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Exterior shutters are a popular home trend in New Zealand and, let’s face it, they have been for more than a few decades. Whether you’re updating a Heritage home with new materials for the same classic look or adding stylish exterior shutters to a home for the first time, your choice of shutters and the way you install them matters a great deal.

In order to get a great fit, stunning appearance, and many years of passive performance, it helps to have a few facts before getting started. In fact, if you really want to avoid the mistakes that other homeowners have made, it helps to be aware of the bloopers of the past. Lets’ take a look at the topmost common exterior shutter mistakes so that you can make sure your own installation is both beautiful and perfect.

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1. Using Low-Quality Shutters

If your shutters are decorative only, it can be tempting to settle for lower-end shutters. After all, you won’t actually be relying on them to keep your windows safe from a storm. But that’s the number one most common mistake when it comes to installing shutters on your home. No matter how functional or decorative your shutters may be, they will be fastened to the outside of your house and will need to withstand years of sunshine, rain, and the occasional high-speed wind. If you live near the beach with salty breezes or deal with sand in the breeze, these are added stressors.

Over time, low-quality shutters look as bad as low-quality cladding, I’m sure you understand how I mean. Take a drive and eventually you will spot a home with drooping or visibly cracked shutters that, inevitably, once looked great. While this could be a failure of maintenance, most likely they began with lower quality manufacturing.

Buying high-quality shutters is key to getting years of beautiful performance for both decorative and functional shutters, good quality shutters can withstand the elements without warping or cracking and will install with greater ease.

2. Buying the Wrong Size Shutters

Shutter size matters much more than most people realise. Most decorative shutters are designed to look as though they could close over the original windows if they were simply unhooked and pulled in. Shutters that are too big or too small will make your home look subtly wrong and possibly even risk mismatching with the intended heritage style.

If your shutters are meant to function and pull shut over your windows, then sizing is the single most important detail you want to cover before purchase. For your shutters to close snugly and to swing open and closed smoothly, they must fit the window exactly. Too large, and they won’t close. Too small, and they won’t seal. Smaller than that, and it’ll look like you installed doll shutters.

Measure your windows carefully before selecting the size of shutters you need. It’s recommended that you measure every line of a window, as not all windows are perfect rectangles. Measure top and bottom, right and left sides – and measure them twice to be sure – ensure you write down your measurements, so you don’t forget and loosely estimate later. Only then will your shutters be the right size for installation.

3. Incorrectly Fastening Shutters

It’s surprising to most homeowners just how important the fastenings are for proper shutter installation. Shutters must be installed using the right equipment and techniques or you are likely to see a number of maintenance problems in the future as a result of shoddy installation. Not only does your choice of fasteners matter, but so does the composition of your home walls and how you combine the two. There are three primary ways that you can incorrectly fasten your shutters to the outside of the house.

Fastening Shutters Too Tightly

Shutters made of either solid wood or vinyl will both need room to expand, and contract based on heat and/or moisture in a day. Both vinyl and wood expand in the heat and contract in the cold. As you also know, wood tends to expand when the air is humid and contract when it’s dry. This means that your shutters need a little ‘room to breathe’ when you’re fastening them. If you fail to do this, the shutters may crack and warp in response to confinement when they need to swell or they might crack the fasteners or the wall itself instead.

Fortunately, you can fasten shutters to storm-proof strength while still giving them just a little space to swell and contract. It’s recommended that you screw in fasteners until there’s about a coin-width space between the wall and the shutter, this is about all the room your shutters need.

Failing to Seal Shutter Fastening Holes

For stucco homes and other types of exterior cladding, there is also a notable concern about drilling holes into the outside of the house. As, moisture can potentially seep into the drill holes themselves, allowing damp and rot to enter the walls which opens the way to far more long-term water damage problems than most would imagine over a few screw-holes.

But take it from the shutter experts, shutter installation mistakes have led to pinpoint water damage in the past. The key is to create the smallest hole possible for your shutter fastening screws and to seal up the holes when you’re done. How? Start by pre-drilling each hole so that you’re not ripping your way in the first time with the screw. Then use a dollop of silicone sealant in the hole when you insert the screw so that it seals the hole.

Insufficient Support

Each shutter needs a certain amount of support to hold it securely, to support the weight, and to ensure the shutters are resistant to high the high winds of storms. To provide that support, you need to strike a balance between number of supports or “blocks” and depth of screws. This is especially important when you are installing shutters on manufactured stone exteriors, brick, or other hard surfaces that are difficult to drill through. 

4. Choosing the Wrong Paint for Your Shutters

But the number one type of mistake that homeowners make with shutters isn’t the material or the size, it’s the paint. Even if experts guide you to the exact right shutters you need, the way you paint your shutters matters a great deal. And not just for aesthetics. There’s a laundry list of different ways that homeowners have goofed on shutter painting before. Make sure you avoid all these mistakes:

Paint that Doesn’t Seal

Shutters, particularly wooden shutters, need to be properly sealed to withstand the elements. Just like a timber door, wood shutters swell and contract with the weather, they can become damp and rot or become infested with wood-eating insects. That’s why it’s so important that your shutters be sealed, primed, and finished with a sealing paint that will keep them safe from all external damages.

Paint that Shows Dirt

White shutters and similarly pale perfect colours are truly beautiful on a home… for about the first month. Over time, the combination of moisture, dirt, pollen, and miscellaneous outdoor elements will start to collect on the paint. There’s nothing anyone can do about it other than obsessively wash the outside of your house. There’s a reason why white-painted homes tend to look shabbier over time: They show dirt.

Fortunately, there’s an easier way than constantly spraying down your exterior. Instead, simply choose a shade of paint that looks great with or without a thin layer of the usual outdoor grime. In fact, almost any colour is better than white but certain creams and yellows are similarly challenging. Instead, let your personality show through with a little green, blue, or even red for your shutter trim colour.

Paint that Fades Over Time

Make sure to invest in high-quality exterior paint for your shutters. Low-quality paint and paint meant for interiors will fade over time. The New Zealand sun is bright and even indirect exposure can bleach most pigments. You need a paint that is pigment-locked against fading so that your shutters will look as great in five years as they do the day you install them.

Paint that Can’t Take the Local Weather

Does the exterior of your home deal with salty sea sprays, sandy winds, or the occasional hailstorm? Every New Zealand location has its own unique weather patterns that add stress and wear to home exteriors. You know what those are in your neighbourhood because you deal with them every day and have likely had to make a few repairs as a result. And your paint needs to withstand these challenges. If your paint can’t take the heat, humidity, or abrasive winds, it will eventually crack and peel.

Paint that Warps in the New Zealand Sun

Then there’s paint that can literally cause your shutters to warp. If you paint your shutters black or any colour darker than 50% light reflection, there’s a chance the wood itself will warp inside the paint. The reason for this is the way black and dark paint absorbs the sunlight and turns it into heat because one side is facing the sun while the other faces your cool home wall, eventually the warm side warps and will cause your shutters to split, deform, and even fall away from the house.

5. Confusing Fixed Shutters with Functional Shutters

The final common shutter mistake we’d like to help you to avoid is one of confusion. The term “shutters” has different meanings to different people. Often based on what you’ve experienced in the past. Some people grew up with internal wooden blinds that were called ‘shutters’. Some grew up with functional shutters at home or in a favourite movie where the shutters pull shut over the windows to protect them during storms. Many of us only think of shutters as decorative pieces of wood we fasten outside of windows to make them look nicer.

All three are legitimate forms of shutters, but what you buy and how you install them are naturally very different. So just for absolute clarity, be sure you and your shutter provider are speaking the same language about what you expect, what you are looking for, and the difference between the varying types of shutter you might be looking to install.

Internal Window Blinds

Some people call internal wooden window blinds ‘shutters’ and linguistically, this is correct. If you are looking for wooden blinds that are built into the windowsill or possibly even those that fold over the window from the inside, this is not the type of shutter we’ve been discussing. But it is a type of shutter you can have if you articulate your desire to your shutter provider.

Fixed Shutters

Fixed shutters are the most common type of shutter in the world, and they are only for decoration. Fixed shutters are a visual memory of functional shutters but are decorative pieces of wood we fasten permanently to the outside of windows to make houses more attractive. When you talk to a construction contractor or manufacturer for shutters on your home, this is what they are most likely to assume that you want. As this is what most homeowners want when they say “shutter”

Functional Shutters

However, if you’re more traditional, you may be looking for “Functioning Shutters”. Just as they sound, functioning shutters are shutters designed to swing closed and fasten to protect your windows during storms. Or just when you think it would look nice. Operable shutters require considerably more care in selection, sizing, and installation but they can also be highly rewarding if this is what makes a house feel like home to you.

Sliding Shutters

Finally, there are sliding shutters, a modern variation using beautiful wooden shutter panels to create variable window coverings, shade, sliding doors, and more. There are many ways to use sliding shutters that you might be interested in, so consider discussing this possibility with your shutter provider if you’re looking to get creative and super functional with your shutter design.

Download The Complete Guide to Shutters & Louvres [Free E-Book]

Are you planning on installing new exterior shutters soon? If so, make your choices carefully. From choosing the shutter to applying your favourite colour paint, every decision matters in how well your shutters will look and how well they will last in the years to come. For more information about exterior shutters for your New Zealand home, contact us today!