As far as window treatments go, shutters are the clear winner for me. Curtains can look overly fussy and fade; blinds often look cheap and remind me of being in an office. Shutters can really block out the light, are easy to clean and should last you a lifetime. They also look GORGEOUS! If you have a period property or pretty sash windows, shutters will really compliment the windows detailing.
When we moved into our current home, I was hellbent on having shutters on the vast majority of the windows. We had solid, Victorian-style shutters fitted on a difficult hallway window in our old house, and they were literally one of my favourite things in that house. We got solid shutters installed again on the bedroom windows and the living room windows, but that really blew the budget. We left the bathroom window as it was, as it had a blind installed and that would do for the time-being.
A year and a half on, I was hating the bloody bathroom blind. It was this crummy brown blind that got so dusty, but was impossible to clean. It left awful watermarks, and I was petrified with the cord hangings around my toddler son as he loved to play with them. Our bathroom window is lovely in the afternoons as the sun streams in, so I would always pull it up out the way and out of sight. Trouble was it was too much hassle to keep putting down every time someone wanted the loo (and the bathroom faces the street!)
They had to go - I had a budget of about £250, but when I got in a couple of quotes from shutter companies (including Hillarys , who I thought would be cheapest as they always seem to have big sales), the price was double that. All I wanted was some cafe-style shutters, so half the height of the window, but they needed to be waterproof so this drove the price up, as does the person coming round doing the measuring, fitting and installation. I couldn't part with £500 at the current time for the bathroom so I left it, exasperatedly complaining about the crap brown blind to myself every time I had a shower.
It was while reading a recent edition of Living Etc. magazine that I came across an article on Do It Yourself Shutters. You measure and order the shutters online, then when they arrive you install them yourself. The article said this had been a really successful thing in America, and it was now being done by companies over here. All you needed to do was measure your window and do an online quote to get a price. I took my bathroom window measurements and googled 'diy shutters uk'. Diyshutters.co.uk came up and I selected the type and style of shutters I wanted, with the measurements, in their online quote box. The price came back as £248.53 - which was the price of the deposit for the other shutter companies. It seemed a no-brainer - but I was hesitant. Just how easy would it actually be to put up these shutters? My window was a detailed sash - how am I going to know where the shutters should sit? I'm terrible at measurements - what if I get it wrong?
Reading through the website blurb, I saw that they call you to confirm your measurements once you have submitted them via your online order. This was spun as a 'here to help you' line, but of course it was obvious that if they have confirmed your order with you on the phone, there is no scope for you to send them back for a refund if you've measured wrong. Was it worth the risk?? Yes, it was half the price that I had been quoted, but if they turn up the wrong size then that was £250 down the drain. Are they also going to be insanely difficult to install? I looked at my other shutters in the house and I couldn't really work out how they were fitted. Would I pay £250, but then end up paying another £250 for a trained carpenter to come and have to do it anyway? It all felt like a lot of pressure, but the site had a lot of DIY video guides and templates to help you measure, so I apprehensively decided to take the plunge.
First thing was to take the window measurements properly by printing out the frame templates provided by a PDF on the website. These L-shaped templates are meant to act as the corner size of the shutter frame, so you stick them on your window to get an idea of the depth of the shutters, and work out where is best for your shutters to sit. You then measure from the outside of this template to the other, and top and bottom if you are having full height shutters. So far, so easy, but just measure multiple times. I measured our window about 5 times, on different days, and got my husband to double check the measurements (two heads are better than one.) Get this wrong and you are screwed I realised. If you get a millimeter off each time go for the smaller measurement as any gaps can be filled with decorators cork filler, where as if the frame is too big it won't even fit on the window.
I ordered a couple of colour chips to select what colour I wanted the shutters, which arrived in a day or so. Once I'd decided on the colour I sent in my order and had to pay the full amount upfront (including a £15 delivery fee). I received a confirmation email, and the next working day a guy calls me to talk through and confirm my measurements. He tells me they will be delivered in 8-10 weeks and exactly 9 weeks later they arrive:
They are well protected in the box - so minimal risk of damage en route, but there are no instructions so I had to refer back to the online installation videos. However, once I'd worked out how you build the frame the rest seemed obvious, so I didn't watch any of the other videos.
First, I build the frame by hammering in these butterfly fixings in the corners:
I then had my frame built - easy!
Next I slotted this onto the window and drilled in the provided screws through the existing drill holes in the frame:
The frame was now secure on the window and I just needed to slot on the shutters. The slotting on the shutters was easy - the hard bit was trying to work out which out of the three panels went where. Once I figured out the bottom of the shutters had small clear plastic fittings attached to fit properly into the frame, it all became a lot more clear!
Attaching the shutter panels was easy - you just line the hinges up to the frame hinge and drop in the pin:
A good thing is the hinges can be moved up or down slightly, so if your shutter panel doesn't appear to line up you can do something about it. I had a bit of a mild panic before I worked this one out when my second panel didn't seem to join properly:
But before I knew it, one shutter panel was up!
I installed the other two panels, then stuck on the frame strips that covered the screw holes (so that's how they hide them!) and I was done! All in all it took about 45 minutes to install.
My overall verdict is that yes it is worth the risk. I wish I'd have known this before we spent double the amount on the rest of the windows when we moved in! Installing is a breeze - all you need is a screwdriver and a hammer, and I fitted them on my own - but you HAVE to measure correctly. Measure, measure and measure again. It's here that it could all go wrong, so be 100% confident before your order. If you are not sure where the frame should sit when measuring, send a picture of your window to the shutter company so they can advise you. Ask them loads of questions when they do your order confirmation call. Watch all the 'how to' videos on installing before you order to make sure your window is suitable for shutters (that there are no obstacles in front of the window that will stop the shutters opening for example).
Has seeing me do this given you more confidence that you could install your own shutters? Are there any other interior products you wish you could pay less for and install yourself? Leave your comments below!
*I was not sponsored by diyshutters.co.uk for this post. This post is completely unbiased and neutral. I personally purchased a product that I thought would be of interest to my readers.