Repairing sagging shutters

graywings123April 17, 2013

The shutters on my house are out of plumb and I want to figure out a way to get them squared off again. One shutter is particularly bad, with the louvers falling out. The framing around the louvers has separated a little but not a lot.

Any suggestions on how to go about doing this? I have had them off the house for the last 1.5 years, and since I stored them vertically, possibly they have straightened out some on their own.

I figured I would scrape the peeling paint (yes, I know about lead paint), wash and scrub them, and then while they are still wet, tap them with a mallet and try to get them square. I was thinking of using a wire and turnbuckle diagonally on the back to keep them in plumb. Is that done? Or flat L brackets?

I recently discovered that my house is older than was previously thought, so these shutters are probably 113 years old.

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They are sagging because the weight of the shutter has crushed the soft white pine tenons over the last 113 years. There is no perfect way to fix this. A cabinetmaker of the old school could add new slips of wood to the tenons to firm the joints up.
A quickie repair would be to epoxy the tenons and mortises together while clamping it square, but this is a last-gasp irreversible remedy.
You could try screen door turnbuckle braces on the unseen side of the shutters, as it will hold for a time and does no real permanent harm.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2013 at 8:43PM
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The thing with the turnbuckles is that you will have to adjust them over time as they loosen--I've had to do this on the one on my rear screen door. Also, if you decide to operate the shutters, the turnbuckles will show when they are closed.

It may be a chore, but if they are already separating at the joints, I'd go ahead and add small shims to the tenons as suggested above.

For the second option mentioned, rather than epoxy, what about a wood filler instead?

    Bookmark   April 17, 2013 at 10:38PM
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Thanks for the replies. The joints are not separated enough to allow room to access the tenons.

Is the idea of using flat L brackets on the back to support the wood considered just too amateurish? Someone previously attached this board to the back of one of them, and then screwed a few of the louvers onto it.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2013 at 8:55AM
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I repaired some absolutely hideously massive shutters (closed they cover an 8x10 doorway), and added heavy L and T brackets. It did work, but only because I mortised them into the wood and the shutters are under a porch and get no wet weather. I was also able to use a lot longer screws because these particular shutters had frames 1 3/4" thick.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2013 at 5:51PM
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It is hard to imagine that no one makes solid brass flat L brackets. The best I can find is galvanized steel.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2013 at 1:55PM
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Brainerd Hardware is the company I knew of that made all sorts of solid brass hardware.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2013 at 4:38PM
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Thanks for the tip, millworkman. Brainerd is now a subsidiary of Liberty Hardware, and my search of their site is coming up empty. Sigh.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2013 at 9:12AM
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Look for 'campaign hardware' and you should find what you are looking for.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2013 at 1:58PM
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That was helpful. Brickeyee's search suggestion led me to Horton Brasses, which has the flat L brackets in solid brass, used as truck brackets. They are 1/16 inch thick. I need to contact them and see what they say.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2013 at 8:13PM
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