Shutters are simply one of the most beautiful and traditional way to enhance any window. The design has impressed our aesthetic needs for centuries. But the average cost to install a plantation shutter in a home ranges from $150 – $350 per window. For a long time, I wanted to install shutters in our living room. So I decided to go the cheaper route by making my own DIY Plantation Shutters from plywood.
I’ve looked around locally for different shutter types and prices; for the three windows in our living room, the average price was about $800. Yet when I’ve made it myself, It cost me about $100 for the material. Also, since I was planning to paint the shutters white, I choose to use ¾” and ½” plywood to make it cheaper.
Benefits of plantation shutters
Believe it or not, plantation shutters provide insulation on very cold days and hot days. Closing the shutters will help keep the heat and sun out during the summer and provide an extra layer of protection against cold months. Plantation shutters are installed in such a way that they seal right up against the window frame and reduce the escape of heat or cold air.
In addition to energy efficiency, plantation shutters offer the convenience of easy maintenance. They are sturdy and can handle some friction and could be easily cleaned with a vacuum cleaner brush attachment. This will help your home stay clean and healthy.
Many window coverings also present risks to children and pets, as they include cords that are reachable even at low levels. Plantation shutters eliminate that concern, as they work with a control arm that’s attached to slats. You don’t have to worry about strings or cords that hang from blinds. With child safety in mind plantation shutters definitely help parent sleep better at night.
You also might be interested in DIY multi-room whole house fan project I made for our house that is energy efficient and saves money on air conditioning.
Time to Complete
Plantation Shutters From Plywood PDF
This PDF download includes Cut Diagrams, a List of Supplies, and 3D illustrations with detailed steps to build the project. Measurements are in imperial and not metric. Does NOT include SketchUp/CAD files.
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Tools for this project
Note: Lumber dimensions are listed as nominal size. See lumber sizes for actual dimensions vs nominal.
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Window Frame Dimensions
Plantation Shutters Diagram
Step 1 – Cut Louver Frame Pieces and Slats Using Plywood
First, take ¾” plywood and cut all the pieces. To make the cutting process easier, using a skill saw cut the full sheet of plywood into 4 smaller pieces as shown in the cut list. It’s much easier to cut a smaller sheet of plywood on a table saw then a full 8’x4’ sheet. The inside window frame and the louver frame are made using ¾” plywood, but the slats are made from ½” plywood. Do the same thing with ½” plywood by cutting it into smaller sections first and then cut the slats on the table saw. You want to make sure that each cut is perfectly straight.
Step 2 – Chamfer Front and Back of Each Slat with a Wood Router
To make the front and back of slats rounded you need to use a wood router. You could either buy an expensive router bit that is specifically designed for plantation shutter slats or get something cheaper that just chamfers the edges. I decided to go with a simple round-over bit to chamber the edges, see picture. Although my slats don’t look like standard slats, I think they turned out pretty good.
To chamfer the corners perfectly you need to use a router table. But when I was working on this project, I didn’t have a router table so I made a small jig that works similar to a table. I used a piece of ¾” plywood and drilled a hole to insert the router bit. Then attached the router at the bottom of the plywood and added a 2” rail on top to slide the slats across. It took some time to go through all the slats but I got it done.
Step 3 – Trim Slats for Hidden Control Arm
Opening and closing the slats requires a control arm that could either be on the front or hidden in the back. For these plantation shutters, I decided to have a hidden control arm in the back. The hidden control arm is basically a flat sheet of metal that connects all the slats together. If you attach this control arm directly to the slats, then the slats will not close all the way because the metal will hit the louver frame. Therefore each slat needs to have a notch cut out on the backside. On your table saw raise the blade about 5/8 of an inch. Then clamp several slats together and slide them through the blade making a notch same thickness as the saw blade (see picture).
Step 4 – Drill Holes on Both Sides of Each Slat
When drilling holes in slats, it is very important to have them exactly in the center consistently on each slat. Otherwise, you’ll end up with some slats higher and some lower with uneven gaps between them. It is best to use a drill press to drill straight and evenly centered holes. But since I don’t have a drill press, I just clamped my drill to the workbench and used that setup to keep the holes consistent.
Typically you could purchase plastic pins that hold the slats on the frame. But I had a bunch of metal pop rivets that I used on my previous projects, so I used them instead of plastic pins. Pop rivets are typically used to join sheet metal together. Metal pop rivets are much stronger and cost the same if not cheaper. Use a 3/32″ drill bit, drill 1 1/4″ deep holes in the slats if you’re using pop rivets.
Step 5 – Chamfer Top and Bottom Rail Boards
The louver frame consists of two side pieces (stile) that slats attach to, one top rail and one bottom rail. Take the top and bottom rail and chamfer each board at a 45-degree angle using a table saw (see picture).
Step 6 – Drill Pocket Holes in Top and Bottom Rails
Now take those chamfered top and bottom rails and drill two pocket holes on the backside using a Kreg Jig. These pocket holes will be used to hold the louver frame together. Set the Kreg Jig for ¾” wood thickness and drill the holes as shown in the picture. If you don’t want to use the pocket holes you could use Dowelmax jig for wooden dowels. Since I’m painting the plantation shutters, I didn’t mind using pocket holes.
Step 7 – Measure and Mark Hole Location in Stile Boards
Take the louver stile pieces and starting from the bottom of the board measure 5 1/2″. This 5 ½” measurement will be the center of the first slat. Then from that mark continue marking every 3″ until you get to the last mark that’s 5” from the top of the stile. To make my job easier, I took all of the stile pieces and clamped together before marking the measurements. Then using a square I drew a line across all stile pieces to save time. Drill a 1/4″ deep hole at each mark using a 1/8″ drill bit. Make sure all holes are centered on the mark.
Step 8 – Drill a Hole for Frameless Cabinet Hinges
For this project, I decided to use overlay frameless cabinet hinges instead of typical mortise hinges. Since I was planning to install trim around the louvers, using cabinet hinges allows me to open the louvers without hitting the trim.
You will need a 1 3/8″ by 3/8″ Shank Forstner Drill Bit and a 7/64″ Self Centering Hinge Drill Bit to drill the holes for the hinges. First, figure out whether to attach hinges on the left stile board or the right. Measure 12″ from the bottom and 12″ from the top and mark it with a pencil. The hinges you purchase usually come with a template. Place the template at the 12″ mark and using a scratch awl, push down through the template x marks to make a little dent in the door. Remove the template and drill a 1 3/8″ hole at the center of the mark using shank Forstner drill bit. Place the hinge inside the large hole and pre-drill the screw holes using a self-centering hinge drill bit. Repeat the step to drill the holes on stile boards that require it.
Step 9 – Attach Top and Bottom Rail to a Stile Board
Begin by assembling the frame of the louver. Attach the top and bottom rail to the stile board that has the hinges using 1 1/4″ pocket hole screws and wood glue.
Step 10 – Insert Slats Into the Stile Board
When inserting the slats, make sure that the notch for the control arm on the slats are facing the stile board with hinges.
Step 11 – Attach the Second Stile Board to the Louver Frame
Now take the other stile board and insert slats into the holes. You might need some help to get this done. Once all of the slats are inserted, attach the stile board to the top and bottom rail using wood glue and 1 1/4″ pocket hole screws. Place the frameless cabinet hinges inside the hole and attach them with the screws that came with hinges.
Step 12 – Make a Hidden Control Arm from Sheet Metal
Since the louver is 58” tall, I decided to install two separate control arms. So the upper 9 slats are controlled by one arm and the lower 8 slats are controlled by the second arm.
Take a flat sheet of metal that’s about 27” long and cut 1” wide strips. Measure ½” from the bottom of the metal and make a mark. This ½” mark is for a nail to control the first slat. Then continue marking every 3” on the metal strip. Using sheet metal snips cut out the control arm as shown in the picture.
When using sheet metal snips the metal tends to twist like a curlicue. Once I was done cutting out the control arm, I placed it on the concrete porch outside and hammered it flat. Then take a scratch awl and place it at the first ½” mark and hit it with the hammer so that the nail goes through the metal slightly. This will make the installation of the control arm easier. Repeat this process to go thru all of the marks and attach the control arm to the louver using 1 ¼” finish nails.
Step 13 – Assemble the Window Frame
The louver will be attached to a 2 ½” wide frame that goes inside the window. This frame is the same size as the louver. Drill two pocket holes on each side of the upper and lower frame board. Then attach these boards together using wood glue and 1 1/4″ pocket hole screws.
Once the window frame is assembled, attach the hinges mounting plate to the inside of the frame. Measure 12” from the bottom and 12” from the top of the window frame. Release the mounting plate from the louver and attach it to the frame. It’s easier to screw in a small mounting plate hinge by itself than to hold a large louver while trying to attach it in place.
Step 14 – Paint and Install the Louvers
Before installation paint the window frame and the louvers using a paint sprayer. Then insert the frame inside the window and secure it with wood screws. Attach the louver hinges to the mounting plate on the frame. Do the same thing for the other windows.
Step 15 – Install Trim Around the DIY Plantation Shutters
Once all of the shutters are installed, cut the trim boards at 45 degrees and attach trim around the louvers using a nail gun. Paint the trim. You’re done with DIY plantation shutters.