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Tips for Finishing Shutterstile Shutters

Wood Frames

Unfinished Wood. Spanish Cedar, Western Red Cedar, and Eastern Red Cedar are naturally decay resistant. Left unfinished, they will weather to a soft gray. However, weathering takes it's toll on longevity. Changes in humidity will cause the unfinished wood to expand and contract. In time, this may cause the wood to crack or warp and the surface to become soft and rough. So we strongly recommend that you apply a finish to your shutters that completely seals the wood from humidity as soon as possible. Sealing is especially important for hardwoods, like oak, as they have less natural resistance to decay. [Note: failure to maintaing a finish that completely seals the wood from moisture infiltration will void your Shutterstile warranty].

Timing is Important. For the most durable, longest-lasting finish, it's best to apply the paint or stain before the shutters are assembled. Moisture is the enemy, so the ideal finish will completely seal your shutters to prevent moisture penetration. When we finish your shutters, we cover all surfaces except those that will receive glue — prior to assembly.

No Sanding Needed. We sand all of our wood shutters before they are shipped. So they should be ready for paint when you receive them. If you feel you need to sand, a light touchup with a 220 or finer grit paper should be sufficient.

Repairing Minor Damage. Despite its resistance to decay, cedar is a soft wood (Spanish cedar is the hardest of the three). Should you accidentally scratch one of your shutters, a light sanding will probably repair the damage. Most dents, can be removed by lightly wetting the damaged area, covering it with a piece of cloth, and passing a hot iron over it [note: this only works with unfinished wood]. For more severe damage, use an exterior grade wood filler and follow the manufacturer's instructions.

Primer. Many wood species contain high concentrations of tannins which can bleed through the paint if the wood isn't primed before painting with a stain-blocking primer [note: this is less of a problem with dark colors on Spanish Cedar, but a primer should still be used for lighter colored finishes, even if the paint manufacturers says it isn't necessary].

Latex Paints. Latex paints can take months to dry fully. Anyone who has painted a window with latex paint probably knows that this can cause the window to stick. The same thing can happen with removable panels in your Shutterstile shutters.

 figure 1: releasing a sticking panel
If you decide to use a latex paint, there are several things you can do to improve performance. First, wipe down the shutters with rubbing alcohol before finishing to remove any tannins that might be on the surface. Second, apply a quality primer/sealer that is rated for exterior use and compatible with the paint you are planning to use [ideally, the primer should be applied before the shutter is assembled to help prevent moisture penetration]. Third, select a latex paint that claims to have good blocking resistance (blocking is the technical term for the tendancy of latex paint to stick). Fourth, once the paint has dried enough to handle, application of talcum powder, wax, or soap may temporarily relieve blocking. Finally, if you do use a latex paint and later find it difficult to remove a panel, it's usually possible to break the seal by inserting a stiff putty knife under the panel and gently lifting up (figure 1).

Acrylic Paints. The best way to avoid the problems associated with latex paints is to use an acrylic paint instead (not acrylic latex, just 100% acrylic). Acrylic paints won't stick or yellow and, in our experience, are more resistant to bleed through from the tannins [it's still a good idea to wipe down the shutters with rubbing alcohol to remove any tannins that might be on the surface before finishing and to use a stain-blocking primer].

Stains. [Please let us know when you place your order if you intend to stain your wood shutters.] The good news is that most the woods we recommend accept stain well and staining is a very attractive option. However, before you make the decision to stain, you should be aware that exterior stains do not perform as well as paints. Don't be fooled by manufacturers' claims. The best you can hope for is a three to five years before it will be necessary to refinish, or at least replenish a stained finish.

An exterior-grade clear acrylic or polyurethane top coat will extend the life of most stains and slow down fading from UV light. Unfortunately, most exterior stains contain a wax or other water repellant that is incompatible with clear top coats. In addition, it may be necessary to strip the clear coat in order to reapply the stain. We have been experimenting extensively with stains, but have yet to find the perfect one. We'll keep you posted of our progress.

One promising alternative to staining is an exterior grade tung oil. Tung oil requires periodic repeat applications, but there is no need to strip the old finish to achieve a consistent look. We've heard good things about exterior tung oil, but we don't use it in-house because we only use water-based products.

 figure 2: install the rubber bumpers
Don't forget to install the rubber bumpers. If you purchased Shutterstile shutters with interchangeable tile panels and your shutters arrived unfinished, you should have received two small rubber bumpers for each panel. These center the panels vertically in the opening. Apply a small amount of gel Super Glue to one side of each bumper and glue the bumpers to the bottom sill of the panel opening, back against the rabbet, about one third of the width of the opening from each side (figure 2). Press down firmly so the bumpers are seated tight against the sill. Allow the glue to set before installing the panels.

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