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Good Millwork: The History of Board & Batten Shutters | by Good Millwork
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Good Millwork: The History of Board & Batten Shutters

History of Shutters! Interesting READ! Well, there is a history for everything. Why not these things? This is a comprehensive little piece of the puzzle that makes you go, "wow!"



Exactly where and when the first window shutters were thought of or installed is lost in the mists of time. However, the common consensus is that they have their origin in Europe and even more specifically in ancient Greece.


The Origins of Shutters

It has been established that the ancient Greeks had louvered shutters made from marble. These were used to provide shade by window openings whilst they would also allow fresh and cool air to flow into a room or building. At the same time these shutters could also be used to control the amount of sunlight entering a room. In the evenings, or indeed at other times of the day, the louvered shutters could be closed and bolted; providing privacy and security for those inside. Being a Mediterranean country Greece is well known for its long hot and sunny days. However, it can also have severe thunderstorms, verging on tropical storms; and having shutters at the windows meant they could be closed across any window openings during heavy rain - preventing, or at least reducing, the ingress of wind and water into a building or room.


The Concept and Use of Shutters Spreads

The idea of protective shutters initially spread out from Greece to other countries around the Mediterranean Sea. Of course marble is not a building material found everywhere, nor is it the easiest of construction materials to work with. Since glass was yet to be widely accepted and established as a material for use within windows, the practicality of shutters as a means of providing home security as well as protection against inclement weather was becoming more widely accepted. So as their use spread further and further, especially to inland Europe, it wasn’t long before timber became the most commonly used shutter material. In their crudest form, timber weather proofing shutters were simply boards of timber that could be fitted into slots or catches on a window frame, either inside or outside of a building. The very poorest of people might alternatively use bundles of reeds or thatch to make mat-like shutters, if timber proved too expensive or was in short supply. However, anyone wishing to make a statement about their wealth or standing in the community would have louvered timber shutters that opened and closed on hinges, very similar to the types we’re used to seeing today.


Glass in the History of Shutters

Although the ancient Egyptians were one of the earliest civilizations to make glass, and the Roman civilization was known to have favored using glass in windows, it was in its developmental infancy and still considered a fragile and somewhat insecure product. It was around the 16th century that the research at the various glassblowing factories around Venice was gaining success and more international recognition. These Murano Glass artisans had been experimenting with adding and blending different chemicals to the silicon dioxide glass base. Their results had produced a clear breakthrough with the introduction of a more resilient quality of glass. With the stability of glass established, its introduction as the de facto material in window construction grew to become commonplace in Europe. So up until that time, for the vast majority of people, the only means of securing and weather-proofing a home or building with windows was to have shutters at them. Even then, following the increased use of glass, it was a relatively expensive material and so needed protecting, especially against any risks from debris being blown about in high winds or stormy weather. Subsequently, the use of shutters remained commonplace on buildings throughout Europe, not just those in hot and sunny climates.


Protective Shutters in the New World Colonies

Central America, the Caribbean and North America had been explored since the late 15th century by Europeans. However, it wasn’t until the 18th century that shutters started to appear on buildings in the ‘New World’. The British, Spanish and French can all be credited with this colonial development. Whilst in what was the Georgian period in Britain, having ornate shutters on a building was considered to be and valued for its architectural aesthetic; in both Spain and France they knew the practical significance of shutters in providing shade, cooling air and increased protection from bad weather. The combination of added protection and attractive features on buildings proved highly successful in the New World; resulting in the popularity to this very day of the various forms, be they called plantation shutters, colonial, Bahama or whatever. Throughout the Caribbean, and coastal areas along the Gulf of Mexico, these shutters were also referred to as hurricane shutters; as they afforded extra protection from the damaging heavy rains and high winds associated with these tropical storms.


The Advent of Metal Shutters

As already mentioned, materials such as marble, timber, as well as reeds and thatch, have all been used to make shutters. Although timber is probably the most enduring of these, in modern times a variety of metal and polymer constructions have become available and are also being used. Metal shutters have been around for several decades now and can be produced in all the designs that you’ll find traditional wooden ones in. However, metal roller shutters, usually made from steel, are a particularly strong and practical security innovation. They are commonly found on industrial or commercial buildings, more so than residential ones. They provide excellent protection during the very worst of weather conditions and are generally accepted as being the most secure and, if electrically controlled, the easiest to operate. However, they are usually anything but aesthetically pleasing to see and can be expensive to buy.


'Faux-Wood' Polymer Shutters Can Create an Eco-Friendly Future

Taking this history into the 21st century and the future, the use of polymer materials in shutters is starting to become commonplace with new developments coming every year. The poly-wood constructions were later followed by the superior polycore shutter innovations, both constructed from a polymer whilst the latter used a metal core, giving additional strength and so being highly effective as protection against high winds and storms, as well as adding an additional level of security to your property. Light and easy to operate polymer options are a new cost-effective option for installing storm shutters to your property. In more recent years similar materials such as Thermalite have been utilized. Fortunately the development of environmentally friendly shutters is also not being ignored. We see the introduction and use of FSC controlled wood being combined with non-toxic paints and materials. We may expect that the elegance and practicality of our plantation shutters can now be maintained through more environmentally concerned developments - a history in the making.


[via thehistoryof by Julian Pollock]


[shameless plug: architectural wood trim? thousand of]

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Taken on November 12, 2009