By Owen Jones

When you want to add style to your house, one way of doing so and adding security at the same time, is by having window shutters fixed to the exterior of your home. Exterior window shutters add a traditional, Mediterranean look to a property. These days, most residences have glass windows, but before that, people used shutters to adjust the light levels, stop insects and the cold from entering and for protection.

Exterior window shutters are available in many different shapes and made from various materials, although the most common ones are wooden and oblong. The quality of the materials used will influence how long your shutters will last, because, as with all exterior goods, they will be exposed to all forms of extreme weather conditions.

Plastic, vinyl, metal and wooden shutters are available at many home improvement centres. Although they look good, shutters also have practical uses. They can prevent glaring noon sunlight from over heating your home as well as offering protection.

Cedar wood is a good choice, as are most other hard woods. Hardwoods are more resistant to rain and sunlight and, so long as they are painted, varnished or oiled regularly - at least once a year - then your shutters will give you ten or more years of effective service.

Most varieties of hardwood are very resistant to attack from insects too. This is because a lot of them contain oils that are repugnant or even poisonous to insects. However, if you are uncertain about the quality of the timber that your shutters are crafted from, you can paint them.

Painting, staining or oiling is far simpler if you carry it out before you hang the shutters. If you want to use oil to take care of your new wooden shutters, first stain them to the colour that you want them to be with a stain without varnish. When you have accomplished the desired shade and it has dried, pour oil linseed oil onto a cloth and rub it into the wood in circular motions. The more coats you give it the better, but it may not take more that two or three coats.

If you want to varnish your shutters, either stain them to the colour you require as above and then seal them with clear yacht varnish or use a stained yacht varnish without the stain. Whichever way you go, thin the first coat of varnish down until it is almost watery. Paint it on and leave to dry. Rub it down with medium coarse sandpaper and then coat it again with neat varnish. Wait for it to dry and sand it down again, but with fine sandpaper. Add at least one more coat, but it is a matter of the more the better.

If you decide to paint them, apply a primer or some thinned down undercoat. Wait for it to dry and sand it lightly with fine sandpaper. Next, put on a coat of undercoat that is suitable for the finishing colour. For example, grey is good for black, brown and even olive or red. Sand it down when it is dry with fine paper. Lastly, gloss your shutters with the final colour.

In conclusion, hang the shutters on apposite hinges using brass screws. Next time, you paint or varnish your shutters paint over the screw heads, although brass never looks out of place anyway.

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