Shutters bring beauty and functionality to a home. Selecting operable shutters that enhance a home's exterior and protect its interior is a smart investment.
Functional window shutters were a mainstay of American architecture from Colonial days through the 1930s. While today's homes often feature fixed shutter panels for ornamentation, true operable shutters lend authenticity and purpose to a home.
Shutters Bring Security Shutters were originally designed to protect the home from damaging wind and weather. The very first shutters operated from the interior, and were used instead of glass to close up the house and keep out unwanted heat, pests, wind, rain, and snow. With the advent of glass, shutters became important insurance against damaging wind and wind-driven debris. Glass was expensive and hard to replace, so shutters were closed when the storms rolled in. Certainly in coastal regions like the lowlands of South Carolina, shutters are still the first defense against Mother Nature and hurricane season. "Even today," says Randy Withers of Withers Industries, "when hurricanes come, homeowners just close all their shutters, bolt them down, and head on West."
Shutters are also used for security. Especially on the ground floor, where windows are a primary means of access, exterior shutters can close and bolt while allowing cooler evening air to pass through the louvers and into the home. Many shutters feature raised panel designs that completely close off the window from the outside and form a secure barrier. Cutouts are sometimes used on panel shutters for ornamentation and to encourage some airflow. Still, according to both Withers and Ed Donaldson, owner of Ed Donaldson Hardware Restoration in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, shutters are above all practical. "The whole idea behind shutters was to protect your glass and keep people from getting inside your house," Donaldson stresses. All of the options that were developed in shutter hardware from Colonial times, through the Federal period, and into the Victorian era were little marks of sophistication that added to the product but didn't change its function.
Decorative wrought iron "shutter dogs" ensure that the shutters remain secured neatly against the home's siding.
For operable shutters to function properly, they must be installed correctly. Shutters must sit 1/4 inch off the sill, so that they can close inside the window opening. Shutters must not protrude from the face of the house in case of extreme wind, or they risk being pulled from the face of the house. Closing and bolting shutters within the window opening allows wind to pass across the face of the house, but protects the glass from direct assault. It is also important to have the shutters installed at a slight incline so that they will swing closed once the shutter dog or holdback is released. A properly installed dog has its weighted ornament at the bottom, with the metal holdback in front of the shutter. It isn't until the weight is moved that the shutter can swing free.
Shutter Hardware Shutter hardware, like the shutters themselves, is selected for beauty and character as well as functionality. Homeowners can purchase wrought iron hardware, cast iron, brass, or bronze. The strap hinges, plates or pintles, and the shutter dogs are the essential components of a working shutter. Shutters can be installed directly into a wood, masonry, stone, or brick façade. Additional hardware, like pull rings that are installed on the face of the shutter and used to grasp and pull the shutter closed, can be purchased to match the strap hinges and bolts. Slide bolts are used to secure the shutters once closed. They can affix one shutter to another, or bolt directly into the sill. It is definitely worth studying pictures of the home, or houses in the area, to determine the hardware style that suits. Colonial homes had simple strap hinges and rings, while Federal-style houses used stylized shutter dogs to express style and values. Victorian homes excelled in exterior ornamentation and complicated patterns. Shutter knobs, hinges, and pulls often reflected the refinement of that era. Reproduction hardware companies and specialized craftspeople can help determine the appropriate hardware, style, and degree of craftsmanship for most homes.