Repairing Window Shutters


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Dear NH,
I have a few wooden exterior shutters that are beginning to bend and pull away from my house. Also, some of the slats are falling out! Can they be repaired?
PB from Scranton, PA

PB,
Oops! I occasionally run across this problem, though less now that so many people are installing non-wood shutters. I have found that warping often occurs when the shutters have not been properly sealed. Professional siding contractors know that it is important to seal the inside of wood siding (called "back priming") prior to installation, and this applies to wood shutters as well. By controlling the amount of moisture that is absorbed by the siding on both sides, twisting and buckling is virtually eliminated. Since the inside of the siding (and the shutters) is not exposed to the elements (except for moisture migrating through the vapor barrier on the house's sheathing), a one-shot sealing is good enough for the life of the home. Even if the house is stone or brick, enough moisture from the air can be absorbed through the back of a shutter to cause warping over time!

Regarding repair of your shutters, if they are not warped too badly, they should be repairable with a little loving kindness. Gather up all the slats and set up a table for the shutter. I use an old door for this purpose. You will notice that the shutter frame has probably separated, allowing the slats to fall out. You will need to do two things simultaneously. Align the slats and then glue/clamp the separated shutter back together. I would also recommend using long wood screws to reinforce the separated area to give the glue a little help! You may find the shutter resists re-assembly, so if clamping does not completely close the gap use a little "gently persuasion" via a hammer and wood block to complete the job. A slight gap is not unusual, since there may be some old glue in the way. You can use a little caulk to seal the small gap prior to repainting the shutter (or just touch up the area after caulking if the shutter is not to noticeable or on the second floor).

Then, before the glue dries, use additional clamps to pull the shutter flat against the table to reshape it. Have the "cupped" side upwards. This would usually be the painted or stained side. Leave the shutter be for at least 24 hours before removing the clamps. If there is still excessive bowing, you can try clamping it again but this time put a small block of wood under the center to force the shutter to slightly overbend. Don't overdo it or you may break the shutter. Again, leave it for a day or so, remove the clamps and check your work. If it is straight enough for you (a slight bend can be held in check by the shutter's mounting screws), use a clear sealer and coat the entire backside of the shutter. This should stabilize the shutter and prevent bowing in the future.
NH


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