A Homeowner's Guide To Painting Shutters

Jeremy Holderness

Painting Shutters On A Window In Light BlueExterior window shutters are a widely-used visual accent on many houses in the U.S. today.  And while their original function was for the purpose of privacy, light filtration, or protection from storm damage, they've now become more of a vehicle for adding a splash of color to a home's paint scheme.

Regardless of their purpose, as with any other exterior painted fixture, they have to be maintained.  So this week's article will be a guide to painting shutters on your home.


Functional Shutters

Functional/operable shutters are typically made of a hardwood material and they either swing completely closed to cover the window or they swing completely open (as in the picture above) to allow total exposure.  You'll want to remove this kind of shutter from the house so that it can be painted on all six sides.

Functional shutters are usually hung with two strap hinges that are attached to the shutter itself, and the hinges rest and swing on a piece of metal hardware that attaches to the house called a pintle.  To remove the shutter from the house you would simply lift and slide it off of the pintles.  I would remove all of the metal hardware so that they can also be re-painted with some spray paint.

Clean The Shutter - You can use either a pressure washer or a scrub brush with a good pre-paint cleaner to clean the shutters.  Using a pressure washer also gives you the added benefit of helping to remove any loose coatings -- just be careful that you don't damage the wood by holding the pressure washer wand too close to the surface, or hold it in one spot for too long.

Scrape Loose Paint & Sand - Using a paint scraper or a 5-in-1 tool, remove any loose or peeling coatings from the shutters once they've had a chance to completely dry from the cleaning.  If you want the best-looking job, as well as the longest-lasting job, be sure to feather-sand any edges of scraped paint.

Fix Any Damage - Larger cracks in the wood can be filled with a quality, paintable exterior-grade wood filler.  Rotted wood areas, or areas where wood damage is more widespread, may call for an extensive wood repair.

Prime, Caulk, & Paint - Any bare wood areas should be primed with an oil-based wood primer, preferably one that's slow drying to allow it to penetrate further into the wood and adhere better.  

Small cracks can be caulked with a high-quality exterior grade caulking.

Once the prep work is completed, apply two coats of a 100% acrylic exterior latex paint.  The paint can be applied by brush and roller, but if you're painting a louvered shutter you might want to seriously consider renting an airless paint sprayer to make it easier to get paint into all those cracks and crevices.


Decorative Shutters (Vinyl, Plastic, etc)

Decorative shutters are just that -- they're there for pure decoration and not a functional part of your home.  And as long as you can mask-off the surrounding area of siding around them, you should be able to get by with not having to remove them during the repaint.

Most of these types of shutters we see are made of vinyl...or should I say that they are commonly referred to as "vinyl shutters".  However, this is often not the case and it can actually cause a lot of problems when you're re-painting them.

Cleaning & Removing Previous Peeling Coatings - The cleaning process for decorative shutters is much the same as with functional shutters, as-is the removing of any peeling paint if they happen to have been previously-painted.

Sanding - Here's where the aforementioned problems start to come into play.  Painting vinyl siding and other vinyl substrates on your home generally works, as house paint does adhere well to vinyl.  The issue is that many "vinyl" shutters are actually made of plastic, and if you don't prepare them correctly you'll end up with a peeling paint nightmare.

Before you go any further, the plastic surface should be scuff sanded or scrubbed with an abrasive cleaner to dull the surface for best adhesion.

Priming & Painting - Plastics require special bonding primers before they can accept house paint.  One such primer is Extreme Bond Primer by Sherwin-Williams.  Even though this product is recommended for priming plastics, the manufacturer does give this caveat, "Due to the diverse nature of plastic substrates, a coating or coating system must be tested for acceptable adhesion to the substrate prior to use in production. Reground and recycled plastics along with various fire retardants, flowing agents, mold release agents, and foaming/blowing agents will affect coating adhesion."  Which should go to show you how finicky plastics can be to paint.

The good news is that once you have them properly primed you can use any quality 100% acrylic latex paint as a topcoat.  However, I personally like to err on the side of caution and apply the same rules for painting mystery-substrate shutters as I do for painting vinyl siding -- either don't paint them with a darker color than the original color, or use a color from a 'Vinyl-Safe' color palette.

And if you're a homeowner who's a fan of using aerosol paint cans, you should also know that Krylon makes a line of plastic paints called Fusion that I've been told could be used in this application as well; possibly even making the job easier.

For such a small area of your home, shutters are a time-consuming project that requires some extra attention to detail.  The payoff is that they allow you to take an accent color that otherwise might be restricted to your front door, and spread it throughout the entire home, which can make a huge difference in your exterior color scheme.

If you would like some assistance with your house painting project please give us a call at (813) 570-8800, visit our Contact Us page, or click on the button below to request your free, no-obligation consultation and quote.


photo by: Ed g2sCC BY-SA 3.0

Contact the Pros

Ready to get started with your next painting project but unsure if it is in your budget? Reach out to the expert painting team at ImageWorks Painting to schedule a free consultation today. Give us a call at 724-898-2446, or request a visit online.