How to Build DIY Window Shutters
Is your home's exterior missing its wow factor? It may be due to one missing component: Window shutters. Or maybe your existing shutters simply aren't doing much for your curb appeal. Whatever the case, you may think this warrants a trip to the hardware store. You'll soon find that vinyl window shutters don't have the wow factor you're looking for, while the elegant wooden options are extremely pricey.
Instead of settling for less or spending more, why not make your own window shutters? DIYers of all levels will find it surprisingly simple. Plus, making your own window shutters allows you to curate a look that perfectly fits your home.
Before You Begin
Nowadays, the majority of window shutters are nonfunctioning. This means they're purely mounted for aesthetics and don't actually open and close. If you pay close attention, you'll notice that most window shutters wouldn't even cover the window if they did close. This makes building and mounting your own window shutters much easier and a lot cheaper.
Mounting DIY Window Shutters
Because you don't have to worry about complex hinges and hardware, mounting DIY window shutters is fairly simple. With traditional wood siding, all it takes is a few wood screws fastened directly to the siding. For surfaces like brick, concrete, stucco, and stone, anchors or specialty screws may be necessary. Mounting wood shutters on vinyl siding is not recommended.
How to Size DIY Window Shutters
To mimic the look of a functioning shutter, each shutter's width should be identical to half the window's width and the height should match the full height of the window—trim included. However, many modern windows are larger than their traditional counterparts, and making your shutters match half the window width would result in shutters that are visually awkward. In this situation, settle on a width that looks natural alongside the window.
Choosing a Shutter Style
There are many different styles of shutters, each lending itself to a different home style. The five most popular shutter styles are listed below:
- Raised panel
- Board and batten
- Shaker style
For this project, we've chosen board and batten styling. This style is generally fitting for any home style, can be easily customized with stain and paint to match any home exterior, and is easy for DIYers to create with common tools.
Selecting Wood for Shutters
For shutters that will be unpainted—cedar is a popular option due to its durability, and resistance to warping, weather, and rot resistance. However, cedar isn't a great candidate for painting, as its oils and tannins often bleed through layers of paint.
For painted shutters, pine is an inexpensive option that works well. To ensure its longevity, pine must be properly finished and should never be left as raw wood. If your budget allows, upgrading to woods like mahogany, poplar, and oak will result in a premium, long-lasting shutter.
Finishing DIY Shutters
When it comes to finishing your wooden shutters, there are two options: Staining or painting. Traditionally, painting has been the go-to finish for shutters, but staining has become more popular in recent history.
Staining shutters allow you to usher in the rustic appeal of visible wood grain, which can complement many home styles. It's important to add a protective clear coat over the stain, as the stain offers little to no protection to the wood itself.
What You'll Need
Equipment / Tools
- Table saw (optional)
- Miter saw
- Measuring tape
- Drill bits
- Countersink pilot hole bit
- Orbital sander
- Box level
- Painting supplies (optional)
- Staining supplies (optional)
- 6 1x4 x 6' pine boards
- 3-1/2" self-drilling wood screws
- 1-1/4" self-drilling wood screws
- Wall anchors (if needed)
- Exterior wood glue
- 120- and 220-grit sanding pads
- Wood screw hole plugs
- Exterior paint (optional)
- Raw wood primer (optional)
- Wood stain (optional)
- Exterior clear coat (optional)
How to Build DIY Window Shutters
Follow the steps ahead to build a wooden window shutter with a board and batten design. Repeat the process to build as many shutters as you like.
Measure Your Window
Measure the height of your window from the outer edges of the trim. This will be the height of your shutters. Measure the width of your window from the inner edges of your shutter. Divide this number in half to find the width of your shutters. If your window is extra wide, choose a natural shutter width that is 12 to 18 inches.
Cut Vertical Boards
Use a miter saw to cut the vertical boards to match the height of the window.
Rip Vertical Boards (optional)
If you're designing your shutters to match a specific width, you will need to use a table saw to rip each board accordingly. This way, the boards equal the proper width when laid side by side.
For instance, if you're planning to make your shutter 14 inches wide, four 1x4 boards will be perfect, as the actual width of a 1x4 is 3-1/2 inches. However, if you're planning to make your shutter 13 inches wide, each of those boards will need to be ripped to a width of 3-1/4 inches.
Cut three battens to match the width of your shutter.
Sand All Boards
Sand all boards with 120-grit sandpaper to remove all splintered edges and smooth the wood grain.
Determine Batten Placement
Arrange the vertical boards side by side, pressed tightly together. Use a tape measure and a square to mark your layout for the three battens. Place one in the middle and the remaining two equidistant from each edge. Visually speaking, the best placement will depend on how tall the shutter is, but 6 to 8 inches from the edge is a good range to go off of. On the end of each batten, mark a line in the middle.
If you place the battens too far from the edges, the individual vertical boards will be more prone to warping and twisting at their ends.
Place the battens on the ground according to their layout. Place the vertical boards on top of the battens and adjust the battens. Check that everything is aligned properly and make adjustments if necessary.
Remove the boards and place a layer of exterior wood glue on the backs of the battens. Replace the boards and screw through the back of each vertical board with two 1-1/4-inch self-drilling wood screws.
Flip the shutter over and wipe away any excess glue. Let dry.
Sand any rough spots and remove any dried-on glue, then wipe away any dust and debris. If you desire to paint the shutters, first prime the wood using a raw wood primer. Follow with the exterior-grade paint of your choice. If you plan to stain, apply your desired stain. Once fully dried, apply a protective exterior clear coat.
Follow the manufacturer's instructions for application, dry times, and reapplication when using finishing products.
Drill and Countersink Pilot Holes
Drill a pilot hole using a countersink pilot hole on each side of each batten. Use a measuring tape and square to ensure the holes match each batten.
Using a level to ensure proper placement, have a helper hold the shutter in place next to the window and screw through each pilot hole into the siding using 3-1/2-inch self-drilling wood screws.
If mounting on a surface that requires anchors, mark the holes using a small drill bit while a helper holds the shutter in place. Remove the shutter and drill and install the appropriate anchors before mounting the shutter.
Plug Screw Holes
Place a wooden screw hole plug into each screw hole using exterior wood glue. Wipe away any excess glue. Paint or stain the plugs to match the shutter.
Customizations for DIY Window Shutters
Beyond changing up the style of your shutter, there are a few simple customizations that can be made to these DIY board and batten shutters. If your home has arched windows, you can match the shape by cutting the top with a jigsaw. Jigsaws are also great for making cutout designs in shutters, such as stars, hearts, or even anchors. To give your shutters a rustic appeal, consider adding visible black hardware. We recommend mounting according to the steps above, then adding faux hardware afterward.
How to Maintain DIY Window Shutters
Regularly cleaning and occasionally reapplying finishes such as clear coats and paint will ensure your shutters last for years to come.
Do houses look better with shutters or without shutters?
While there are many opinions on the matter, the visual effect that shutters have on a house comes down to the specific house and the shutters themselves. These days, because most shutters are non-functional, they are utilized as a stylish accessories for adding a contrasting or complementary color or material against the home's exterior.
Are wooden shutters better than vinyl shutters?
While vinyl options aren't bad, wooden shutters are considered a more premium product than their vinyl counterparts. Additionally, wooden shutters can be finished to show off the natural beauty of the wood, which is currently on-trend in the design world.
Should you paint or stain shutters?
Painting shutters will offer more protection than staining while requiring less frequent re-coating. However, stained shutters are more popular now than ever and can be long-lasting if properly cared for.