Unlike blinds or curtains, plantation shutters are almost always made entirely from wood. As a building material, it’s beautiful, widely available, comes in a variety of different price levels and is relatively easy to work with at home.
And because making plantation shutters is just about building a frame that is filled with louvres the project seems like it would be within the reach of a well-equipped, experienced DIYer.
Plantation shutters attract attention and ones you build yourself will certainly attract compliments. Because they’re so functional, you’ll also get to feel pride in your project as you adjust your shutters every day to control how much light enters your home.
It can definitely feel like making shutters from scratch opens up a long list of options for how you’ll make your shutters your own. Keep in mind that opting for a kit may impose limitations. Also, you might be surprised at how many options you get from a custom-made shutter company like West Pier.
If you think you’re up to it, we’ll walk you through how to make wooden shutters — including the tools you need and a step-by-step instruction list. We’ll also help you decide whether the project may be a bit too much and if it would be better to have your shutters custom made and then DIY install them yourself.
Design Your DIY Shutters
This part of the process starts much like you would if you were ordering wooden shutters from West Pier Shutters. Carefully, take a set of measurements for the windows you want to cover with shutters.
Things to consider at this point include:
- How will your shutters mount on or in front of your window?
- What louvre size do you want?
- Are your shutters going to be solid wood panels or have movable louvres?
- Will the tilt rod be mounted on the side or in the middle of the louvres?
When you’ve made these decisions, you’ll want to create a drawing for your project and then a cut list.
You might find it helpful to use one of the sets of plans available online.
What Tools Are Required?
For building plantation shutters yourself, you’ll need:
- Table saw
- Drill press
- Table router
- Screwdriver and/or power driver
- Basic tools for measuring and marking
Other than the wood stock, the only special material you’ll need are the pins that the louvres rotate on.
Make The Frame For Your Shutter Panels
It’s important to cut the stiles (vertical pieces) and rails (horizontal) for the frame of your shutter panels from well-seasoned, sturdy hardwood.
The steps here are:
- Use your table saw to cut your stock down to size for both the rails and stiles.
- Save off-cuts for making slats.
- Plane the rails and stiles (plus slats) to the desired thickness.
- Give the rails and stiles any aesthetic features you desire, such as a rounded edge of routed line around the edge.
- The rails should have a dado-ed edge (front side on the top, back side on the bottom) for the louvres to go into when they’re closed.
- Use a spacer to mark the holes on the stiles for where you’ll drill the pin holes for the louvres.
- With a drill press, carefully drill the holes into both stiles.
Making the Louvred Slats for Your Shutters
Function and form combine for this part of the project. The louvres get two (of four) rounded edges that give them a smooth, wing-like appearance.
If you’re going for a full-on DIY, from scratch project and are cutting your own slats down from 2 X 4s, it definitely makes sense to use the same stock as you built the stiles and rails with.
- Rip the slats to the approximate desired thickness.
- Use a table router to add a rounded edge to opposite sides (top edge on the front, bottom edge on the back) of all the slats.
- Set your table saw exactly and using a box jig cut your slats to the desired length.
- If you want to paint or stain your rails, stiles and louvres now is the time to do it.
Building the Operating Parts
Your shutters will need a tilt rod to operate and all of the louvres will have to be carefully connected to it by small pieces of wood.
- Cut out a tilt rod hanger for each slat from hardboard.
- Shape and sand the hangers.
- Glue them to the slats and secure with pin nails.
- Drill the holes in the ends of the louvres that accept the pins for them.
- Cut, shape and sand the tilt rod.
If you’re using basswood for your shutters, remember that it can be a bit more difficult to work with than other hardwoods. It’s a bit stringier and drill bits tend to jam if you don’t go slowly and give the bit enough time to clear the debris from the hole.
Assembling the Shutters
This is the point when your project will really start to come together and actually look like plantation shutters for the first time.
At this stage you will:
- Attach the rails to the left stile with glue and screws. (Make sure the louvre pin holes are facing inwards.)
- Use the pins to fix the wooden louvres in place against the left stile.
- Put the pins into the right side of the louvres and line them up with the right stile. When everything is in place, use glue and screws to attach the right stile to the top and bottom rails.
- Mark the holes from the rod hangers from the louvres on the tilt rod and then use your drill press to make these holes.
- Use screws to attach the tilt rod to the hangers.
- Attach your hinges to the sides of the shutters and install it in the opening.
- Add any desired hardware — such as a knob for opening the shutters or magnetic stops for keeping them closed.
Pros and Cons of Making Shutters for Interior Windows
At this point, you can see how big a project making wooden shutters can be. And if you’re going to attempt it for anything more important than the window in your garden shed, it probably warrants a pro-con analysis before starting.
The pros of making window shutters yourself include:
- Very fine control over details like louvre size.
- Work with any type of wood you want.
- If you make a few sets of shutters, you’ll save a bit of money.
- Bragging rights of being able to say you made it yourself.
And, now the cons of going alone and making your window shutters from scratch:
- Buying special equipment (like a shutter jig) that you probably will not use again.
- Youtube videos are your only technical support.
- The infinite choice for detailed options means your project can get bogged down in the planning stage.
- Any errors are on you.
- More chance of something going wrong — like a louvre warping — down the road if you’ve worked with sub-optimal materials.
- Undervaluing the time it will take to make your shutters, especially if you’re not a hardcore DIY expert.
What About a Kit?
Some companies sell kits for making interior window shutters. These always include:
- Blueprints and a cut list.
- Some of the hardware for building the frame and attaching the stiles to it.
- Router and drill bits.
- A jig for drilling the holes in the sides of the stiles.
Many of the kits also have:
- The louvres, planed and shaped. You only need to cut them to exact length and finish if desired.
- Stiles and rails, also planed and shaped.
The kits take some of the options out of making your window shutters entirely from scratch. (If you’re using a jig to drill the pin holes in your stiles, your louvres need to be one of two or three specific sizes.
Obviously, if you rely on the company that sells the kit to send you all of the wood pieces, you’re also restricted to using the type of wood they make available.
That said, the included jig and bits takes some of the stress out of getting things exact when it comes to drilling. And, of course, you only need to buy the jig once even if you’re building several sets of shutters.
So, Is It Worth It?
The best we can say is a shaky maybe.
If you already have a fully loaded shop with the big equipment needed — definitely a table saw with the proper guides, but a planer, jigsaw and drill press are also helpful or needed for some designs — and lots of experience with fine-detail wood projects you might get some enjoyment out of making wooden shutters.
We can’t help but notice that almost all of the online tutorials on how to make window shutters are based on projects that will see shutters installed in a (very advanced) DIYer’s shop — but almost never his living room. In other words, if you’re tinkering on the weekend from-scratch DIY shutters might do the job, but if you need to decorate your family’s home they might not be up to the mark.
For everyone else, we’ll bet that you get the most out of the first and last steps of the process. Design the shutters to look exactly the way you want and then fit them into place yourself.
Have Us Build Your Shutters, You DIY Install Them
Installing plantation shutters is a good way to hold onto a healthy portion of the DIY glory while we do the messy work of building your shutters to fit exactly.
Also, there is a big difference between conceiving of a shutter design and actually creating a workable plan from it. Our easy online tool bridges this gap.
But, if you do decide to make shutters for your interior windows, remember that:
- Measurements and cuts need to be exact so that your shutters are square and operate properly.
- You should only use well-seasoned wood that will keep its shape so that they remain square.
- Take your time with the finer details like attaching the tilt rod to make sure you get everything exact.
We entirely understand if all of this long, exacting process seems like too much. If you choose to have us custom build your shutters we’ll be there to help you get through the straightforward, DIY installation process.
Get in touch and we’ll start working up a design for your custom shutters by West Pier.