Shutters seem like a very old-fashioned concept don’t they? There are of course a variety of reasons why the idea of having shutters on a window – perhaps even your bedroom window – might appeal to you. I’ll tell you about mine.
A few years ago, the owner of the house next door to me went against the wishes of all the rest of the residents in the area – and also the municipal bylaws – and turned his garage into one of those nasty little illegal shops. Oh yes, it was convenient to be able to walk right next door at virtually all hours of the day or night to buy a quick sweet, chippie, coldrink or pack of smokes for the wiffle, but the negatives were far more numerous and weighty. Noise at all hours was one of them – and it came from the back door of the shop, which was situated in the alleyway between the two houses, right outside our bedroom window!
Think of it – all through the night we would hear the hum of refrigerator motors, and late at night one of the managers would move in or out of the door noisily chatting on their phones, slamming doors, or move fresh coldrink bottles in to repack fridges… Early in the morning while we’d still be asleep, they’d move around there, opening the door and prepping for opening time!
Regardless of the drama relating to the illegal shop issue and how it was eventually closed down last December after a five year wait for our municipality to get things sorted out, this was the reason why my other half suggested I make some shutters for the bedroom window. The idea was added to further when we visited the Nr 7 Castle Hill museum in 2018 and saw the interior wooden window shutters they had there. I wanted to make shutters for our bedroom window – the only issue was how I was going to do it!
What did I do? I’m D.I.Y.ing to tell you!
We have tall windows, and so I knew whatever design I settled on in the end, it would require a fair amount of material. I started working on ideas on my sketch pad, and then had a look around the wood-store in the garage, and my spare parts bin, and came up with the groundwork for this concept!
If you want to, you could pop down to the wood shop and buy pine planks to make your own version of this. At the time I didn’t have enough pine plank or similar to make plain wooden shutter doors, so I used what I had at hand – melamine, or veneered chipboard – and decided I would paint it afterwards.
Neither of us minds the rustic look – in fact, we’re quite partial to it, so it not looking like it was popped out of a mold or template at a machine-shop didn’t bother us in the least.
I measured carefully – and it’s important to do this, because if you’ve measured wrong and then cut based on those wrong measurments, it could be hard to recover from that mistake!
I made two doors, each of them the full length of the inside of the window opening from top to sill, and half as wide. I usually work with what I have available – in this case, I had several broad and tall lengths of melamine, one perfectly sized to make a whole door, and several smaller ones which I would use together to make the second. This implied joining three smaller pieces to make the second door – but never mind that, there are ways to secure, brace and make joins look good. I used a few lengths of 2×4 pine to brace the join in the second door – two horizontally across the joins on the inside or window side, and one vertically on the outside spanning all three pieces.
Of course the ideal would be to make the door out of one piece of wood, but as I said, I work with what I have – that’s how you end up with unique items firstly, and secondly, how your hobby remains affordable!
Making the doors was not as simple as it could’ve been, because I didn’t just want to make solid opaque doors, which would’ve been easier. We wanted to shut out noise as well as light, but we still wanted to retain some airflow. The solution was to cut a rectangular window in each door, which I did with a jig-saw. I could’ve made the window opening any shape, say a circle for instance, but I picked a rounded rectangle. Then, from another piece of melamine, I cut two rectangular pieces about 2cm larger than the window hole. These are to cover the hole from the outside, mounted on spacers which will leave a gap for air to pass through.
I then covered the hole with fine nylon mosquito netting, securing it all the way round with a staple gun. For this exercise, I made sure the netting went on the window side of the doors. (In hindsight, I’d prefer to use the more durable plastic mosquito screen available from hardware stores instead.) After that, I cut eight small pieces of melamine from offcuts, and arranged them one at each corner of the windows, and secured them with glue to keep them in place while I lined the two rectangular planks up with them, and then drilled and screwed them to the door.
In the case of melamine (or in fact any brittle type of real wood) when securing two or more planks to another, I find it’s better to first drill a hole through the top planks and then putting the screw through the hole into the back one. This avoids splitting and bulging and breakage, which saves a lot of frustration.
With the small windows blanked off, this will block most of the light entering through the window, as well as noise, while allowing airflow to continue. The netting would also keep out annoying bugs like mosquitos.
Next, the hinges.
Once I was satisfied both fitted together inside the opening, I knew it was time to fit the hinges.
I had two pairs of long steel hinges available, which I’d recovered from two old doors we’d replaced on our outbuildings years ago. Both were about a century old, and the hinges were covered in paint and surface rust, and it took some sanding and wirebrushing to get them nice and shiny again! Afterwards, I clear-coated them with spray-on aerosol clear lacquer. You could use new hinges, and you can still get this sort of hinge at hardware stores for a premium price of course. I opted for longer hinges because of the weight of the doors and the extra support these give.
I secured the hinges to the doors in a nice even spacing – top hinges close to the top and bottom hinges close to the bottom of the doors.
Then I placed the doors in the window opening to measure for the placement of the hinges on the wall beside the window opening, marked the placement of the screw holes, and drilled them. I opted to use two small 10mm rawl bolts per hinge, and there are four hinges, so there are sixteen rawl bolts.
I secured the hinges to the wall. Once it was all tightened, the doors opened and closed perfectly – but it was still far from finished. There were gaps through which light shone, and made the imperfections in the edges glaringly obvious! Can’t have that, can we?
I solved that by applying some thin pine dressing along the edges of each door. This material comes in lengths of 2m, and is about 6mm thick and 2 to 3 cm wide. I needed three to finish this job, and still had a little left to put away for another project.
I secured the dressing to the edges of the doors with short screws while they were closed, all the way round, leaving gaps only for the hinges and the bolt that closes the doors.
The dressing along the opening edge in this case was attached to the edge of the left door, which I chose to be the one that opens first, so it overlaps over the right door edge and closes the gap. The edging around the outside edges of the door also overlaps neatly over the gaps between the door and the window opening or sill, all the way round.
Because the melamine was mostly white and had been recycled from old cupboards, it needed a coat of paint – and because we were planning to repaint that wall of the bedroom a dusty pink or something like it, we picked a dark off-red paint to coat the shutters insides and out!
In the middle of it, we decided the pine edging looked really nice as is, and so I had a bit of a time keeping the paint off it! Nevertheless, I still need to add some varnish to the pine edging, which I’ll probably get around to whenever I get around to repainting that wall!
A pair of opening and closing shutters isn’t the end of the job yet – I still have to tell you how we keep it closed!
At the bottom that was simple – the right door is secured to the window sill by a small barrel bolt which slides into a hole drilled into the sill. At the top – which is out of reach, I employed the same system, but as you can see in the photo, I employed a spring to keep the bolt in the extended position, and a cord tied to the bolt which is long enough to operate from a normal standing height.
The left door is secured to the right door by means of an old-fashioned lift-latch which came off the old outside toilet door, is made of iron, and dates from about 1901 when the house was first built. It took some work to clean and recover this item, and I’m quite proud of that 😉 .
That’s the long and short of it – our bedroom shutter doors. They cut out noise from the neighborhood to an acceptable, tolerable level for a good nights’ sleep, and daylight in case one of us has a migraine or want to have a peaceful afternoon nap! Plus, they add to the overall visual effect of our rustic little hideaway!
I hope this gives you some good ideas and inspiration for D.I.Y.’ing around the house!
Pictures included – enjoy!
Have a DIY day!
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