Common Mistakes to Avoid When Installing DIY Plantation Shutters

Feb 12, 2024

I’ve been asked countless times for advice on DIY plantation shutter installation. The biggest reason for taking the DIY route seems to be the cost of tradespeople. If you can find someone reliable, they could be asking 10% more than a year ago due to Australia’s skilled labour shortage.

I understand the appeal of DIY. I’m a self-confessed weekend warrior and love the satisfaction (and savings) of completing a task like this myself.

Installing plantation shutters can seem like a straightforward job, especially if you’re only upgrading a couple of windows in one room. And there are loads of benefits if you do a good job of it:

  • Improve your home’s appearance
  • Raise the intrinsic property value
  • Save on heating and cooling costs
  • Control the light entering your home

Plantation shutters are a stylish and functional addition to any Perth home.

However, as someone who has spent 10+ years installing plantation shutters and window coverings almost daily, I’m here to tell you that a skilled hand (and made-to-measure shutters) make a big difference to the result.

Improperly installed shutters may not block out light or heat as effectively, and they may not be as durable, versatile or insulating. So, before embarking on your own weekend warrior project, check out these common mistakes to avoid when installing DIY plantation shutters.

Plantation shutters DIY installation: 5 mistakes that can blow out the cost of an easy upgrade

  1. Fit

Incorrect measurements are among the most common mistakes on DIY plantation shutter installations. If your measurements are even slightly off, the shutters won’t fit properly and may not close all the way. Or they could go the other way, leaving a gap for air to leak and negating any insulation benefits.

Measuring for shutters is more intricate than pulling a tape measure across your window cavity. There are considerations like swelling and shrinking, material thickness, air flow, ventilation, frame material and window depth. Things get even more complex with non-standard windows.

Even if you are comfortable fitting your own shutters, getting the manufacturer to measure for the job is a good idea. This ensures accuracy for every unique window so your shutters fit and function properly.

  1. Form

Materials matter. Off-the-shelf plantation shutters tend to be formed using wood, medium-density fibreboard (MDF), polyvinyl chloride (PVC) or aluminium, while professionally manufactured shutters like INSPIRE are made using a unique poly-composite material.

When choosing materials for your plantation shutters, it’s important to consider:

  • Your budget. MDF shutters are often the most affordable option, while aluminium shutters are the most expensive. INSPIRE shutters fall somewhere in the middle.
  • The climate in your area. If you live in a humid area, you may want to choose a material that is resistant to moisture, which is typically anything other than wood. However, aluminium can also slowly rust in high-salinity areas like coastal suburbs.
  • The style of your home. If you have a traditional home, wood shutters or a wood look is often a good match. Modern homes tend to suit the clean simplicity of INSPIRE or vinyl shutters, or aluminium with a coat of paint.

It’s also important to consider the warranty that comes with the shutters. The standard warranty on PVC products, the type that’s popular with DIY plantation shutter installations, is 10 years. On the other hand, the INSPIRE shutters we supply and install carry a 15-year warranty on the panel and frames.

  1. Function

Misaligned shutters can lead to a range of problems that diminish the overall quality of the installation. An unsightly window is the least of your worries. Improper alignment can result in difficulty opening and closing the shutters, structural strain on hinges and frames, premature wear and tear, and poor insulation performance.

If you’re committed to seeing through your DIY plantation shutter installation, here are a few tips I’ve learned over the years:

  • Use levelling tools like a spirit level and square to ensure each panel is plumb.
  • Measure carefully before installation, double-checking and marking the hinge and mounting points precisely.
  • Test the shutter’s operation before securing it into the final position, making sure it’s not catching or difficult to operate.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines meticulously to achieve the best results.
  • Install one panel at a time, and don’t rush the job.
  • Enlist a helper, especially for larger or heavier panels.

If you’re not comfortable aligning the shutters yourself, or you don’t have the right tools, you can always hire a professional for the installation. This is a good option if you are unsure how to align the shutters properly or want to guarantee they are aligned.

  1. Fabrication (and installation)

Hardware stores carry a range of plantation shutters in standard sizes. If you’ve measured twice and are certain an off-the-shelf option will sit flush, you’re in luck.

In my experience, plantation shutters work especially well in non-standard sizing, like circular windows and high doors. For these unique situations, your only option is custom fabrication.

But that shouldn’t mean paying through the nose for fabrication. One of the biggest advantages of INSPIRE plantation shutters is the ability to modify the size and shape as needed, without needing to engineer an entirely new shutter. 

Custom fabrication also ensures your shutters are millimetre-perfect, crucial for insulation, light control, noise blocking and airflow.

When it comes time for installation, DIY plantation shutters require confidence in using common tools. If you don’t have the right equipment, you could damage the shutters or your windows.

Here’s what you need for plantation shutter DIY installation:

  • Tape measure to measure the windows.
  • Drill for the screw holes.
  • Saw to cut the shutters to size (if they are not professionally fabricated).
  • Screwdriver to tighten the screws that hold the shutters in place.
  • Level and square to align the shutters.
  • Caulk gun to seal around the shutters and prevent air leaks.
  • Safety glasses to protect your eyes from debris.

It’s also a good idea to have a ladder on hand if installing shutters on tall or high windows.

  1. Finish

Most retail and DIY plantation shutters are white, while wood and aluminium shutters can be painted in a range of colours and finishes. 

That white coating, such as the one that’s standard on our INSPIRE shutters, is incredibly durable. It requires very little maintenance and is warrantied for 15 years. Non-factory paint applications only carry a 5-year warranty.

Be careful to only clean your plantation shutters with a small amount of neutral soap on a damp cloth. Harsh abrasives or chemicals can damage the finish and risk invalidating your warranty.

Installing plantation shutters DIY in Australia has additional caveats, such as salty coastal air and exceedingly hot summers. For example, INSPIRE plantation shutters are only warrantied in coastal areas if the hinges and screws are stainless steel. 

These details, which professional installers are more experienced at catching, can make all the difference. Getting the finish right prevents unforeseen costs and unnecessary maintenance.

So, should you go ahead with DIY plantation shutter installation?

Before tackling a DIY plantation shutter project, it’s important to know what you’re in for. With the right tools, patience, a professionally manufactured shutter, and experience, you can get a great result and save some money

However, if you’re not comfortable doing the job yourself, I encourage you to contact Smarter Outdoors for a free consultation

I would be happy to help you find the perfect shutters for your home and ensure they are measured, fabricated, installed and finished to meet your exact requirements.