Deciding whether to add plantation shutters to your home’s living spaces can feel like an overwhelming decision given all of the various points of consideration, including style, features, benefits, and of course – cost.
To help simplify the decision-making process for homeowners, builders, and interior designers, we’ve created this comprehensive Plantation Buyer’s Guide for 2019, a unique resource that is intended to answer many of the most common questions you may have when buying the perfect window shutters for your home – all in one place!
What Are Plantation Shutters?
Interior plantation shutters are a specific type of solid window treatment, typically made from wood, faux wood, or other composite materials.
They are constructed within a frame, consisting of vertical stiles, horizontal rails, and adjustable slats (called louvers), which are adjusted using the shutters’ tilt rod to allow for increased or decreased amounts of light and ventilation within a room.
With multiple styles, materials, and finish options available, interior window shutters offer a wide variety of applications for any room in the house, including kitchens, dining rooms, bathrooms, bedrooms, offices, closets, and general living areas.
The History of Plantation Shutters
Window shutters are believed to have first been invented and utilized by the Greeks during the 15th century. Made of marble and other solid stone materials, their purpose was to provide light control, improved ventilation, and added protection from heavy storms that would occasionally strike Greece’s coastline.
Due to their stone construction, these shutters were luxury items that were largely reserved for the elite who could afford them. While their design was simple and sturdy, stone construction required fixed slats to be used, which limited their flexibility, functionality, and affordability.
As the use of window shutters spread throughout Europe, craftsmen began experimenting with new designs and materials, including wood, which allowed for cheaper construction, more versatile design options, and improved functionality.
Shutters became particularly popular with French royalty, so much so that rumour has it King Louis XIV mandated they be used within his private residence, which gave added momentum to the window treatment trend throughout the country. Eventually, movable slats called louvers (from the French word “louvre”, meaning “to coil up”) were invented, providing drastically improved flexibility and control.
Spanish colonization of the Americas eventually brought the use of window shutters to the modern day United States during the 18th and 19th centuries.
Owners of large mansions and plantations throughout the south found shutters to be particularly helpful in not only providing cross-ventilation during hot and humid summers, but also added protection from violent summer storms.
Plantation owners also adored the decorative and aesthetic benefits that shutters provided for their homes, and were eager to install them as an elegant symbol of status.
As you may have guessed by now, the popularity of shutters within plantation properties is what helped “plantation shutters” to earn the common name they are referenced by today!
Why Should You Invest in Custom Shutters?
As you consider whether plantation shutters are the right window treatment for your living space, there are plenty of benefits to factor into your decision!
Added Style & Aesthetics
If your goal is to make a dramatic statement within your home’s interior spaces, custom plantation shutters are a dependable go-to.
With premium quality hardwood shutters from name brands like O’Hair Customs™ and Hunter Douglas, you can add unrivaled beauty and elegance to your room that will not only enhance your lifestyle, but also welcome your guests with a comforting ambience when they first enter your home.
You can also achieve a seamless integration into your home’s existing architecture by paint or stain matching your shutters to your existing woodwork. If you choose this route, be sure to read our article on paint matching your shutters!
Increased Light Control
One of the most obvious functional benefits of installing window shutters in your home is your added ability to control the amount of light entering the room.
The reality is that harsh, ultraviolet rays from the sun can easily fade and damage furniture or hardwood floors (not to mention your skin), and shutters are a fantastic way to limit this damage while still allowing mood-appropriate light into your living space.
Modern window shutters feature a wide variety of adjustable louver sizes, giving you a broad spectrum of light control flexibility, ranging from near-total darkness, to wide open brightness.
Increased Property Value
Being that plantation window shutters serve as a permanent fixture within your home’s windows, they are proven to add more value to your home than other more temporary and/or detachable window treatments, such as window blinds and window shades.
If you’re adding shutters to your existing home, keep in mind that because they are custom fit to your home’s unique windows, they often appear as though they were built during your home’s initial construction, making them an added conversation point for negotiations with prospective home buyers.
For new home construction, consider asking your shutter installers to work directly with your builder and trim carpenter in determining how to best frame in your windows for an ideal fit with your shutters. And, remember that the increased property value could have a positive impact on the loan approval process!
Improved Energy Efficiency
It’s no secret that the loss of hot and cold air through your home’s windows is one of the largest contributing factors to increased energy bills, especially during frigid winters and scorching summers.
Luckily, energy efficient window treatments can help reduce the costs of heating and cooling your home by providing an added layer of insulation against your wallet-depleting windows.
When comparing window coverings for energy efficiency, it’s important to consider the “R-value” of the materials you are assessing. An R-value is essentially a measure of a material’s ability to resist heat.
An uncovered window with no treatment often has an R-value of 0.75-1.0 (depending on the panes and/or coating). Wood plantation shutters often provide an R-value between 2.0 and 4.0 (with some materials claiming as high as 6.0), meaning that you can easily double or triple the insulation protection of your windows by installing shutters!
Privacy and Security
Have you ever wondered where the phrase “peeping Tom” came from? Believe it or not, the story involves shutters!
An old legend claims that Lady Godiva once rode naked through the streets of Coventry to protest a heavy tax that her husband had levied against the town’s people. Most of the town’s residents agreed to not look at her as she galloped through the city on a white horse, but “Peeping Tom” defied the agreement and snuck a peek at her through his window shutters. Legend has it that he was immediately stricken blind, and that Lady Godiva was the last woman he ever laid eyes on.
We’ll let you decide how much you believe the legend, but one thing we can tell you for certain is that installing plantation shutters is an effective way to maintain privacy in any room of the house, and to prevent the prying eyes of your neighbors, criminals, (and “Peeping Toms!”) from visually trespassing into your space.
Using the tilt rod, you can easily adjust your louvers for any desired level of privacy, whether it be subtle closure in your living area, or complete closure in a bathroom or bedroom.
Shutter Options and Features
As with most interior design choices, choosing the perfect plantation shutter for your home will undoubtedly come down to the details!
Your first task will be to choose a primary manufacturing material. While there are a multitude of choices available on the market, most plantation shutters fall under three primary material categories, each of which offers its own unique combination of pros and cons.
Hardwood Plantation Shutters
Often considered the “classic plantation shutter”, hardwood shutters are crafted from high-quality natural hardwoods (like basswood and poplar) which deliver an unmatched combination of timeless beauty, and classic elegance.
While there are plenty of brands/manufacturers to choose from, remember that not all wood shutters are created equal, and the level of quality between finished products can vary greatly.
If you’re seeking superior quality, we strongly recommend researching two of the most respected brands in the industry:
Handcrafted from responsibly harvested American hardwoods, and available in several different unique styles and finishes, shutters from O’Hair Customs™ serve as the gold standard in genuine quality hardwood shutters.
Constructed for long-term performance, and designed to convey sophistication, Hunter Douglas’ Classic Heritance® line of hardwood shutters are the window treatment you always wanted.
Composite Plantation Shutters
Sometimes referred to as “faux wood” shutters, composite shutters are custom engineered with man-made materials that provide enhanced strength and improved affordability.
Despite their engineered materials, composite shutters often resemble the appearance of real wood, while at the same time providing homeowners with a more durable product that is resistant to heat and humidity.
To see a few real-world applications, check out our page dedicated to Hunter Douglas’ NewStyle® Hybrid Composite Shutters line.
Vinyl/Polysatin Plantation Shutters
If long-term durability and affordability are your top priorities, look no further than vinyl plantation shutters. Practically impervious to excessive heat and moisture, vinyl shutters are ideal for very hot and/or wet environments (like bathrooms).
Given their lower cost construction, be sure to vet manufacturers thoroughly, and only purchase products from sources with a proven reputation.
If you’re interested in learning more about vinyl shutters, take a look at Hunter Douglas’ Palm Beach™ Polysatin™ shutters line, which are guaranteed to never warp, fade, or crack!
Once you’ve chosen a primary manufacturing material, it’s time to move onto the detail items which will truly bring your windows to life.
Thanks to the seemingly endless number of customization options available, your custom plantation shutters can extend your unique design style throughout any room of the house. Those options include, but are not limited to:
Choosing the right finish for your new shutters is one of the most impactful decisions you’ll make as it relates to their final appearance.
Big-name brands like Hunter Douglas offer their products in dozens of different predetermined colors, as well as any custom color you can think of.
Thanks to new technologies, paint or stain matching your shutters to your home’s existing trim has become a painless and worry-free process.
The hardware components of your shutters (including a combination of hinges and magnets) enable their functionality, and can also make a subtle, but noticeable impact on their overall design aesthetic.
For your shutter hinges, choose from a wide variety of shutter hardware finish choices, including brass, cast iron, galvanized iron, nickel, bronze, and more.
Custom Shapes & Sizes
Do you have custom shaped windows that seem impossible to treat? Don’t worry, because plantation shutters can be customized to fit windows of almost any size or shape, including:
- Picture windows
- Circles, ovals, and arches
- Bay windows
- Double-hung windows
- Sliding doors
- French doors
- + More
*For custom window shapes, be sure to have your windows measured by a professional to ensure your shutters have a perfect fit during installation.
Louvers are the horizontal slats which are built into the frame of your plantation shutters, and are what control the amount of light and air entering the room through your windows.
The size and spacing of your louvers may seem trivial at first, however, your choices here can significantly affect the visual appearance of your shutters, as well as the amount of privacy, light, and ventilation that your room will receive.
Louver sizes generally range from 2.5” to 5.5”, and are typically spaced according to their size.
Smaller louvers are ideal for spaces that require more privacy or desired light control. Their smaller size means that more louvers must be used per panel for full coverage, and thus, your outside view may be more limited.
Larger louver sizes allow for added window visibility being that their increased size reduces the number of louvers required for full window coverage. Larger louvers permit more light and air to enter a room, which is ideal for windows offering picturesque scenes, but less ideal for spaces where complete privacy or light control are desired.
Lastly, your louver controls are another shutter component which can be customized according to your preferences.
Your louver control, also referred to as a “tilt rod” is what allows you to adjust the angle of your louvers in order to control the amount of light and air entering the room. There are generally two types of tilt rods to choose from – traditional or hidden, with each offering its own unique aesthetic value. If you want to learn more, read our article on tilt rods.
Also called “mid-rails”, a divider rail is an optional fixed rail that is added to your shutters to provide additional stability, and to divide your louvers into different sections, each of which is then controlled separately with its own louver-control rod (or “tilt rod”).
From a functionality standpoint, adding a divider rail to your plantation shutters gives you added flexibility in controlling light and privacy within your room, being that the louver sections can be controlled independently from one another.
From a design standpoint, some homeowners feel that the addition of the mid-rail creates an interesting break in the repetitive pattern of the louvers, and adds a bit more intrigue for tall/long windows.
Cost Expectations for New Shutters
The cost of installing custom plantation shutters in your home hinges on a variety of factors, most notably the size and quantity of shutters you require, as well as the manufacturing materials and finishes you select.
Generally speaking, hardwood shutters tend to be the most expensive, and vinyl shutters are the most affordable, with composite/faux-wood shutters generally falling somewhere in the middle.
Overall, the cost for installing custom plantation shutters in your home typically starts around $22 per square foot. Your choice of shutter customization options will also affect the final price of your window treatment project, so be prepared to flex your anticipated costs upward in the event you possess more “discerning” preferences for design or functionality.
Don’t forget that when hiring a certified window treatment specialist, installation is typically included in the overall cost of your shutter project.
Measuring and Installing Your Shutters
Properly measuring your windows for shutters requires careful attention to detail and accuracy, which is why hiring a professional is typically recommended.
Your professional window treatment specialist will first help you determine whether to use an inside or outside mount for your shutters.
Depending on the mount-type, your professional will then take accurate measurements of each of the windows you plan to treat, paying special attention to any uneven window frames or other abnormalities.
Custom window shapes will require additional measurements to ensure that your shutters fit perfectly on installation day.
Once your shutters have been delivered from the manufacturer, your professional installer will typically prepare them for installation prior to arriving at your home. This may include sanding and correcting imperfections, painting/staining, and hardware installation.
Once prepared, your shutter installer will transport all the required materials and tools to your home for installation. Most installations can be completed in less than a day depending on the number of windows being treated.
Maintaining your plantation shutters is important to ensure you get the most out of your investment for years to come.
Luckily, the work required to keep your shutters in excellent condition is largely limited to regular cleaning.
Cleaning your shutters once per week is recommended, either with a vacuum, feather duster, or dry fibre cloth. It’s typically best to avoid using soapy water or harsh cleaning materials as it may damage the finish.
Every 1-2 months, inspect your shutters more closely for build up in crevices, and use a small dusting brush (or a toothbrush) to clear away the debris.
For O’Hair hardwood shutters, you’ll also want to occasionally adjust the tension on your louvers to keep them functioning optimally.
Lastly, to maintain that new shine on your hardwood shutters, use a soft cloth to apply a non-wax furniture polish every 3-6 months.
So, Are Shutters Right for You?
We may be a little biased, but we believe that custom plantation shutters can serve as a fantastic addition to any home, and we hope that after reading our Plantation Shutters Buyer’s Guide for 2019, you feel informed enough to purchase the right shutters for your home.
In case you were in a hurry, here’s a recap of the main points to consider before buying plantation shutters:
- Plantation shutters are window treatments which allow you to control the amount of air, light, and privacy a room receives, while also adding dramatic decorative value.
- Shutters have a history dating back over 500 years, so when we say “timeless beauty” we really mean it!
- Installing shutters in your living space delivers several benefits, including added style, increased light control, reduced energy bills, improved privacy, and added home value.
- You can buy shutters made from natural hardwood, composite/faux wood, or vinyl, with each offering unique pros and cons. Don’t forget those customization options!
- The cost of plantation shutters varies greatly depending on the materials and custom features you choose. The cost for installing quality plantation shutters in your home typically starts around $25 per square foot and increases from there depending on your unique preferences.
- Properly measuring your windows for shutters is a critical step in the process, and it’s best to ask for help from a certified window treatment professional who will make measuring and installing your new shutters a breeze. Also, most professionals will need to perform the measurements themselves in order to give you an accurate cost estimate.
- Maintaining your shutters properly will help you extend their life and also maintain the impact they make on your room’s interior design.
Good luck with your shutter shopping, and if you’re located in the Kansas City area, reach out to Custom Shutters by Doyle for all your shutter needs!