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"Stay cozy and secure with an indoor combo shutter and bookcase"

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Dear Jim: It gets chilly near our family room windows at night. I'm on a very limited budget. Are there any simple designs of attractive interior window shutters that I can make myself? - G. R.

A: Interior window shutters not only save energy year-round, but they provide privacy and increased security. You will be amazed at how much warmer you will feel sitting near a covered window, especially at night.

A combination bookcase/shutter is the most attractive and easiest design to build yourself. Using standard plywood and lumber keeps the cost low. It is designed so that the opened shutters fold against the sides of the bookcase. Use inexpensive purchased or homemade shutters and build a bookcase around them. Extending the lower portion of the bookcase further from the wall provides a wider window sill and additional storage space.

For maximum comfort and efficiency, make sure to weatherstrip the gaps around the shutters and between each hinged shutter section. Vinyl bulb weatherstripping, which is nailed on, is effective and easily installed. It compresses when the shutters are closed, keeping out cold air.

Solid shutter panels are the easiest to make. Most of the energy savings is gained just by blocking room air circulation against the cold windows. Insulated shutters are somewhat more efficient, but they are thicker and are not as easily hidden when they are opened.

Mount the shutters close to the window. A narrower gap between the shutters and the window glass is better. With a narrower gap, less energy-wasting air currents circulate in between the shutter and the cold glass surface.

Louvered shutters are particularly attractive, but you will sacrifice some efficiency. If you install them, position the slats so, from top to bottom, they slant from indoors to outdoors. This helps keep the colder air by the window from flowing out into your room.

To make your own shutters without a bookcase, use an accordion-style bi-fold design. When opened and folded flat against the wall, they extend out from your wall only double the width of the shutter material. Insulated shutters can be made by covering thin rigid foam insulation with wood veneer.

If you use many narrow sections (instead of a bi-fold), the shutters are thicker when opened, but don't extend out as far from the wall. While these shutters look nice, they aren't as energy efficient since there are more gaps between the additional sections allowing more air leakage.

Instant Download Update Bulletin No. 843 - do-it-yourself instructions, illustrations and required materials list for making a combination window shutter/bookcase, simple insulated shutters and three different designs of exterior storm windows.

Dear Jim: I have aluminum siding on my house. There is a gap between the flashing around the window and the siding. Shouldn't this gap be caulked to stop air and water leakage? - R. K.

A: The gap should not be caulked if the siding was installed properly. Metal siding, especially aluminum, expands as the temperature changes. The gap is necessary to accommodate this expansion without buckling.

The flashing around the window frame probably is caulked and nailed underneath before the siding was installed. This provides the seal. Caulk the other openings without flashings, like electrical outlets and faucets.

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