I recently walked through a neighborhood in a Massachusetts town on the South Shore. As you might expect, the homes facing the ocean tended to be more luxurious, while the homes a few blocks in from the beach tended to be more humble.
It’s fun to look at houses from the sidewalk (or, in this case, the beach). During my stroll, I ruminated on house design and construction quality. In this blog, I’ll focus on two themes: the first concerns shutters, and the second concerns flashing and water-management details.
What are shutters?
Shutters serve many purposes. During a storm, they can protect window glass from wind-driven projectiles. When the homeowners are away, they can provide security against burglars. In crime-ridden neighborhoods, they can allow residents to sleep with an open window that admits fresh air while still excluding intruders. On a hot afternoon, they can exclude sunlight while still allowing a breeze to enter the house. In Alaska, they exclude bears.
Traditional shutters are usually made from wood. They can include louvers that permit ventilation, or they can be solid. In most cases, the width of a shutter is equal to half the width of the window it protects. Shutters hinge outward, and are usually secured in the open position by simple hardware so that they don’t flap in the wind.
Sadly, shutters have fallen on hard times in the U.S. In many cases, builders no longer include any hinges, turning the shutters into useless decorations. The shutters are simply screwed to the wall and can’t even be closed. Here’s what I don’t understand: if the purpose of the shutters is decoration, why can’t the builder get the proportions right? Why are decorative shutters almost always too narrow — less than 50% of the window width?
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