Shutters are as old as windows themselves. They also help define architectural styles and add color to an otherwise simple appearance. Shutters have been a staple of American home building for hundreds of years due to their clean look and functionality. Ironically, most shutters installed on modern homes are actually non-functional and are there strictly to improve curb appeal.
However, some shutters are functional and today we will describe how to install both non-functional and functional shutters on homes with vinyl siding.
Is it Difficult to Install Shutters On a Home With Vinyl Siding?
As a rule, no. Most do-it-yourselfers will have the basic skills to install their own shutters. Great care must be taken with safety, of course, as many times installing shutters requires climbing on and moving ladders.
Shutters come in literally hundreds of colors, shapes, materials, and sizes, so here we will discuss the most common installation techniques. Most shutters are installed in a similar fashion and use similar fasteners, but there are some that use special connections.
Let’s discuss the most commonly installed versions, and offer a professional tip or two to help make the project successful.
What Type Of Shutters Should I Buy?
As mentioned previously, shutters are available in many styles. Most homeowners enjoy having vinyl siding on their homes for its durability and low maintenance. As such, most homeowners opt for vinyl, or vinyl clad shutters as well.
Doing so preserves the low maintenance exterior and provides a durable, easy to install accent to the appearance of the home. Non-functional vinyl shutters are likely the least expensive and easiest to install.
Wooden shutters are also available, and tend to be used on luxury homes as well as homes with wooden facades, such as cedar. As with other wood products, wooden shutters require regular painting, which can be a hassle if accessing them is difficult.
Wooden shutters can be purchased in both functional and nonfunctional versions.
Functional shutters are usually hinged and operate similarly to a french door. These shutters are designed to be closeable during inclement weather to protect the glass from strong winds and debris. Shutters are not usually considered weather tight however, so sealing and a snug fit are not usually required.
Powder-coated aluminum shutters are also available. These tend to alleviate many of the original complaints on standard aluminum shutters, like denting. This powder coating increases both its resistance to impacts and corrosion resistance. Powder coated aluminum shutters are relatively inexpensive and simple to install.
Composite material shutters are typically made from medium density fiberboard (MDF), and are clad in aluminum or vinyl. This increases the rigidity, while preserving the low maintenance exterior of the siding. Composite shutters are durable, attractive, and relatively inexpensive.
Here are a few common tools used to install a new shutters, but others are available as well:
- Measuring Tape
- Cordless Drill
- Drill bits
How to Install Non-Functioning Vinyl Shutters On Vinyl Siding
As mentioned earlier, non-functioning vinyl shutters are likely the easiest shutters to install. These shutters are purely for decoration, so the most important aspect of the installation is keeping the shutters level and square to the window. Here we will describe the way most professional installers approach the project.
Step 1. Check the Fit
There are as many ways to install shutters as there are shutter designs, but generally speaking, the shutters should be very close in size to the window they are adjacent to. These can be purchased right off the shelf, or special-ordered.
To check the fit, simply measure the height of the window opening and try to closely match it. For most homeowners, an inch or two in size difference is acceptable, but if not, special orders are available.
Step 2. Mark the Holes For the Fasteners
Many non-functional vinyl shutters are very lightweight, making them easy to work with. To mark the holes, the shutter is simply placed into position and the holes are marked directly onto the shutter.
That allows the installer to look for any potential obstructions that may impact the fastener. Most pros will drill the holes within 6”-8” from the top and bottom, with the middle holes (if required) evenly spaced between them.
Step 3. Drill the Holes
This step involves drilling a pilot hole into the shutters all the way through using a drill bit the same diameter as the shaft of the fastener. The pros will usually do this on the ground, as opposed to on a ladder.
It is important to measure the shaft of the fastener, not the threads. If the threads are used to measure the diameter of the hole to be drilled, the hole will be too large and the threads will not tighten.
After the holes have been drilled into the shutters, they can be placed back into position. Using the same diameter bit as before, the bit is driven through the shutter and into the house to mark the pilot holes. Other exterior facades, such as brick, require the use of masonry bits for these holes.
Step 4. Installing the Fasteners
Since this project involves installing the shutters on vinyl siding, the fastener can now simply be driven in using a cordless drill. Some vinyl shutters do not use screws, nor nails, but rather special fasteners that are driven in like a nail.
These fasteners have ribs along the shaft that resist removal. These are generally plastic, however, and do not usually have the holding power of a screw.
Most vinyl shutters will come with the recommended fastener, which is often simply a corrosion resistant, pan head screw with a color matched plastic cap.
Pro Tip. Since the fasteners will be penetrating the vinyl siding, most pros will place a dollop of high quality, petroleum based sealant into and over the pilot hole. This allows the fastener to push the sealant around the shaft as it is driven in.
To start, one corner of the shutter is placed into position and a fastener is tightened, but not too tightly. This allows the shutter to pivot around the fastener without the installer having to hold it in position.
Then using a level, the shutter is aligned with the window and a second fastener is installed the same way as the first. If everything looks good, those fasteners are driven in, but only to the surface of the shutter.
Over tightening these fasteners will often result in bows and puckers in the shutter, as well as the siding. The process is then repeated for the remaining shutters.
How to Install Functioning Vinyl Clad Shutters On Vinyl Siding
Step 1. Check the Fit
The same initial steps are required for functional shutters as for non-functional versions, however, functional shutters are installed using weather resistant hinges and hardware. To check the fit, simply measure the height of the window opening and try to closely match it. Again, for most homeowners, an inch or two in size difference is acceptable, but if not, they can be custom made.
Step 2. Install the Hinges and Mark the Holes For the Fasteners
To mark the holes, the hinge is placed into position on the shutter and the holes are marked using the holes in the hinge. If the shutters are asymmetrical, it is important to make sure the hinge is installed on the correct side.
After removing any obstructions, most pros will pre-mount the hinges onto the shutters on the ground, as it is easier and safer than doing it on a ladder. Once the hinges are mounted to the shutter, the holes can be marked on the house through the holes in the hinge using the same techniques as with non-functional shutters.
Functional shutters must be aligned carefully to ensure that one shutter will not contact the other when they are closed. The space between the shutters when closed is often dictated by the closing mechanism.
Many use a simple hook and eye, while others incorporate more elaborate magnetic push latches. Regardless of the design, most shutter designs require about ¼” space between the two shutters when closed, but the manufacturer’s instructions should be closely followed.
Pro Tip. When installing shutters, many times a helper can simply go inside the home and assist through an open window. This is usually easier and safer than setting up two ladders.
Step 3. Drill the Holes
This step involves drilling a pilot hole into the wall, using the mounting holes in the hinges as a guide. Again, it is important to measure the shaft of the fastener, not the threads. If the threads are used to measure the diameter of the hole to be drilled, the hole will be too large and the threads will not tighten. This is especially important with functional shutters, as greater forces will be imparted on the shutters while they are open and unsecured.
Step 4. Installing the Fasteners
Functional shutters are usually solid wood or some form of clad composite wood material. This makes them stable, water resistant, and durable. To begin, one corner of the shutter is placed into position and one fastener is driven through one hinge. This allows the shutter to pivot around the fastener.
Then using a level, the shutter is aligned with the window and a second fastener is installed in the hinge the same way as the first. If everything looks good, those fasteners are driven in securely, but care must be taken not to overtighten the fasteners. Overtightening will often result in bows and puckers in the siding.
Again, professionals will usually place a dollop of high quality, non-water based sealant in and over the pilot holes to seal the fastener as it is tightened. The process is then repeated for the remaining shutters.
Next, the shutter is opened and closed to check for any binding of the hinge as it moves. If everything looks good, the opposing shutter can be installed using the same techniques. After both are mounted, they can be tested together to make sure they engage the closing mechanism and do not make contact with each other.
Shutters Can Make the Difference
For those interested in improving the look of their home, few accessories make the visual impact of shutters. Although they may not compliment every design, the curb appeal of many homes is often embellished by new shutters, especially if they are a complimentary color.
Shutters are available for essentially any common home style, and are found on starter homes and mansions alike. If the goal is to give a drab, one color home some curb appeal, adding shutters may be a great investment.