Anatomy of a Custom Plantation Shutter Panel
Updated: Oct 27, 2021
When you woke up today, it is likely that the first thought you had was about the names of different plantation shutter parts and how you might come to learn them. If that is the case, then you are in luck, because that’s the very information we will share in this article!
Plantation shutters are different than any other custom window treatment in that they don’t hang from a headrail or other type of system that attaches exclusively at the top of the window or door. Plantation shutters are essentially louvered doors that are hinged to some type of framing system so that they open into the room, while almost all other window treatments hang from a headrail.
While this means that the shutters are typically heavier than other types of window treatments, they are installed in multiple locations to ensure that the weight is anchored firmly to the window trim and framing. In fact, lightweight hardwood shutters don’t weigh much more than faux wood (or PVC) blinds and have a much better support system.
What are the parts? We’ll start with the panel itself. Let’s dive in by starting with the most obvious part: the louvers.
Louvers are the horizontal part of the shutter that open and close. Older plantation shutters typically had flat, or bullnose, louvers, but for the last 30 years or so, the louvers on most shutters are elliptical. There are advocates for both types and we have installed both, but all of our customers preferred the look of elliptical louvers so we stopped manufacturing and selling bullnose.
Louvers are available in many sizes, but in the southeast are main sold in three sizes: 2 ½”, 3 ½”, and 4 ½”. Each louver size provides the same privacy, but a completely different look. 2 ½” louvers are what a lot of customers prefer when they want “what my grandma had in her house.” 4 ½” louvers are much more modern and look great in modern homes or homes with taller windows. They are very open and allow the most visibility, but they might not work in every home.
Louvers are made to close in the “up” position because it allows for more privacy and protects floors and furniture from UV exposure. Many modern shutters can be made to also close in the “down” position – including ours – but we don’t recommend this because of the reasons just stated.
Nylon pins are inserted into the sides of the louver to allow it to pivot on the axis. The louvers are attached to one of a couple of different tilting mechanisms that allow them to all move at once.
Push Rod (or Tilt Rod)
The tilting mechanism is called the pushrod or tilt rod and can be in one of three different locations.
Traditional plantation shutters have the pushrod on the front of the panel. Each louver is stapled on the front edge, and then another staple is run through the louver staple and into the pushrod attaching the louvers into the pushrod. These types of pushrods are about ½” wide and 5/8” thick so they don’t obscure the view from inside the home.
More modern shutters might have the option of rear tilt bars, sometimes called hidden tilt. This tilt bar attaches to the back of the louver and is made of metal or plastic with higher quality shutters having metal tilt bars. These can be nailed or screwed into the back edge of the louver. Again, this allows all of the louvers to be tilted when one is tilted, but there is no pushrod on the front, allowing for a much more open look.
Another option is the completely hidden tilt system where the tilting mechanism is hidden inside the stile. What is the stile, you ask?
Stiles are the vertical sidepieces of the panel. From the front of the shutter panel, the stiles are 2” wide and 1 1/16” deep. If you have shutters and the stile is not 2” wide, it’s because they were cut down to fit your window instead of custom fit FOR your window. We do not recommend this because the stiles need to be rigid enough to support the weight of the panel. There are lots of companies that buy “cutdown” shutters by the shipping container load and then cut them to size. Don’t spend your hard-earned money on those.
The horizontal top and bottom pieces (and sometimes a middle piece) are called rails. Rails connect the two stiles together to form an outer frame for the panel. Good plantation shutters have rails and stiles that are connected with dowels and glue.
And those, friends, are all of the parts of a plantation shutter panel. Don’t you feel better for having learned something so relevant and life-changing? If you happen to wake up tomorrow wondering about the various framing choices for custom plantation shutters, come back; we will probably have something to share about that!