If you're looking to beautify and/or protect your home, installing shutters and blinds can prove a rewarding investment. But before you simply attach whatever looked nice in the showroom to your home, here are three basic questions to address.
1. Shutters vs. Blinds - What's the Difference?
Some people get tripped up by the terminology when discussing shutters versus blinds -- and with good reason, since at one time the word "blinds" was used to describe louvered shutters. These days the term is associated with hanging interior panels made up of slats that form louvers, with a cable-and-rod mechanism to control how much light enters the home. The choice between shutters or blinds depends on the intended purpose. For instance:
- Exterior shutters may be fixed or adjustable, and they also protect your windows against exterior debris and other threats. But if you actually intend to use them for this purpose, you're restricted to windows that can be opened.
- Interior shutters can serve as full-size doors or room dividers for extra privacy.
- Blinds provide light control and insulation, but only from the inside of the house, leaving the windows unprotected on the exterior side unless you supplement them with shutters. They can be added to practically any kind of window, including picture windows.
2. Should I Install Functional or Non-functional Shutters?
If you feel that your windows need the extra protection, or you want more variety in how you shade and insulate them, then you definitely want to install the hinge mechanisms to create proper shutters. If you just want the look of open shutters without any of the mechanical fuss, there's nothing wrong with choosing non-functional shutters -- with the following caveats:
- It's all too easy to mount fake shutters in an inconsistent or illogical manner, which completely spoils any illusion you'd hoped to create. Mounting them outside the casing, or with one shutter inside and the other outside the casing, not only looks sloppy but also makes it obvious that the shutters serve no purpose.
- Even non-functional shutters should be sized as if they were going to be put to proper use. For instance, you've probably seen large windows decorated with ridiculously narrow shutters, which makes as much apparent functional sense as the tiny hands on a T. Rex.
3. How Do I Measure for Custom Blinds and Shutters?
Custom shutters should be fully capable of protecting and insulating your window panes, which means that each shutter must measure exactly one-half the size of inside area of the casing. If your installer makes this measurement accurately, the shutters will close easily and sit flush within the casing. Other factors include:
- Hinge offset - The offset of the hinge determines how much distance you have between the inside edge of the shutter and the casing when open. A 1.5-inch offset generally provides both good functionality and interesting shadows on the house.
- Hinge standoff - Standoff refers to the horizontal length of the hinge itself, which determines how easily the shutter will pivot outward.
- Hinge position - On houses with exteriors that don't protrude beyond the window casing, you'll want to attach your hinges to the inside edge of the casing (also known as the jam). If you have a brick exterior that protrudes beyond the casing, you'll fix your hinges to the casing's face instead.
Measurements are just as critical for blinds. In a sense, all blinds are custom blinds -- each unit must be cut to meet the exact dimensions of the window space. You can't simply take some basic measurements and have the cutting done at your local home improvement store. Every window has tiny imperfections or irregularities to take into consideration, including the slant of the home on its foundation. The blinds must be hung first and then trimmed so that they cover the window perfectly.
Unless you're a diehard do-it-yourselfer, gracing your home with new shutters and blinds is a job for an experienced artisan. Contact your local installer from a company like Aero Shade Co. Inc. to schedule an evaluation and get a quote on specific models and materials.