Mother Earth Living

Try This: Build Your Own Interior Shutters

Try interior shutters instead of draperies to add to the R-value and to the character of your home.
By Susan Wasinger
January/February 2004
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Long used to shield windows from the harsh elements on the outside, shutters can take on a new role inside.
Photohraphy By Susan Wasinger

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Try interior shutters instead of draperies to add to the r-value and to the character of your home.

Windows open up your house to the outdoors—but not just visually. They are the weak link in your home’s insulation from the elements. Compared with the standard R-13 in wall insulation, single-pane windows have an R-value of less than 1. Even double-pane low-E glass windows with argon gas—the current state-of-the-art—boast an R-value of only 4.75.

Long used to shield windows from the harsh elements on the outside, shutters can take on a new role inside. In addition to increasing privacy and adding charm to interior decor, these Old World-inspired shutters more than double the insulation value of even the very best windows. Ours are simple pieces of framed rigid foam insulation, trimmed with wood, painted, and then stamped with earth-friendly, eye-catching clay paints.

We used a rigid foam roof insulation called R-board for our shutters. Depending on the thickness, it's rated R-6 or R-9. These shutters are light enough to hang directly on your window frame using traditional shutter hinges. For added insulation and draft-fighting value, use weather stripping on the frame.

1. Measure your window frame opening carefully. Remember, the shutters will be framed in wood trim, so include the thickness of the trim when calculating the size of the foam board. Measure, score and cut the fibrous paper facing on both sides of the foam board with a utility knife. Then the board can be snapped cleanly with a good karate chop. Be sure to protect your hands with gloves.

2. Measure and cut the trim. We used 1/4 by 1 inch flat pine trim. The edge of the foam board will be nothing but crumbly foam, so you'll need lots of glue and several nails to hold the wooden edging in place. A simple white glue such as Elmer's or Titebond should do it. Start the nails in the trim pieces first. Lavish the glue on the foam board edges, then tap the trim in place. Rubber bands or bungee cords stretched around the board hold the wood trim in place while the glue sets.

3. Clay paints—available in great earthy colors from BioShield—lend an artful feel to the trimmed foam board. First we painted the board—trim and all—with two coats of clay paint. Then we cut pieces of foam board scaps to use as printing blocks—a simple rectangle for stripes and a small square for the diamond checkerboard. Paint the block with a brush before stamping or rub the block into a pool of paint on a paper plate. The block-printing process should be primitive and imperfect to impart character and style. Although these interior shutters should never get wet, the clay paint can absorb and release small amounts of condensation gracefully. Check with your local hardware store for simple shutter hinges and mounting instructions based on your unique window configuration.

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