Yes, they are very good insulation. My great-grandparents lived in the extreme southeastern portion of Alabama. It was steamy and humid, making naps a torturous thing.
However, when Ma shut the wooden shutters, it suddenly got cool in her bedroom. Naps then became, well, not a treat to a small child, but a bit easier to swallow.
It’s the nature of the wood that makes it insulate something well. Before we get into a lot of science, though, you should know that wood shutters are mounted both inside a window frame as well as outside it.
That has an interesting history, which we’ll also get into later in the article. Let’s examine wood a little more closely to learn about its insulating qualities.
Most people think of rolls of the pink stuff or foam blowing into spaces when they picture insulation. How does wood insulate?
It isn’t fluffy or pink, it doesn’t come in silver rolls, and you can’t blow it into the framed spaces of a house. After the house is all put together, though, you can use it in the windows to keep hot and cold air in and the hot rays of the sun out. Grab a coffee, because we’re going to science class for a bit.
An empty space is a vacuum. It, therefore, can hold something. Picture an unopened box of drinking straws you’re about to stock in the straw holder of a convenience store’s fountain drinks area.
The box looks like it’s full of holes that can, therefore, hold something. That’s what a piece of wood is regarding insulation.
Insulators contain something (picture a wooden spoon resting on the edge of a sauce pot on the stove,) whereas conductors (picture a metal spoon resting against the edge of the same sauce pot) move something. The wooden spoon absorbs the heat of the food cooking in the pot. The metal spoon passes the heat on to the person grabbing the spoon.
Now picture the box of straws again. That’s how your plantation shutters or the shutters outside your windows are made up.
Closing the shutters outside your windows causes the empty spaces in the wood fibers to absorb the heat from the sun so it doesn’t get into the house. Closing the plantation shutters inside your window frames does the same job of insulating.
What should I know about wooden shutters, such as materials and installation?
For one thing, make very sure you aren’t getting faux wood shutters. Real wood has varying and not always symmetrical grain patterns.
If the “wood” shutters’ grain patterns look too perfect, it’s fake. Fake wood (usually made of resins) doesn’t have empty spaces to hold the heat or cold.
Real wood exchanges moisture with the air around it. Thus, wet wood isn’t a good idea if you want it to keep out the heat or cold against a window. It’s a good idea not to put wood shutters in humid or damp rooms like bathrooms, laundry rooms, and basements.
For your own sake, buy wood shutters of excellent quality. Not only will they last for many years, but the quality of the wood will be life-saving for your power bill.
Inferior quality wood might hold too much moisture or won’t have much or any empty spaces in the wood fiber. It will, therefore, do a sub-par job and cost you much more money in the long-run.
Proper installation of your wood shutters is vital. These are serious reasons to demand a qualified installer:
• Unqualified installers will void the manufacturer’s warranty.
• The frames must be kept true, level, and square. Otherwise, they’ll warp, causing untold damage.
• The wood shutters will take every bit of the sun’s damaging rays. They’ll crack and warp from that alone. If the installation is faulty, then the shutters will adjust themselves to the new shape, thus failing to keep the heat and cold out of the room.
• Keep this in mind: your wood shutters are going to last for upwards of 25 years. Damaged or improperly installed shutters are going to (a) void the warranty, and (b) cost you more money on your power bill for the next 25 years. Make very sure the installer is a certified professional.
Anything else we should know about wood shutters?
Oh, yeah. How many times have you driven through a neighborhood and noticed the window shutters didn’t even fit the windows? They were just little strips of wood nailed onto the siding or brick.
Yet, you have seen other houses with iron hardware holding the wood shutters open against the cladding. You just knew the next time a storm came along, those shutters would be protecting the house from damage in addition to insulating it.
So, size matters. What else about wood shutters matters? Solid versus louvered panels matter. Most people choose louvered panels so they can let in some light while still protecting against the heat and cold.
Other homeowners choose solid panels to protect against the vagaries of Mother Nature tossing a hurricane their way. This depends mainly if the windows to be protected are picture windows with a solid sheet of glass or bay window panes without grilles. These need the most insulation, so of course, you’d protect these with solid panel wood shutters.
One thing not, repeat, not to do is to power wash your outside wood shutters. Wood, as we’ve seen, holds moisture. If it’s doing that, it can’t hold the heat from the sun at the same time.
A little rain hitting the outside wood shutters isn’t enough to waterlog them, and they’ll dry out quickly. Hitting them with high-power spraying water might damage the shutters as well as take longer to dry out.
What was that interesting history you talked about at the beginning of the article? What’s that all about?
Homes in the steamy, hot, humid South are known for their high ceilings and multiple windows. These allow heat to rise, leaving folks closer to the floor a little cooler.
One thing that helps is closing the shutters outside the windows in the oppressive heat of the afternoon. You’ll notice these shutters on antebellum houses in New Orleans, the deep South of Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia.
However, wooden shutters didn’t start in the American South, although they’re identified that way now. Ancient Greece of 800 BCE saw a need to cover their windows, especially those of government offices, for security’s sake.
They invented window shutters of marble. Everyone wanted them, but there wasn’t enough marble to go around, so they began making shutters out of wood.
Wood was a much better idea, because it could be customized to each homeowner’s needs. The idea quickly caught on, becoming popular in France especially. The Spaniards brought the idea of wood shutters to America, and the rest is history.
Wooden Window Shutters FAQs We Bet You Didn’t Know
Famous Houses with Wood Window Shutters that Probably Slid Right Past You
What did Gone With The Wind, The Notebook, and Sex and the City have in common? Wooden window shutters, of course. You’d expect that in the war-torn Clayton County’s Twelve Oaks, but New Yawk City? Don’t tell anyone, but it slid past us, too.
What are the Types of Outdoor Window Shutters?
There are four types: louvered, solid, board and batten, and Bermuda. You usually find Bermuda shutters on beach houses. They hinge at the top and look like a car visor for a house.
Board and batten is when a thin strip of wood is placed over the joint of two wide planks. That’s it. It’s a streamlined look that was taken up with indoor applications, furniture, and wooden window shutters as well.
What’s the Best Wood for Window Shutters?
More people choose cedar, redwood, and cypress because all three are bug and pest resistant. They also make the prettiest outdoor wood window shutters, much better than PVC and aluminum.
Have Shutters Ever Gone Out of Style or Demand?
No, they haven’t. They remain a world-wide necessity on homes and sometimes even barns. Not all houses need or should even think of using wood window shutters, especially considering today’s plastic “wood-looking” window shutters. It’s about the aesthetics of the thing.
Can You Open Windows with Window Shutters Closed?
You should, if you don’t want to melt into a puddle. That was a large reason for the invention of window shutters, other than security. The breeze blows in, while the heat stays out.
Which Rooms Should Have Wooden Window Shutters?
Southern and western exposures tend to be the hottest. These windows would be best served with insulating wood shutters. Eastern and northern exposures are noticeably less than warm. These windows would keep their inhabitants warmer if they wore wooden window shutters.
If you want to combine insulation for your windows with privacy, then place wooden window shutters on windows facing roads, other houses, and/or any exposure, making you feel less than secure.
Why Do Wood Window Shutters Add Value to a Home?
We’ve been discussing the insulation value of wooden window shutters. That’s enough to make a buyer snap up a house with wood shutters. Otherwise, draperies fade, both cats and dogs can make a mess when they want to see out the blinds, they add an elegant touch of class to a house, they’re easily cleaned and don’t have to be taken down to do so, on top of which they don’t have to be replaced the instant a buyer signs the mortgage papers.