How to Select & Buy Exterior Shutters

Installing exterior shutters to a window is a relatively quick way to add style and color to the outside of a house. Historical and modern houses alike benefit from the timeless accent of exterior shutters. As with any home improvements, the quality and longevity of the addition of exterior shutters should be evaluated before proceeding.

outdoor window shuttersExterior window shutters are available in many shapes and materials. Vinyl or plastic exterior shutters are easily available at most home improvement stores, and they can be a cost-effective option. Vinyl shutters can not be functional and can only be used for appearance. Wood shutters can be made operable with functional hardware.

Exterior shutters are also made out of many types of wood. One of the best woods for exterior use is cedar because of its outstanding durability and resistance to decay. Cedar gives long service with little maintenance in applications with mud sills, window sashes, sheathing under stucco or brick veneer construction, greenhouse benches, fencing, poles, trellises, and exterior shutters. Cedar is also used almost extensively for exterior siding because it is dimensionally stable and holds paint well, in addition to being a deterrent to bugs.

The tannin (oil) in incense cedar is what makes it such a good wood for exterior shutters. It helps prevent moisture penetration and bugs hate it. However, exterior shutters should not be left unprotected. Rather, it is best to finish the shutters before installation so all surfaces can be fully covered. While paint can be brushed, it is recommended that it be sprayed. Most house painters will spray shutters with their airless spray systems for latex paint.

shop for exterior shutters

The best base for outdoor shutters is a primer coat of an oil-based primer tinted as close to the final color as possible. The oil penetrates into the wood, offering better protection. It can be applied in a much finer mist, thereby reaching between and around louvers and into seams, joints and corners. The top two coats should be a premium-grade exterior latex paint. A topcoat of exterior latex paint will not chalk or fade like an oil-based paint.

Shutter Tip:

Exterior shutter hardware will last a long time. If replacing shutters, do not immediately dispose of the hinges and shutter dogs. With a little restoration, they may be salvaged.


A professional paint company should always be consulted for the best results.

Exterior shutters should be mounted to the building with at least a ½" spacer between the back of the panels and the building to allow for adequate ventilation. If not using functional hardware, use rust-proof screws sunk flush to the wood. Paint the screw heads following installation.

An opaque painted finish prevents light rays from penetrating the finish and breaking down the wood fibers of the exterior shutters. However, exterior shutters may also be stained. When staining shutters, use finishing products designed specifically for exterior or marine use – and be prepared to do more maintenance on shutters to keep them looking good.

Installing exterior shutters can be as simple as affixing the panels directly to the house. It is also possible to install operable exterior shutters, which can be closed over windows for protection against storms, and a number of functional hardware options are available. Look for heavy, solid hardware with a finish resistant to decay, such as zinc-plated hardware with a wrought iron black finish. Shutter caps can be another useful piece of hardware to keep water off the top of your shutters, protecting against moisture damage.

Vinyl exterior shutters are often a more affordable alternative to wood shutters. Vinyl plastic shutters are very light and can be easily installed directly to the building. While only non-functional, vinyl shutters have the ability to enhance the overall detail of most any home or building.

View sources for interior and exterior shutters.