Installing Exterior Vinyl Shutters on a Brick House

Installing exterior vinyl shutters is usually a simple, straightforward task when installing on wood or siding. However, if you are installing plastic shutters on a brick surface, some things need to be taken into consideration.

First of all, some bricks are reinforced with metal. This makes it an extremely difficult task to drill through the brick. I tried this once and it took me all day just to mount 3 pairs of shutters because I had to continually switch back and fourth between a masonry drill bit and a steel drill bit.

Another thing to consider is that the life of the house will probably be longer than the life of the vinyl shutters. It is quite possible that the person who buys the house from you (whenever that day may be) won’t like the shutters and will want to take them down. Alternatively they may wish to install operable exterior shutters in their place. So we must be sure to make removing them in the future an easy process.

Both of these problems can be solved by drilling into the mortar between the bricks instead of into the bricks themselves. The main reason for this is because it is much easier to patch the mortar than it is to fill and match the color and texture of the bricks.

The next thing to consider is whether you want a permanent installation or if you would like the option to take your window shutters down. The primary reason why you would want to take down your vinyl shutters would be to paint the house. Since brick typically is not painted a permanent installation will suffice in most situations. However, if part or your entire mounting surface is painted you may wish to make them removable for future maintenance. To mount the shutters permanently, you can order vinyl exterior shutters with shutter-loks (sometimes called shutter locks or shutter plugs). To make a removable installation, you can get painted metal screws to mount your window shutters and use some masonry anchors to hold them in place.

Finally, you will also need to take into consideration the construction of the house. If the window has a slope sill you will need to leave a 1/4 inch gap between the sill and the bottom of the shutter to allow rain, snow, and ice to drain from the window. If you have a brick mold you will need to order the correct size of exterior shutters to stretch from the top to the bottom of the window opening.

You will need the following items to complete the installation:

1. Tape measure
2. Power drill, steel and masonry drill bits
3. Sawhorses
4. Square
5. Pencil
6. Vinyl shutters
7. Either shutter-loks and or painted steel screws with masonry anchors
8. Hammer
9. Phillips screwdriver (for painted screws only)

For vinyl shutters that are 55 inches or larger, you will need to use 6 shutter-loks or painted steel screws. If the shutter panel is less than 55 inches, 4 mounting fasteners will suffice.

To get started, hold one panel of the vinyl shutters in position next to the window in the position you would like it mounted. The shutter should be as close to the window opening as possible. Now, you will need to use a pencil to mark the center of the mortar in each of the 4 (or 6) mounting locations. Keep in mind that you will need to leave a 2 to 5 inch gap on the top and the bottom of the shutter above and below the mounting fastener. So for example if the first mortar line is less than 2 inches down from the top of the shutter, you should use mark the second mortar line as the point on the shutter where you will need to drill. Just mark the side of the plastic shutter in the 4 (or 6) locations where the center of the mortar lines are.

Now, set the vinyl shutter face up on the sawhorses. Using the mark on the side as a guide, lay the square across the top of the shutter with one end of it hanging over the side pointing downward toward the ground. You are only using this as a guide to mark the drilling location on the front side of the exterior shutter based on the markings you placed on the side that indicate where the mortar lines are. The stiles (or rails) for vinyl shutters are typically 2 to 4 inches in width. Using the square as a guide, draw a small line across the face of the stile and then use the tape measure to mark the precise location of the mounting hole (exactly in the center of the stile). Repeat this until all of the holes are marked.

If you decided to use shutter-loks to install your vinyl shutters, you need to drill a 1/4 inch hole at each of the locations using a steel drill bit. For the removable installation, use an 11/64 inch steel drill bit to drill the holes in the vinyl exterior shutter at the locations you marked.

Place the shutter against the surface of the house and use the pencil to mark the center of the hole (which should also be in the center of the mortar). Be sure the vinyl shutter doesn’t slip while you mark all of the locations.

Now remove the exterior shutter. If you are using shutter locks you will need a 1/4 inch masonry bit. For painted screws you will need to use the correct size masonry bit for the anchors you purchased. Drill at each of the 4 (or 6) locations you marked.

For shutter-loks, make sure that the hole is at least 1 3/4 inches deep. For painted screws you should drill 2 inches deep. It is better to drill a little bit over to ensure they don’t bottom out because starting over is not particularly easy and requires new shutter-loks.

To finish the shutter-lok installation, place the shutter against the wall in the final location and push the shutter-loks through the vinyl shutter and into the hole in the wall. If you can’t push it all the way in, use a hammer to gently tap it until it just touches the surface of the vinyl shutter. Be sure to leave a little bit of play to allow for expansion and contraction.

When mounting with painted screws and anchors you should drill 2 inches deep into the mortar. Using a hammer, tap the anchors into the holes in the mortar. Finally, place the shutter against the surface and put the screws through the vinyl exterior shutters into the masonry anchors and tighten the screws with the screwdriver. Do not over tighten them – the vinyl shutters should not dimple.

Repeat each of the steps for the other panels of your exterior vinyl shutters.

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