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Why Fake Shutters Make Me Angry

Why Fake Shutters Make Me AngryIt’s true that I have a problem with fake shutters. If you follow my instagram page you’ll see a healthy spattering of shutter fails. They give me a little bit of rage that no other architectural element does (I’ve written about the other design flaws that drive me nuts here). The purpose of this post isn’t just to vent (though it will be therapeutic for me!), but rather to explain why something as insignificant as a fake shutter flies in the face of almost every rule of design.

My hope is that more people will see the mistake that fake shutters are and it will prevent even just one more house from giving its windows a black eye and making me that much crazier. Beware that once you read this post, you will likely be cursed like me in noticing the world of fake shutters on buildings everywhere. It will be like when the lights come on at the bar at closing time and you realize exactly what that person you’ve been dancing with all night really looks like. Be frightened!

Why Fake Shutters?

real shutters
“Real” Shutters

Why do they exist? I guess because real shutters look so great that a lot of other people wanted to jump on the shutter band wagon but couldn’t afford real shutters. If your shutters don’t operate, you won’t realize just how bad they really are.

You see, real shutters…shut. It’s that simple. If your shutters don’t shut, they are fake. Shutters were designed to cover your window for a multitude of reasons. They protect against storms or other inclement weather. The provide relief from the hot summer sun and cold winter winds. They keep rain, hail, sleet and snow off your windows, and extend their life. They can provide privacy or help to darken a room for sleep. Shutters are immensely practical and useful.

But when you take a randomly sized piece of plastic and screw it to the siding next to your window and call it a shutter, you are fooling yourself and a few others, but no one who reads this blog anymore. In the title of this post I promised you the reasons why they get my goad, so I might as well dig into the details.

Reason #1 They Don’t Fit

This is the most obvious and makes it easy to spot for just about everyone. If your window is 6 feet wide and your shutter is only a foot wide, who do you think you are fooling? You may not think it’s a big deal, but proportions matter. Putting undersized fake shutters on your house is like driving a big rig with 18 donut spare tires. It’s awkward and ineffective.

Real shutters are designed to be exactly half of the window dimension so that when you close both sides they cover the window precisely. Too small and they leave the window unprotected, too large and they won’t close. If you are going to get fake shutters then at least make it hard enough that my kindergartener can’t tell.

Reason #2 The Slats Are Wrong

This one is a little harder to see when flying by in the car but walking the neighborhood it’s abundantly clear. Here’s the deal: the louvers on shutters are designed to shed water…when closed. When they are open the louvres would be angled so that they are channeling water back onto the siding instead of down and away from the building like on fake shutters.

I can only assume that the genius designers of fake shutters did this because fake shutters only have one position they can be in and that is open. You’d think that before they designed their fake shutter they would have looked at how real shutters were, but apparently that was too much to ask.

Reason #3 Wrong Design

Not every house style was intended to have shutters on it and certain house styles have shutter designs that are distinct to them. Shutters with pictures cut into a top panel were usually for Colonial and Colonial Revival houses. Board and batten shutters fit well on Mission and Spanish style homes, plantation shutters belong on southern plantation homes. When you take any random shutter design and put it on a house at random, you’re playing shutter roulette.

Just like kids need Garanimals to help them pick clothes that match, adults need a similar system for shutters on their houses. If you don’t know what style belongs on your house, then ask someone who does like.

Reason #4 Wrong Place

Not every window fits the same kind of shutter, and not every window was designed to accommodate a shutter. Just because you want a shutter on that window, doesn’t mean you should have one. Every shutter gets a window, but not every window gets a shutter. I should make that into a T-shirt.


Now that you know, start looking around your neighborhood. Are they too small? Too big? Are they permanently fixed to the building or worse yet, a part of the actual building themselves? Are they upside down, the wrong size, the wrong style? So many questions and so many fake shutters that it’s like a shutter-pocaplypse outside.

It may seem ugly out there, but now that you are aware of shutters you can truly appreciate a beautiful pair of historic shutters. A pair of real shutters added to the right window adds so much charm to a window it’s unreal. And I guess that beauty is what the fakers tried to duplicate. The truth is, nothing compares to the real deal, but you already knew that didn’t you?

And I went even further by making you guys a fun video! Check it out below for some great “advice” about vinyl shutters.

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124 thoughts on “Why Fake Shutters Make Me Angry

  1. Hello,

    People will use the fake shutters. I do get the real shutters are awesome and not fake BS since that one episode on This Old House where Tom goes to someone’s house out there on the east coast and replaces the fake shutters with real beautiful ones. However, most people not in tornado, storm, hurricane country, they are worth putting on for a decorative affect. I would like real shutters but really don’t need them unless I’m concerned about the 1 in 50 or 100 year event. I would have liked to know what you would like to see in the fake shutters (if anything) like size, how much more they would cost for the fake shutters made of wood vs real shutters made of wood, and some places to start my search. I’m continuing my search and may be the only person in my county or perhaps northern California that has real shutters but I’ll go for it if the price is right!



  2. Count me in agreement but I just ordered……fake shutters for my new windows. LOL and they are now going to be 14″ wide versus 16″ wide. The wife “gets it” when I pointed out this article (and a few others). However, in the end? She views them as Southern trim and besides, “Happy Wife, Happy Life”. I pick and choose my battles!
    Good article 🙂

  3. This is awesome!! I’ve hated those shutters since the first time I ever noticed them. I’ve never thought they look even remotely good and as a carpenter I’ve removed the pieces of junk and thought hmm why would anyone think for a second that they add anything to a home. Anyway awesome to see I’m not the only one to ever think of them as I have.

  4. Fake shutters also bother me to no end. At least make them proportional to the window and of the same shape. Better yet buy an old house with real ones.

  5. I’m going to add my irritation of fake shutters here, and this from experience living in a house with fake shutters designed in.
    They are a great place for wasps to build their nests. So if you do have fake shutters, don’t forget to check them if you are trying to de-wasp your property.

  6. I have a traditional, 4-column brick Colonial home and HATE the plastic, faded blue shutters. Would it be wrong to just remove them and put no shutters back up. They are expensive and would serve no purpose except decoration. Would appreciate your advise on a shutterless Colonial.

  7. When you have a 4 foot wide window with 2 foot wide shutters on each side, that does not look proportionally aesthetic to me.. I understand the necessity if functionality is the issue, but a 2 foot wide batch of color on each window side just dominates too much. Thinner ones just acting as trim don’t

    1. I’m no shutter expert, but I think they wouldn’t have been 2 ft wide on each side. There would likely be 2 hinged panels on each side, each approx 1 ft wide. Then to use them, you would pull the hinged panels toward the center, which straightens them into four hinged panels across the window (then lock/latch on the inside).

  8. I realize this is an old post , but I just ran across it. I have always hated fake shutters, for the reasons you mention in your post. Of course, I have friends and relatives with fake shutters. They are everywhere. And of course they defend them, saying they make a house look nice. My arguments fall on deaf ears. I guess I just hate anything fake. It’s deceptive.

  9. Hi there! Any advice on style of (real) shutters on a small 2 story all brick home. Chicago-very plain front “Georgian” (according to realtor). The house is very plain on the front and we’d like to get real shutters made provide some interest to the front of the home. It’s hard to know where to begin….

    1. Shelly,

      After researching Georgian style, we across these two articles https://www.architecturaldigest.com/gallery/classic-georgian-homes and http://www.phmc.state.pa.us/portal/communities/architecture/styles/georgian.html. The second article shows photos of homes, two of which have shutters. These images would be a great starting point for understanding the style of shutter to consider for your home.

      Best of luck on your project.

      -The Craftsman Blog Team

  10. Thanks for this Scott! We just bought a 1970s ranch house – it and every other house in the neighborhood has fake shutters, which annoys and puzzles me so much I googled ‘why fake shutters on 70s ranch houses’ and found your blog. My view is, if you’re a 1970s house, own it! (Within reason, I may draw the line at an avocado bathroom). But don’t put up a fake veneer harking back to some imagined past.

  11. Just wanted to drop you a note of thanks for taking the time to write this up. I have been on a personal crusade against fake shutters. I enjoyed a chuckle at your installation video, as well.

    Keep up the good fight.

  12. Fake shutters are epidemic across America.

    We are building a semi-custom house and that was 1 thing I changed on the plan. In the front bedroom was an oversized window with those ridiculously small shutters. So I made the window smaller and had hand made custom shutters that could actually close and match the style of the house.

    Makes a huge difference in the curb appeal.

  13. I dunno. My parents have a late-20s spanish revival house with fake shutters. They’ve always been there based on old photos. It seems pretty Honestly, this is interior California (Sacramento), and I don’t think anyone really installed functional shutters during this era here. Basically all the houses in this neighborhood have fake shutters — the only notable exceptions are Monterey style houses that have functional shutters over doors — , and this was a pretty high end, custom built neighborhood that was built 1925-1935.
    They; however, are exactly the size of the windows, are on the top windows only, and are board and batten. Basically every house here with fake shutters are properly sized and generally fit the aesthetic of the house.

  14. I love Tudor houses but hate hate hate the fake ones that slap on a few boards painted black on the outer surface, often where they don’t even make sense.

    As for fake shutters? Sheesh, every architectural element adds cost, maintenance, replacement, more places for bugs to live. If you don’t need something, don’t put it in!

  15. Hi there,
    Our situation is that we have fake shutters on one of our (three) front windows–the window that doesn’t have any wood trim (only vinyl). So the shutters kind of compensate for the lack of trim by framing the window with the same color as the other windows have in their wood trim. What would you recommend?

  16. I loath the fake black shutters on the old farmhouse we just bought that are screwed in next to the windows on the siding. We have the original windows and can see the ghost marks of the working shutters that were once on the house. I’m wanting to bring the historic look back to the house and mount them correctly with the right hardware. They don’t need to be operational though since we are getting new windows that don’t need them closed. Do you have a video on how to actually install shutters? We are building our own board and batten ones.

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