DIY Outdoor Shutters

Traveling has taken a backseat to house projects over the past couple of months. We are preparing for a huge party, making this the perfect opportunity to invest in the house and ourselves. In an effort to transform our backyard into a comfortable oasis that people will enjoy, we’ve spent a lot of time (and luckily gotten a lot of help from our family) to help us make the space a little more fun and welcoming. Enter: new shutters.

One of the simplest ways we are making improvements to the space is by hanging up shutters next to the big window outside our living room. The back wall of our house is incredibly plain, providing us with lots of room for improvement. Shutters would provide the dimension and color we needed to add to our otherwise pretty bland back house wall. With the shrubs we previously had lining the house now removed, we had a naked canvass of stucco to make a little more visually appealing.

But before we could get started putting the shutters together we needed to get rid of an eyesore: the burglar bars.They are hideous, and probably a fire hazard. Scratch that, they are DEFINITELY a fire hazard, but ya know, they were here when we bought the property and for good reason, they are much more challenging to remove than one might assume. By removing them, the house immediately felt much friendlier and warmer.

Those terrible burglar bars. SPOILER ALERT - those are the shutters I am going to teach you to make.  Those terrible burglar bars. SPOILER ALERT – those are the shutters I am going to teach you to make.

Where we looked first

So, Home Depot doesn’t have prebuilt shutters that you can just buy and slap up on the wall of your house. This surprised me, but what surprised me even more was that Lowe’s actually did have them. The problem with Lowe’s was that the shutters were some sort of vinyl compound, only came in brown and it was suggested on the label that painting them wasn’t a good option.

With this information in hand, it became clear that we needed to find an alternative way to frame our windows and make them pop a little more.

Where we looked second

My second thought for shutters is a somewhat obvious one: Thrift stores. This seems like the kind of thing I’ve seen at thrift stores, but that these stores might not actually carry if you went looking for them intentionally.

I checked out a local thrift shop just a few minutes from the house. As I suspected, they didn’t have any shutters for us to buy.

Then I placed a call to Under the Arbor, a local shop that sells reclaimed furniture that has been transformed to be country chic. The salesperson that answered the phone asked an associate if they had any shutters in stock, if anyone would have them, it would be this place. Unfortunately they didn’t, but the the salesperson did have a suggestion for me: make them myself. He outlined a simple way to do it and I took his advice.

Here’s what we did:

Measured the window

We needed to know exactly how tall the window was, as well as decide how wide we wanted the shutters. It was important to measure the space, because an outdoor light limited how wide we could make them.

Bought wood from Home Depot

We bought Fencing wood to be exact. Fencing wood is thin and affordable, making it a great option for our DIY shutters. You don’t want the wood planks to be too thick, so this provided the perfect solution. After purchasing the planks, we had Home Depot cut them to size.

Not only do you want the long pieces that will make up the bulk of the shutters, but you also need to cut the short pieces to hold the shutters together at the top and bottom. So for this project we used 9 planks total: 8 for the length of the shutters, and one for the width.

To determine how wide we needed these smaller planks to be, we held the four planks to each other, laid a separate piece of wood across it to determine what we needed the length to be. Our 9th plank was cut into four different pieces to serve as the connector for the shutters.

Sanded and stained

Fortunately, we already had some stain (Varathane Stain + Poly, Dark Walnut) leftover from another project. But before any staining could happen, we need to sand down the planks. Fortunately, we have an electric sanders, so we didn’t have to do this by hand.

For those of you haven’t stained wood before, don’t worry, neither had I. What you need are some heavy duty latex gloves and some stain cloths. Stain is strong and can erode through regular latex gloves, having them be a little thicker will help protect your hands. Make sure to stir the can of stain very well before dipping the cloth in. You don’t want to get too much onto the cloth, and then begin wiping in the direction of the wood grain. You will want to rub in the excess stain that might appear on the wood. Rub an even coat along the length of the wood. You will want to repeat this process at least once to get a good color going. Luckily, it was warm when we did this so by the time we were done with the last plank, we were able to repeat the process again.

Nailed it together

Lay the boards next to one another on a flat surface. Then space them out. We used paint stir sticks to give us the spacing we wanted. This took a little finagling of the boards because we wanted to spacing at the top of the shutters to be the same at the bottom of the shutters. Once we had everything aligned, we placed the smaller piece of wood across the boards, nailed the small board into each individual board. We repeated this process for the other side.

And that’s it. You have yourself a DIY wooden shutter for you to put up.

Want to replicate this? Here’s what you will need:

  • Wood stain (Varathane, Dark Walnut)
  • Heavy duty latex gloves
  • Stain cloths
  • 9 fence posts
  • 8 –  1 ¼ inch screws
  • Measuring tape