Shutter Finishing Tips

Tips for Finishing Your Shutters.


Unfinished Wood. Spanish Cedar, Western Red Cedar, and Eastern Red Cedar are naturally decay resistant. Left unfinished, they will weather to a soft gray. However, weathering takes it's toll on longevity. Changes in humidity will cause the unfinished wood to expand and contract. In time, this may cause the wood to crack or warp and the surface to become soft and rough. So we strongly recommend that you apply a finish to your shutters that completely seals the wood from humidity as soon as possible. Sealing is especially important for hardwoods, like oak, as they have less natural resistance to decay.

Latex Paints. Many of the wood species that are suitable for exterior applications have high concentrations of tannins in the wood. This is especially true for most species of cedar, including Spanish cedar (not technically a cedar, but still contains tannins). Unfortunately, tannins can bleed through latex paints if the wood isn't primed before painting with a stain-blocking primer [note: this is less of a problem with dark colors on Spanish Cedar, but a primer should still be used for lighter colored finishes]. In addition, latex paints can take months to dry fully. Anyone who has painted a window with latex paint probably knows that this can cause the window to stick. For this reason, we prefer to use 100% acrylic paint.

If you decide to use a latex paint, there are several things you can do to improve performance. First, wipe down the shutters with rubbing alcohol before finishing to remove any tannins that might be on the surface. Second, apply a quality primer/sealer that is rated for exterior use and compatible with the paint you are planning to use [ideally, the primer should be applied to all surfaces that won't be glued before the shutter is assembled to help prevent moisture penetration]. Third, select a latex paint that claims to have good blocking resistance (blocking is the technical term for the tendancy of latex paint to stick).

Acrylic Paints. The best way to avoid the blocking problems associated with latex paints is to use an acrylic paint instead (not acrylic latex, just 100% acrylic). Acrylic paints won't stick or yellow and, in our experience, are more resistant to bleed through from the tannins [it's still a good idea to wipe down the shutters with rubbing alcohol to remove any tannins that might be on the surface before finishing and to use a stain-blocking primer for lighter colors].

We use water-based 100% acrylic paints. We can color match most popular paint brands. These water-based paints are available in a matte, semi-gloss, or gloss finish. No separate primer or sealer is required for the brand we use [but you may want to use a stain-blocking primer for lighter colors on cedar to be safe]. Just apply additional coats until you achieve an even top coat.

No Sanding Needed. We sand all of our wood shutters before they are shipped. So they should be ready for paint when you receive them. If you feel you need to sand, a light touchup with a 220 or finer grit paper should be sufficient. We also recommend that you perform a light sanding just before finishing if your shutters can't be finished right away.

Repairing Minor Damage.

Despite its resistance to decay, cedar is a soft wood (Spanish cedar is the hardest of the three). Should you accidentally scratch one of your shutters, a light sanding will probably repair the damage. Most dents, can be removed by lightly wetting the damaged area, covering it with a piece of cloth, and passing a hot iron over it [note: this only works with unfinished wood]. For more severe damage, use an exterior grade wood filler and follow the manufacturer's instructions.

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