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A quick look at the functions behind shutters

The traditional purpose of a shutter

Modern shutters are largely decorative, serving only as jewelry for a home. This is widespread in the United States, to the extent that the windows on modern homes are not designed to accommodate functional shutters and require tricky work arounds. However, traditional shutters were not merely decorative pieces - they served a purpose on a home in the times before air conditioners. Let's take a quick look at what shutters were for, and how they served that purpose.

Security and Protection

In colonial times, there were no police, and the threat of wild animals getting into your home was very real. A home required windows for light and air to enter, but those windows also provided entry points for bad weather, and wild critters. In the time before police were available within minutes, they also provided an entry point for criminals or even hostile natives. The ability to close up those windows was a necessity, and shutters were the method to do so.

On the first floor of a home, paneled shutters were the order of the day. They provided a solid, protective wall over windows, keeping out bad weather, wild animals, and sometimes even providing a barrier to hostile intruders. Slide Bolts would serve as a lock on the shutters, locking them in place against strong winds or intruders.


While having a way to close the home was a necessity, allowing ventilation and proper air flow was also very needed. There were no electrics fans or air conditioners, so making use of natural drafts and allowing air flow was imperative. Thus, on the second floor of homes, where security was less of a concern, louvered shutters were used. The angled slats would prevent direct sunlight from entering and warming a hot home in summer. The gaps between the louvers would allow airflow, so the hot air rising from the lower levels of the home could escape and keep the house comfortable. On the first floor, paneled shutters could have horns, short extension of the stiles below the bottom rail. This created a small gap into which cool air could flow, which would then flow upwards via convection as it heated in the home, then out via the louvers on the upper floors. This created an air flow that could keep a house bearable even on the hot days of summer


While a traditional setup of louver and paneled shutters created a nice airflow, they required skilled craftsmanship and the expense that implies. On less important structures, or on home of those who couldn't afford the more expensive shutters, Board and Batten shutters were an alternative. The simple construction could be created by just about anyone, requiring only wood, a few nails, and minimal carpentry skills. They didn't provide airflow the way louvered shutters or horns did, but they did provide easily available security. Modern Board and Batten are more solidly constructed, but maintain the traditional look of a simpler time.

The traditional function of shutters is largely forgotten in the United States, but some tradition-minded homeowners find a way to keep the tradition alive. And in Europe, where air conditioners are far less common, they still serve their traditional purpose. While modern American homes are not designed to allow for functional shutters with their traditional mounts, Vixen Hill Shutter Experts are more than happy to help find a way to add functional shutters to your home. Just give us a call at 1-800-423-2766 and we will help find a way for you to keep the traditional alive.