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Rail and Stile Separation.

Posted by Shutter Medic ® on 4/16/2011
Ok, let’s set the stage. It's a nice sunny day, the first day of Spring, and you decide to open your shutter panels along with your windows to let some of the cool fresh air into your humble abode.
 
As you begin to swing the panels open it all happens without warning and too quickly to stop. A myriad of shutter parts that were once an expensive set of custom made plantation shutters goes crashing to the floor.
 
This scenario happens quite often, and no, it is not your fault if that is what you are thinking.
 
Let's examine what likely caused this disaster. Shutter panels can be installed in a window opening a number of different ways. One common configuration is called bi-fold. When for instance you have four shutter panels covering a window, it is common to hinge the two middle panels to the left and right outside panels respectively. Now, when panels are configured like this, the outside panels must carry their weight and the weight of the inside panel that it is hinged to. Panels that are constructed properly should not have any problem doing so.
 
Plantation Shutter panels consist of two vertical members called Stiles, and at a minimum one upper and lower horizontal member called Rails. The methods used to join these pieces vary.
 
If you were able to disassemble you shutters (and you are not), you would notice that the stiles contain 1/4 inch diameter holes in them. These holes are for the louver pins that support the louvers inside the shutter panel. Some manufacturers will also use these same holes and wooden dowels to join the stiles and rails when constructing the panel. Generally speaking, these 1/4 inch dowels by themselves are adequate. But, and it's a big but, over time they are not strong enough to support the weight of an additional panel that is attached to it.
 
Upon closer inspection of a panel that is getting ready to fall apart, you will notice the corners between the rail and stile of the outside panels beginning to separate. Regretfully, many homeowners do not notice this. And the scenario as described in the beginning of this article plays itself out.
 
Repairing a Plantation Shutter panels that is coming apart requires a couple of steps. First take the panel down out of the window and place it on a flat working surface. Next, square the panel using a framing square then using pipe clamps gently clamp it to maintain square. Lastly, pre-drill holes and install screws through stile and into rail. Place two recessed screws at each corner for a total of eight screws. You can always putty over screws, sand, and paint for a finished look. When purchasing new Plantation Shutters, ask the manufacturer how they join their Rails and Stiles. Higher end manufacturers will use some variation of mortise and tenon joinery, or 1/2" expansive dowels.