Exterior Shutters – Decisions, Sticker Shock and Why You Should Make Your Own

Folks, if you showed up here today hoping to read all of my long, winding, rambling thoughts on exterior shutters, then today is your lucky day! 😀

In true Kristi fashion, I’ve been obsessing over my exterior shutter style decision. I read all of your comment on the post the other day about shutter style, and I agreed with all of them. So you see my dilemma. 😀

I’d read one comment saying that board and batten was too country for my house, and I’d think, “Oh yes, that’s exactly right.”

I’d read the next comment saying that board and batten is the perfect cottage touch so that the exterior elements don’t seem too traditional and stuffy, and I’d say to myself, “Yep, I totally agree.”

The next comment would say that a standard board and batten is too plain and uninteresting, but the one with the two widths of boards (like the mock up I did) adds interest, and I’d say, “Oh definitely. If I do board and batten, I’ll for sure do the two widths of boards.”

And then someone would mention that the varying widths may look to busy, and I’d think, “Well, that’s true. A uniform width would be better.”

And next I’d read that the standard board and batten might be too casual, but if I add a frame around it it’ll take it up a notch, and I’d think, “Well, that’s definitely the perfect style for my house.”

Next would be a comment saying that some sort of panel design would complement the traditional elements of my house, and I’d think, “Well, clearly that’s what my house needs.”

And then I’d read a comment stating that a panel design would be too predictable and stuffy and I need to mix things up a bit, and I’d say to myself, “Well, that’s obviously true.”

Now imagine doing that 100+ times and you have me reading your comments. You’re all correct, and I agree with all of you.

And that’s absolutely zero help. 😀

So after looking at approximately 1,534 pictures of shutters on Pinterest and Houzz, I was finally won over by this one.

via Home Depot

I love everything about that picture, including the hinges and shutter dogs. The hardware just takes it up a notch, so that’s the direction in which I’ll be heading as soon as the weather clears up (possibly tomorrow). And the deciding factor that sent me towards board and batten instead of a panel design is the fact that I decided to do a panel design on the window boxes. Just imagine my bathtub skirt on a much smaller scale.

And I wanted to mix it up a bit. A panel design on the shutters and the window boxes would be too much in my mind. But mixing it up with a board and batten design on the shutters and the panel design on the window boxes seems just right to me.

Anyway, after seeing that picture and deciding to go that route, I searched and searched online for all of the items I’d need to create that look. I had already decided that I was going to make the actual shutters out of PVC boards, which I buy locally at Lowe’s. But I wanted the shutter dogs and hinges (neither of which I could find locally because real, actual, working shutters aren’t really a thing here in central Texas), and I also decided to add some ring pulls. I think I found pretty good deals on all of those (and I opted not to buy the plastic “faux shutter hardware” that you can find on Amazon, and I went for the metal stuff instead). Then I found some PVC corbels for my window boxes and purchased those as well. I’ll share all of the sources when I actually start working on those projects.

So with all of the extras purchased, and with my window measurements in hand, I decided to head up to Lowe’s to look at their PVC boards and determine just how much of each size I’d need and see exactly how much this shutter project was going to cost.

I stood there in the PVC board aisle calculating and drawing and planning and figuring, and finally determined that board and batten shutters for all five windows would cost somewhere around $550. I have no idea why, but that price kind of shocked me. That’s about $55 per shutter, and that doesn’t even include the cost of the hinges, shutter dogs, and pulls that I had purchased. At that very moment, that price seemed high to me, and I thought, “Is it even worth it to DIY? Maybe I should get some prices on ready made shutters.”

So I headed over to the shutters to see what they had in stock. Well, first of all, every single in-stock shutter was louvered, and that’s the one style I absolutely did not want. And they were all the molded plastic that are hollow on the back side. They’re about $50 per pair (more or less depending on the size), but those are literally the last thing I wanted to put on my windows. There’s nothing wrong with those shutters, and they look pretty when they’re installed, but that’s what we had on our first house in Oregon, and I really want something different and more substantial this go ’round. And again, I just don’t want louvered shutters again.

But can we talk about the biggest problem I have with these shutters? They’re all the same width. It doesn’t matter if you’ need shutters that are 36 inches tall or 60 inches tall, every single shutter in stock at Lowe’s (and probably Home Depot, too) is 13.875 inches wide. That means if you stick with the in-stock stuff, whether you’re putting them on a window that’s 20 inches wide or 60 inches wide, your one choice is to use shutters that are 13.875 inches wide.

And this is my biggest issue with decorative shutters. It’s the same issue I have with decorative drapery panels. My own personal rule of thumb is that even if something is just for decorative purposes only (whether it’s shutters or draperies or something else), it needs to at least appear to be functional. Because what’s the point in spending money on something that’s very obviously fake or unusable?

When you put a single, skinny, ready-made drapery panel on each side of a 120-inch-wide window, it just looks wrong to the eye. And so does putting a pair of 14-inch shutters on a 60-inch-wide window (or any window over 28 inches wide, for that matter). The fullness of the drapery panels needs to be proportional to the width of the window, just like the width of shutters needs to be proportional to the width of the window.

And then I see situations with triple windows (like my front porch windows) that have one skinny little shutter on each side — something like this…

I mean, shutters on those front porch windows literally make no sense. What good would two 14-inch-wide shutters do for three 32-inch-wide windows? And if they don’t appear functional, then in my humble opinion, they shouldn’t be there.

I went back and looked at the very first mock ups I did of the exterior of my house years ago, and realized that’s pretty much what I did in that mock up, except that I had different windows at the time. But it’s still the same issue.

White limestone (Austin stone) house with navy blue shutters and coral front door

That just looks silly to me. So I won’t be putting shutters on the front porch window (or any other window where there’s not enough room for appropriately-sized shutters).

Anyway, all of that to say that it bothers me seeing a house with windows of varying widths across the front, but with shutters of all the same width on each window. But with Home Depot and Lowe’s carrying only one width in stock (and even most of their reasonably-priced shutters offered online being 14 inches wide), most people probably don’t give it a second thought, especially in areas of the country (like here in Waco) where functional shutters are rarely (if ever) seen on houses.

So before I left, I asked an employee to give me some pricing on custom shutters. I explained that I wanted PVC (the closest they had was composite, which he said is similar to the Trex deck boards), and I wanted them to be 20 inches wide. The widest the composite board and batten shutters come in is 18 inches, but I had him give me a price anyway.

For my two tall windows on the left side of the porch, the price for a pair of 18-inch-wide by 63-inch-high board and batten composite shutters in a paintable finish is $496.42. That’s for one window. And I’d still have to paint them since they don’t come in the color I want.

He said, “You can save some money if you go with wood.” Great idea. Plus, the wood comes in a 20-inch-wide size. So what’s the big cost savings for going from a paintable composite to an unfinished, untreated pine? About $30. The pair of unfinished pine board and batten shutters came to $466.24 for one window. I could have them finished for me (stain only, no paint) for around $200 more, which would bring the total for each window to around $667.

Ummm…what? That’s more for one window than I’ll spend making my own properly-sized PVC board shutters for all five windows. I checked Home Depot’s prices online for comparable properly-sized shutters and was finding prices anywhere from around $600 to $1200, depending on the material. That just seems a bit crazy to me. So if I make them myself, I’ll get what I want, in the size that I need, at a fraction of the price. Now my $550 cost for DIY shutters isn’t looking so bad. Not bad at all, in fact.

And that, kids, is why we DIY.



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      1. Could you use something like Hardie board instead of PVC? It may cost less, and should be comparably durable.

        1. Hardie board is pretty heavy, so you would have to take that into account. It’s also more expensive than the PVC.

          Look for PVC that are S4S (smooth four sides) and if you use these boards at least on the edges, the shutters will be finished on the edges, rather than rough. At Home Depot go for the Veranda brand. It’s less than half the cost of the Azek. Azek has more UV stabilizers so it stays whiter than the Veranda, but if you’re going to paint the shutters it won’t matter

  1. Out here on the CT coast, a large picture window would only have decorative shutters and for hurricanes the windows would be covered in plywood or, if $$$$ not a problem, there would be hurricane roll down metal shutters. Hence, here most use the standard 13″ wide for decoration only on the big window.

    In my grandparent’s home when I was little, the wood shutters were working shutters and we sure did use them! Obviously they were sized for the single windows.

  2. One quick comment for you on PVC trim- I love it, we use it on all our projects with one exception you really shouldn’t/can’t paint it a dark color. The dark paint absorbs too much heat, causes the PVC to expand and causes all sorts of problems. A medium toned gray is as dark as you can go, and some of those are even pushing it a bit. So if you’re heart is set on navy shutters it’s probably not the best choice. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but I can just see you not being happy in the end with how the trim would wear long term.

    Take a look at Windsor One or Smartside products. They offer wood based products that are injected/treated for durability in outdoor conditions.

    1. Hmmm…I know that that used to be the case (they would always warn that you can’t paint vinyl siding a dark color because it would buckle), but now there are paints that have special additives that allow you to paint vinyl siding any color you want, as dark as you want, with no issues. Sherwin Williams has this type of paint. I wonder if it could be used on PVC as well.

        1. Yes, you have to use heat reflective paint with vinyl safe technology. Sherwin Williams has a paint that can be used on vinyl siding in any color, even really dark colors. That’s probably what I’ll use. I’m actually not sure if it’s a paint or if it’s an additive that they put into the paint, but it keeps the dark colors from warping the vinyl.

          1. Ah, thanks for the reply. As to whether to paint the rocking chairs blue, or leave them more natural and use the blue as accents, I can see both in my mind’s eye, and I like the second option. Some pretty coral colored flowers in a blue pot with weathered gray rockers would look great, imho.

    2. I just called Royal Building Products, the maker of the PVC boards sold at Lowe’s, and they said that you can paint their PVC products a dark color for outdoor use as long as you use a heat reflective paint with vinyl safe technology. That’s what Sherwin Williams’ paint for vinyl siding is.

      1. Kristi- That’s great news. We almost exclusively use AZEK products, and the rep we had into the office a few months ago that the dark paint voids their warranty, and of course causes issues. It’s obviously a different issue when you’re talking about a board and batten siding application, or paneling of bays or running trim which is mounted to the house. The temperature swings there can either cause the boards to swell and detach or shorten and leave gaps, and entirely different set of parameters than stand along shutters. Excited to see the exterior progress on them!

  3. My husband works for a Building Supply store out here in CA. If Home Depot and Lowes doesn’t carry it “on the shelves” & has to special order, go somewhere else…they’ll never be competitive. 😉

  4. At first I too thought your DIY price for all five window shutters seemed expensive, but when you got the quote for ready made, but not painted, wow, for the price of just one window, you can DIY all of them for that cost and get exactly what you want. So, can’t wait to see your ‘Kristi Custom made’ shutters and window boxes. These are really going to transform the exterior and your curb appeal is going to look awesome!!

  5. You’ll never miss the shutters on your porch picture window. Maybe paint a couple of rockers in the navy shutter color and add colorful fabric for cushions. That would balance the navy.

    1. Exactly what I was thinking! I actually found some pretty dark blue rocking chairs on the Grandin Road website, and they’re on sale right now (or at least they were yesterday). Or I might stick with stained rocking chairs and do some pretty dark blue pots for plants. That’s another thing I’m having trouble deciding. Blue rocking chairs or stained? 😀

  6. Kristi, don’t you just love this decision merry go round! 😣. It can make a girl crazy! Glad you came to a final choice. I think it will look great, perfect combo with cottage shutters and traditional boxes.

  7. I’m completely with you on obsessing over functioning-looking shutters. I’m looking at shutters for my house now, and in researching shutters for wider windows, the answer was multiple folding hinged panels. With that said, I don’t have any triple windows, just doubles.

    I can’t wait to see the finished product!

    p.s. I absolutely love the portico corbels!

  8. My own house is an example of the wrong way to do shutters. Real shutters would be wide enough, if closed, to cover the window. Mine are not. Real shutters would also not be placed on double or triple windows unless they are hinged for full coverage. Not so with one of my windows. But they were on the house when we bought it and since they are an attractive accent, I haven’t taken them down. One thing that can easily be avoided is putting (cheap) decorative shutters on a single window that are not wide enough to create the illusion they would cover the window if closed. That said, I’d love to have real, working shutters – European style.

  9. If blue shutters are out for the porch, I think the rockers should be blue. Your stained porch floor is ‘special’ and should remain so. Stained rockers would be ‘more’ and would detract from the floor. The paint/stain contrast will make each of them distinctive.

  10. This is kind of off the subject but are you going to put a beadboard “ceiling” on the underside of your front porch roof?

    1. Not beadboard, but tongue and groove boards. I bought the boards about a month ago, but I haven’t installed them yet because a bird has built a nest up there. If there are eggs (and I need to get up there and see if there are) I’ll wait until they’re hatched and have learned to fly before I move it. I’d rather wait and be without a porch ceiling for a while longer than be a baby bird murderer. 😃

      1. Kristi, have you considered what color you’ll paint your porch ceiling? I’m secretly hoping you’ll go with some shade of Haint Blue! It’s rather a Southern tradition. The porch ceiling of the house my parents bought in TN has a light haint blue ceiling. It’s very pretty and fits in with you love of blues and greeny-blues.

          1. Yay! That makes me so happy! *secretly attempts Jedi mind trick to get you to go with Haint Blue*

  11. So glad you’re not putting shutters on the porch window. I do wish you’d reconsider having dark shutters and instead go with the same color as your porch columns. That would look so much nicer, IMHO, tying everything together. The window boxes could be that color, too, or they could be a couple of shades darker than the siding. Your lovely coral doors give just the right pop of color–seems a shame to have the shutters compete with them.

      1. Well, I wouldn’t say boring, just common. I like the blue for the shutters! Look at the Victorian homes – they sometimes have more than three colors going on. And most houses these days are working with at least three colors, with the door sometimes being a fourth.

        1. Exactly Marianne. Anyone who has followed Kristi forever (like i have), knows she loves colors! 😂Doubtful she’d go that plain 😎

          1. As someone who lives in New Orleans, you ain’t seen a colorful house until you’ve seen some of our Painted Ladies. Some of them have as many as 20 colors on them!!! They’re wonderful, beautiful, awe inspiring, and just downright fun. And, we paint our porch ceilings light blue, it keeps the wasps and birds from building nests because it looks like the sky. Kristi would feel right at home in Uptown among all our colorful houses. No white shutters, definitely blue.

            1. Dale, i so agree 🙂 Having been in and thru NO many times over the years, i know just what you mean. And ive always heard that about a pale blue ceiling porch . Great gpa told us that trick 🙂

  12. Good info in this post, including whether or not you can paint PVC dark colors! And, I love the idea of mixing the board and batten shutters with the paneled window boxes!

    I know several folks that feel the same way you do about the skinny shutters. I totally get where you’re coming from. For me though, I think I would rather see some effort (e.g. non-functioning shutters painted a nice color) over no effort (e.g. empty facade). I love a well-designed 3-4 color paint scheme, like those you see on old victorians or old craftsman-style homes, where the windows, trim, siding, and other accents have specifically selected colors. I think sometimes shutters are used to sort of mimic that effect, even though its not perfect when the shutters aren’t the right size. There are probably better, more architecturally accurate, ways to go about bringing color to the front of a house, but maybe some folks don’t know the best way to go about adding color to the front of their house in a cost-effective way that is true to the style of their home. Maybe we all need more Pinterest and Houzz? 🙂

    Glad you’re moving forward!

  13. Decorative shutters have always been a pet peeve for me. To be so blunt, I think they look stupid. We removed the shutters from our house and installed a wider trim board all around each window. We have a cape cod style home on the coast of Maine so it just seemed appropriate.

    I can’t believe how much it costs for a decorative shutter. That’s insane!

  14. I totally agree with your opinion on shutters! They serve no purpose, and you can trim out your windows much more nicely if you want to. I didn’t even know there was such a thing as real, functioning shutters on hinges until I was watching “Home Town” on hgtv a couple of months ago! I already disliked fake shutters before that, and now I dislike them even more and keep noticing them on houses and loathing them, lol. And a lot of houses have them here.

  15. There are many online retailers where you can customize any type of shutter for much less than Home Depot quoted you.

    1. That’s true, but I still haven’t been able to find the style and size that I want for the amount it will cost to just make them. The lowest I’ve found is about $210 per pair.

  16. I have absolutely no advice to add, but I wanted to say how much I lol’ed at your intro! That’s exactly how I feel when making big decisions (i.e. picking the granite for the kitchen or tile for the master bath). This! No, this! Maybe this instead!

    1. This is me, too. Oftentimes I can. not. make. a decision! It’s why I admire Kristi so much — she really considers things, but then does come to a decision. Sometimes, she changes things, but it’s all part of the process. I’m trying to emulate her more!

  17. First of all, a lol! for your last sentence (but yes, that is why we DIY).

    And a question – do you want to be able to close the shutters? If so, what about the plants? Because in the pictures it looks like it’s impossible to close them without destroying the plants…

  18. Yep. Shutters are expensive! We always make our own (made them for a previous house and are getting ready to make some for our current house) out of cedar. Last time we did board and batten, but this time, to match our current style, we’ll go with some sort of frame and panel. 🙂

    1. And then you’ll send me pictures, right? 🙂 It’s hard to find pictures of DIY shutters in a style other then board and batten!

  19. I’m so glad you spoke about shutter widths. And skinny draperies. Both are big pet peeves of mine.
    When either of them are too skinny it looks like you cheaped out.
    And rugs that are too small….cheap.
    Ok, I’m getting off my soapbox now. 😏

    1. Agree, agree, agree! It’s hard to choose, but of the three you listed, the rug that’s “too tiny for the space and/or furniture arrangement” is my major pet peeve. It totally looks like someone cheaped out, or reminds of a broke college student in their first apartment.

  20. Totally agree with your thoughts on the decorative shutters – and drapery!!! Our last house had those shutters, and every time I REALLY LOOKED at the front of our house, I wanted to rip them down! And our house faced East, and the sun faded the finish in less than 5 years. When we decided to list the house, I made my painter come over ( son in law!) and repaint them and the garage door.
    I am not that familiar with PVC boards, but I wonder if it can warp in hot weather? Especially with a coating of paint, I would worry what would happen. But I haven’t a clue, so maybe you know. Our shutters were vinyl, and they warped a little. We did Cedar this time, with a clear sealer, because we wanted that look.

  21. Kristi –

    We recently replaced our shutters. I researched for months…In the end, frustrated with the cost, I found the company that makes all the rockbridge shutters – which is the brand that Home Depot carries. The company is called Noralco. You can find their contact info here:

    Noralco will sell to you directly at half the cost of what Home depot charges, and you can get even more $ off if you opt to paint them yourself. You can select a wood species, or go with a composite mdf material made for exterior usage, that is equivalent to vinyl wood boards. We opted for the composite mdf over real woo since it is impervious to rot.

    They were wonderful to work with. They sent me quotes comparing different materials, which is why I opted for the composite wood over other materials.

    We also used decorative hinges which can be found at:

    I look forward to seeing the end result! I know it will be great whatever you do!

  22. Oh my heavens! I planned to DIY our shutters since I want a simple style and figured it’d save money but I had no idea they were THIS expensive!! Yikes! I’m so glad you put out this information. It’s so helpful and all your thoughts are exactly what have been going through my mind!

  23. I’m sure whatever you choose will be perfect. My only comment is, I hope you don’t choose black.

  24. I can’t wait to see what you do. I need some replacement shutters for my house since the ones that are currently on it are nasty foam with a cutesy cut-out design on them. Uggg. Not my style at all. The ones that you are going with are pretty much the style that I was planning for my house. Bring on the tutorial!!! Thanks so much for all the inspiration and knowledge your provide to us novice DIYers.

  25. Oh my goodness! I had NO idea shutters were so expensive. If anyone knows a teen who’s good in wood shop classes they could garner some serious pocket money making custom shutters.

  26. I’ve been following along with your house projects for years and have learned a ton. Thanks so much for sharing so openly.

    In regards to window boxes, I just posted a story called Charleston’s Glorious Window Boxes (https://www.fanningsparks.com/charlestons-glorious-window-boxes/) on my (very new) FanningSparks blog which you may find helpful. There are lots of photos of beautiful window boxes along with notes about the plants used.

    You may also notice that all of them use drip irrigation (as evidenced by the black tubing you can see in the photos). I use drip irrigation in all my containers here in Georgia. I have it permanently attached to the outdoor faucet with a timer scheduled to activate every morning. It’s the only way I can keep my plants alive through the hot Georgia summer. I assume you’ll have that same challenge in Texas. Hope that’s helpful!

  27. Will your windows (or do they already) have the same type of trim as reflected in the picture? i think the wider trim helps emphasize the shutters and affects the overall look.

    If you already have windows of that design, can you tell me the brand and material?

    1. All of the new windows have wide trim. The original windows (all of the windows to the left of the front door) have narrower trim, but they’ll be replace eventually with new windows and wider trim.

      The new windows are vinyl 6-over-1 single hung windows from a company called Showcase.

        1. It’s the number of panes in each section (or in my case, the number of sections in the grid that is supposed to make it look like panes of glass). The top section has 6 panes (or a grid divided into six sections) and the bottom is just one large pane.

  28. I love the idea of your shutters and know they are expensive. At least if you make them, they will be exactly the way you want them. Go Do-It-Yourselfers!

  29. I have absolutely nothing constructive to say except that you are a freakin’ rock star! Rock on!

  30. You have great ideas and your house looks wonderful.

    But, I would not put shutters, faux shutters, or decorative shutters on a house if they don’t at least appear to work for the purpose of closing off the window opening.

    It is done all the time on new construction and it is just really bad architecture.
    I think using decorative PVC trim around your windows is all you need plus landscaping.

    Do you have a railing up between the middle columns? I do not see it in the picture.
    I think that would balance out the front porch along with maybe some foliage boxes under the windows.

    I love this article http://www.oldhouseguy.com/shutters/

    1. “But, I would not put shutters, faux shutters, or decorative shutters on a house if they don’t at least appear to work for the purpose of closing off the window opening.”

      Right. That was kind of my entire point, which is why I said:

      “And this is my biggest issue with decorative shutters. It’s the same issue I have with decorative drapery panels. My own personal rule of thumb is that even if something is just for decorative purposes only (whether it’s shutters or draperies or something else), it needs to at least appear to be functional. Because what’s the point in spending money on something that’s very obviously fake or unusable?”

      No, I don’t have railing on my front porch. My porch is too small for railing.

  31. For any Kristi readers out there who want to make their own low cost shutters, use cedar fencing. Just sand (or not, if you want rustic), cut the lengths needed, paint or stain, and fasten together. Add any hardware wanted and voila! From experience, these hold up very well, but make sure your cedar is well dried before cutting, or shrinkage will be a problem later.

  32. We’re going to be selling our house next year, and it still has the original vinyl shutters from 1990. I want to build cedar shutters for our three double windows, and each single window is 30″ wide. I’ve always thought the shutters up there now look silly, because they’re definitely not 30″ wide! I think it’ll look much better with the appropriate width shutters, and maybe I should get the hardware for them, too.