardwoods with a fine uniform texture and indistinct grain. It can be sanded and stained to a smooth finish, and it is lightweight yet very strong.

3. Shutters are purchased from reliable company

You should research the company from which you plan to purchase your shutters. They need to be a reputable, knowledgeable, support oriented, and accessible. We recommend you test their knowledge by asking questions. Check out their credibility with an organization such as the Better Business Bureau, and check to see if they have a list of customer comments or references. The company needs to be prepared to communicate all of the necessary information to you about purchasing interior shutters. They need to have a staff that is experienced and available for technical questions. It is frustrating when the only knowledgeable person is always "in the field".

4. Shutters are mortised for hinges

Mortised hinges are important to achieve a tight fit within your window opening. Without a mortised panel, a gap appears on the hanging side that allows light to break between the shutter panel and the window jamb. It should not be necessary to mortise the window jamb.

5. Shutters are rabbeted stiles between panels

Rabbeted stiles between shutter panels reduces light breaks between panels. A significant gap is created in between panels that are simply butted up against one another.

6. View a shutter sample

The shutter company should be able to supply you with a finished sample shutter. This way you can view the quality of construction and finish first-hand. It is beneficial for you also to hold the shutter in the window to visualize how the shutters will attach and look in your house.

7. Shutters should have quality finish

A quality paint or stain finish is essential to the overall satisfaction with your shutter purchase. A paint finish should be smooth, thick, and complete. You should be unable to feel the wood grain and it should show through the paint. A stain finish should be even with a proper top protective coat.

8. Custom built for each individual window

There are no standard windows. A proper custom shutter unit needs to be built for each individual window opening to the 1/16 inch. Any more will result in possible unnecessary gaps in the shutter unit. Do not assume that because two or more windows look the same, that they are the same. Many times proper measuring will show that each window is unique.

Bonus tutorial on shutter construction materials...

Shopping for window shutters can become confusing because of the huge variety of materials used and promoted as superior. The construction methods of a shutter unit, including the materials used, contributes greatly to the overall cost of shutters purchased. However, a well-constructed unit made out of high-quality materials will also last longer and look better than something less than ideal. Following is an outline of various woods and synthetic materials that are often used in building shutters.

Basswood Shutters (Tilia Americana Linnaeus, or the American Linden)

Basswood is absolutely the best wood for building window shutters. The Basswood tree can be found from Quebec south to Delaware and the Atlantic coast west to Eastern Kentucky with an average height of 65 feet. Basswood is a renewable resource and careful forest management ensures tree harvesting is done responsibly, balancing growth with removal. Each year the United States grows about twice as much hardwood as it harvests.

Basswood shutters are very straight and has a fine uniform texture with an indistinct grain. Basswood machines well and is easy to work, and screws and glues well and can be sanded and stained to a smooth finish. It dries fairly rapidly with little distortion. Basswood has fairly high shrinkage but good dimensional stability when dry.

Popular uses for basswood include drafting tables, broom handles, carvings, turnings, furniture, moldings, millwork, musical instruments, woodenware, food containers, and surfboards.

General Basswood shutter characteristics:

Does not warp
Lightweight yet very strong
Uniform grain for a beautiful stain finish
Low in resin and tannin which may bleed through finish
Renewable resource which is replenished as it is harvested
Superior gluing and finishing properties.

Oak Shutters

Oak shutters are very heavy. Oak shutters add much weight to window jambs and screws require pre-drilling. Oak shutters are not suitable for painting. Oak shutter louvers tend to warp.

Maple Shutters

Maple shutters are very heavy. Maple shutters add much weight to window jambs and screws require pre-drilling. Maple louvers are hard to tension uniformly.

Poplar Shutters

Poplar shutters mill and paints well. Mineral streaks and a green color make poplar unsuitable for staining. Poplar is moderately heavy for shutters. Poplar is widely available, but less costly. Poplar is best used for millwork and trim that is nailed in place. Popular produces a lesser quality shutter.

Cedar Shutters

Cedar shutters mill and finish nicely. However, color varies greatly for staining. Cedar is soft and can dent and scratch easily. Tilt bar staples do not hold well.

Cedar shutters work wonderfully for exterior shutters. The outstanding durability and resistance to decay of incense cedar makes it ideal for exterior use where moisture is present. This wood gives long service with little maintenance in such as mud sills, window sashes, sheathing under stucco or brick veneer construction, greenhouse benches, fencing, poles, trellises, and shutters. Incense cedar is also used extensively for exterior siding because it is dimensionally stable and holds paint well, in addition to being durable. Oh, yes, and bugs hate it!

Alder Shutters

Alder is our second choice for shutters. Alder is a smaller tree so only shorter lengths are available, thus tall shutters require finger joints.

Pine Shutters

Pine is a softwood. Many different species and grades of pine is available, so quality tends to be inconsistent.

Synthetics, Plastics, Vinyl, Fauxwood, and Poly

Many synthetics incorporate "wood" in their name, but most contain no wood - usually called faux wood or poly shutters. Made from stock size components with few, if any, custom options. Come in limited white colors, and cannot be stained. Look, feel, and sound like plastic. Relatively new product so limited customer satisfaction experience. Synthetics are less costly to manufacture. Heavy and tend to sag. All synthetics are manufactured from nonrenewable resources.

This article provided courtesy, the online buyer's guide for interior and exterior shutters.

Return to Window Maintenance, Repair and Design Articles