Shutters are simply one of the most beautiful and traditional ways to enhance any window. But the average cost to install one plantation shutter ranges from $150 – $350 per window. For a long time, I wanted to remodel our living room and install the shutters. So I decided to go the cheaper route by making my own DIY Plantation Shutters from plywood.
I’ve spent some time looking around locally for different shutter types and prices. So for the three windows in our living room, the average cost would be around $800. But I was able to make the three plantation shutters for $120. Instead of using solid wood, I’ve used 3/4″ and 1/2″ plywood to make it cheaper. If you are not planning to paint them, then I would recommend using solid wood instead of plywood.
If you’re planning to remodel your living room as I did, here are 16 Living Room Remodel Tips to Design your Perfect Space.
Benefits of the Plantation Shades
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 blinds 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 blinds 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 parents 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.
Why are Plantation Shutters Called Plantation?
There are a few different stories about how plantation shutters got their name. One story says that the name plantation shutters came from the fact that these type of shutters were commonly used on plantations in the Southern United States. Another story says that the name plantation shutters come from the fact that these type of shutters were commonly used in the West Indies on plantations. No matter which story is true, plantation shutters are called plantation shutters because they have a history of being used on plantations.
Time to Complete
Tools for this project
- 4’x8′ – 3/4″ Plywood (x1)
- 4’x8′ – 1/2″ Plywood (x2)
- Metal Pop Rivets
- 1 1/4″ pocket hole screws
- 1″ Finish Nails
- 8″x27″ Flat Sheet of Metal
- Frameless Cabinet Hinges
- Wood Glue
Note: Lumber dimensions are listed as nominal size. See lumber sizes for actual dimensions vs nominal.
Disclosure: Some of the links on this page as well as links in “tools for this project” and “material list” sections are affiliate links.
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.
42 thoughts on “How to Build DIY Plantation Shutters From Plywood”
Viktor – these look AWESOME. A lot of work but it looks like you saved quite a bit vs having them done for you. I’ve been looking at doing the louvers with plywood. It’s hard to tell from the pictures but how did the rounded edges turn out for you? Are they pretty smooth? If you get close (even with the paint) do the edges look rough?
Thanks for posting this…again, awesome
I’ve tried two different types of plywood, and the cabinet grade plywood is much smoother than the other cheaper plywoods. But even with the cabinet grade plywood, the edges are slightly rougher than solid wood. Since the plywood is not solid wood you’ll get little gaps/holes here and there. They could be filled with wood filler. When you paint it white it’s not very noticeable unless you look very close or touch it. Solid wood is obviously better but it’s more expensive. I was going for a less expensive route and wanted to try it out with plywood. I think they turned out pretty good.
I’ll be trying this DIY very soon! Thanks for the experience!!!
Thank you Morally!
Do you attach anything to the sheet metal to make the control arm (other than nailing it to the individual louvers)? How does it control the louvers? Do you move one of them and it moves all of them that are connected or is there a piece of the sheet metal that’s supposed to stick out as a control piece? I hope that makes sense.
Hi Elizabeth, the control is attached to individual louvers so when you move one louver up or down the others move as well. This design is made specifically to have the control hidden. There are other designs out there that have the control in front of the louver, exposed. Then you could grab the control in the front and move it up or down. The concept is the same, just two different design styles. One has exposed control in the front and the other has it hidden.
This is perfect! I’ve been wanting to do this for some basement windows and all I could find online last winter was either nothing or buying a premilled kit of parts that you just assemble on your own and it that way didnt save enough $$ for me. So you posted at the right point in time! Thanks! What are your thoughts on using dimensional lumber instead of plywood? I had done the math and figured that with one 2 x 8 eight feet long I could make a series of cuts, some cross cuts, some rip cuts and then ripping the rip cut pieces on the 90 deg to make slats and I think that I could make one shutter (I need a total of 7) out of one board : top, bottom, side frame/rails, and slats. Then whatever I would use for connecting like your sheet metal strips. The sheet metal and pop rivets is brilliant. Do you believe the plywood choice made more consistent blinds (less twist, warp) than you think someone could get out of a 2 x 8? Also, how do you figure out how much to overlap the slats….how many slats fit in how much vertical space….. how to choose the width of each slat?
Hi Chad, the reason why I used plywood is that I couldn’t find ½” boards at Home Depot (that’s where I usually buy my lumber). They only had ¾” boards and that was too thick for slats. So I just used ½” plywood. You could definitely use 2×8 and cut the slats and frame out of that board, but you’ll have to assemble it quickly and paint it otherwise the wood will warp and twist. The first set of shutters that I made out of wood, warped because I left it in the garage for several weeks. I should have painted it right away to seal the wood. If you’re using different slats width than what I have, you could use https://www.rockler.com/shutter website to get the spacing between the slats.
I love how the louvers swing open and shut! Awesome project, they came out absolutely beautiful and you saved a fortune in the process. I’ve been wanting to do something like this for my rear porch area. Now I’m motivated!
Man, these directions are well-written. You have done a great job with pictures and diagrams. I cannot wait to make these for the one spot in my home that needs Plantation shutters. Thank you ever so much.
Thank you Teressa!
Hi Chad! I recently “faux” Shiplapped a room with 1/4” underpayment plywood and have a ton left over. (I had already ripped it down to 6”x8’ boards.) I have always wanted plantation shutters and your detailed instructions make it look possible. My questions are… 1) can I use the 1/4” plywood? It seems pretty sturdy. 2) regardless of the thickness of the plywood, do the lovers HAVE to be rounded? I plan on sanding and painting them. I live alone and when I do get company, no one will be looking at them that closely. Thank you in advance for your response!
The louvers don’t need to be rounded, I rounded them because I think it looks prettier, but if you choose not to round it then that is perfectly fine. However, using 1/4″ thick plywood for louver might not work. I used pop rivets that are inserted in the center of the louver, and 1/2″ thick plywood works the best. I think 1/4″ is not wide enough to have a pop rivet inserted in the center. They might sell thinner pop rivets, and you could try to drill small holes on both ends of the louver. I would try to make one louver to test it out first.
Thank you for posting this, so very useful.
Thank you Keith!
I’m kind of surprised you don’t have a wood planer around the shop Victor. In either case since you didn’t edge the louvers it would have been easy to edge the 1/2″ ply with 1/2″ lumber then route the edges for a nice smooth edge.. This is giving me lots of ideas.
I build a lot of things for my local customers and these plantation shutters are giving me a lot of new ideas since I already make cabinet doors and such this is just a few extra steps for quite a bit more $$ for my shop.. Thanks for the article.
If you have the proper tools you could definitely make custom shutters for people and sell them. They are expensive if you buy them at the store.
Well done EXCEPT FOR the sheet metal fabrication and sharp edges. I’d have to pass on this and probably opt for another method, likely 1/8″ boards to accomplish the same thing and probably cut them with a scroll saw with a blade set @ 90°..
Hi Martino, Yes the metal is sharp, but it’s in the back of the shutters. It will only be exposed if you open the shutters and for the most part, I keep them closed and just adjust the louver blades.
If you make these and use something else instead, I would like to know what worked for you. Thanks
why don’t you try with some piece of acrylic sheet to replace the control arm ? that much easier to cut and safe for kids if you want to exposed the control arm.
Hi Glendiaz, Yes the control arm could be made from plastic as well. Since I placed the control arm in the back, I used metal because I had extra leftover from a previous project.
I actually did something similar using 1/16″x1/2 aluminum strips. You can buy them at Home Depot. Also when working with this or metal then just sand it really well and there will be no sharp edges.
Or just use a spiral blade…
Hi. Shouldn’t your control arm centres be 3″, the same as your stile centres?
Hi Gary, You are right, it should be 3″. I just changed the plans to say 3″. Thank you!
fortunately for me I’m old and have plenty of time on my hands and have access to the woodshop here in Sun City West Arizona. Needless to say have access to every kind of tool on the planet. I’m going down and buy some basswood and give it a go. Thanks for opening my eyes to the process. Jesus loves you
Hi Gary, Thank you for the comment. It’s really nice to have lots of good tools. Maybe one of these days I will. God Bless!
Omg thank you so much for the tip about the pop rivets and how to make the control arm out of sheet metal! . I live in New Zealand and cant find the plastic pins ANYWHERE and was looking at shipping some which worked out at like a dollar EACH! But the pop rivets are like $5 for 100!! Same story for pre-made control arms – This will save me HEAPS of money. This is the simplest plan I’ve found. And the pocket hole joinery makes it soo simple 🙂
Hi Dinah, Yes pop rivets are cheaper and much stronger than plastic pins.
Wow, you live in New Zealand! I always wanted to visit New Zealand. One of these days I will.
Are the “Louver / Slats” – 3″? In other words if I wanted 4″ I’d have to adjust the control arm to 4″ on center, and so on??
Hi Jhon, The slats are 3 1/2″ wide. If you want to make the slats 4″ you’ll have the distance between the slats at 3 1/2″ on center, including the control arm. You will need to make sure that this will add up to your overall height of the shutter.
Did a great job. Your a champion!
In regards to the pop rivets, how were you able to get tension on the slats? Tension is needed so the slats stay open at any position you like. Awesome presentation by the way. Thanks.
Jim, you need to make sure to use the same size drill bit as the pop rivet. If you have the hole too big, then yes you will not have tension and the blades will be loose.
I’m in the process of building these shutters. I’m using 1/16” drill bit for the pop rivets and there is tension on the blades. Looking ahead, will the holes on the blades wear out eventually from opening and closing? Or since its loose on the stile side, this is not a concern. I guess you could always add tension screws to fix the problem. Thanks for making this guide!
Hi JC, thanks for the comment. Having a little bit of tension is better than having the blades too loose. If they are too loose, they might not stay in one position as you want them.
I’m so impressed. In my country shutters cost about 800USD per square metre. I’m going to do mine with solid pine pre cut profiles. I don’t trust myself and my tools to square the plywood properly. I’m going to use a thin stick as a handle to open and close. When you sprayed them, did you apply primer? The blades must surely overlap some how, how to you determine the lap length? Thanks. Deen From Cape Town South Africa.
Hi Deen, I did not apply primer, just two coats of white paint, but primer is not a bad idea. Yes, the blades overlap, you determine the distance between the blades on how wide your blades are.
Hm this is appealing me a lot. I would like to make a frame like this to put outside the window in summer, and take them in the rest of the year. I’m still hesitating though, wonder if plywood for exterior will stay stable…
My windows are cathedral type at top any suggestions for this.I have planned on just using a flat pice to fill in the arch with some design on it.