Why are frames important? Do I need one?

Yasmeen 12/20/2019 2:11:38 PM Ask Yasmeen
Our “Ask Yasmeen” posts will tackle some of the most frequently asked questions about plantation shutters.

Today’s question is: Why are frames important? Do I need one?

Shutter frames are essentially the brackets that attach to your window opening. This is what your shutter panels hinge onto. Interior shutters should always be mounted in a frame to support the weight of the panels and keep the panels aligned.

Once your shutter frame is mounted, installation is as simple as dropping in the hinge pins to connect your shutter panels to the frame.

Why are frames important?

Most windows are not perfectly level or square. Without a frame, the shutter panels may not hang squarely, and you may have to sand down or shim inside the window opening itself to create a level surface. This is a much more challenging installation.

A shutter frame is a perfect square level frame that will have the hinges pre-installed by the factory to ensure a perfect alignment with your shutter panels.

Shutter panels stay closed with magnets that are recessed into the back of the shutter panel. Our frames will have a metal plate aligned to that magnet, already installed for you, to catch the magnets and keep the panels closed.

Our shutter frames also have a light block piece that extends behind the shutter panels to block light from entering between the panels and the frames.

This example shows the metal plates and light block piece inside the frame, built to catch the shutter panel – Pictured is an outside mount Deco frame.

Once your frame is installed, you can finish your installation with a bead of caulking around the outside edge of the frame for a seamless, professional-looking installation. You can also use a shutter frame to create the look of a decorative trim or moulding around the window opening if there is no existing trim.  

Which frame should I choose?

L-Frames are the most popular, since they are a subtle square frame that offers all the benefits listed above, without drawing attention away from the shutter panels.

L-Frames are perfect for windows that already have an existing trim. They can also extend the depth of the window casing if your windows are not deep enough for the slats to operate.

L-Frames can be used for both inside mount and outside mount installations.

L-Frames can be mounted closer to the glass, flush with the wall, or pulled out slightly past the wall to extend your recess depth.

Z-Frames are for inside mount installation only. If your window does not have an existing trim, and you want a more decorative finish, you can opt for a Z-Frame.

Z-Frames are also great at hiding any gaps between the shutter frame and your window casing, due to variance in the window opening (again, since most windows are not perfectly square). A Z-Frame will allow you to order using your smallest inside measurement and avoid having to shim or caulk to fill any gaps.

For any special shape windows like arches or circles, a Z-Frame is highly recommended, since these are usually not perfect in curvature.

Many customers also choose Z-Frames to cover rounded bullnose corners, to prevent a visible gap between the rounded corner and the square shutter frame.

This kitchenette features our Premium Elm Hardwood shutters with a Z Frame Fine.

Deco Frames are for outside mount installation only. Like a Z-Frame, Deco frames create the look of a decorative moulding surrounding the window opening and hide any variance in your window opening.
Because they are an outside mount, they also extend the depth of the window casing, pushing the shutters away from the glass. This gives you more clearance to choose a larger slat size, if your window recess is not quite deep enough.

Check out our measuring guides for both inside mount and outside mount to find detailed drawings, specs, and printable templates for all our available frames.

How many frame sides do I need?

A common question is whether to use a 3-sided or a 4-sided frame. We always recommend a 4-sided frame whenever possible. The more frame sides you have, the more support you have, which means less adjustments over time and an easier installation.

Even if you have a protruding window sill, a sill does not provide the same support as a bottom frame piece, and if your sill is not perfectly level you may have a hard time with gaps under the shutter panels, or with installing the blocks to catch the magnets at the bottom.

A 4-sided frame is still recommended, even for windows with a protruding window sill.

There are some exceptions to this rule:
  • Café style shutters
    • Covering only the lower portion of the window, café style shutters generally have just a left, right, and bottom frame piece.
    • Very wide café style shutters can still benefit from a 4-sided frame
  • Patio Doors
    • A bottom frame piece can pose a risk that someone may trip over it on the way out the door
    • Ask for floor clearance at the bottom so your shutter panels can clear your flooring or rugs in front of the doorway.
  • Marble or Granite sills
    • You can opt for a left, right, and top frame to keep your sill open, since you will probably not want to drill into your marble or granite
    • You can also ask for a 4-sided frame with no pre-drilled holes in the bottom frame piece, and it will just rest across the sill
Patio Doors usually have a 3-sided frame: left, right, and top.

Henry in Michigan chose a 4-sided frame for this larger café style shutter, and we think it looks amazing!

Inside mount shutter frames most likely will block your window from tilting all the way in for cleaning. Some customers still prefer the look of an inside mount and will opt to lose this function and clean the windows from outside.  

To keep your tilt-in function, opt for an outside mount frame. This way the entire frame sits on the wall outside of your window opening, keeping the inside clear, so your window can still tilt in.

Outside mount keeps the inside of your window recess clear, so you can tilt your windows in for cleaning.

It is possible to choose a frameless installation and do an inside mount with panels-only to avoid losing the tilt-in function. However, it will be super important to check for variance in your window opening and ensure that your windows are deep enough to mount the panels and allow the slats to fully operate.
Check out our installation videos to learn more about installing inside mount frames, installing outside mount frames, and panels-only installation.

In case you could not already guess, The Shutter Store’s shutter experts are big advocates of using a shutter frame. We want your journey to be successful and as easy as possible!

Each product range offers several sizes of each style of frame so you’re sure to find one that fits your window. For inspiration on your design and to choose the right frame for you, start with our video library, or visit our gallery. As always, contact our shutter experts by phone, chat or email with any questions.


This post was brought to you by Yasmeen, one of The Shutter Store USA's experienced shutter consultants. Contact our team today for advice on your shutters. We're here to help!