Rotting Shutters? Tips on selecting shutters that are truly rot-resistant.


Historically accurate Vixen Hill Shutters last for decades.

Rotting shutters are not unusual even when they’re made of rot-resistant woods. “Incredibly, cedar, teak, mahogany and cypress will rot if they can’t dry out,” says Chris Peeples, owner of Vixen Hill Cedar Shutters. “Moisture trapped in wood grain, especially in warmer climates, allows bacteria to breed voraciously. The inherent natural toxins that prevent rot in these woods are simply overwhelmed! Rotting can also be attributable to modern coatings,” explains Mr. Peeples. “Today’s paints include impervious resins that act like plastic coatings,” he continued. “The myth is that these coatings prevent water penetration, thereby eliminating rot. This is not true because expansion and contraction of the shutter surface creates hair-line cracks that allow water penetration. The water becomes trapped by the paint. Since the wood can’t breathe and dry out, bacteria breeds and the wood rots.”

In the old days paints were simply oxide pigments mixed with linseed oil. They weren’t shiny like plastic shutters. The linseed oil in the coating shed water yet allowed the wood to breath. That’s why the shutters on old houses lasted one hundred years or more. It’s the advent of plastics and urethanes during the 60’s that made people think that shutters should have a glossy shiny finish. But, if you want to be historically accurate and have your shutters last for decades, you can still buy solid oil based solid stains. If you use the proper coating, authentic wood shutters will outperform plastic and metal shutters.


Vixen Hill announces an innovative new addition to the Arbor family – the exclusive, Pent Arbor. The Pent Arbor provides an affordable exterior makeover that can be installed in hours for a lifetime of enjoyment.

The Pent Arbor makes an instant makeover that goes up in hours.

The Pent Arbor makes an instant makeover that goes up in hours.

Vixen Hill, the leader in authentic outdoor shutters and gazebos proudly announces their newest innovation – the Pent Arbor. A Pent Arbor is a decorative trellis structure mounted horizontally on a garage or the house itself. The design adds an aesthetically pleasing 3-dimensional garden aspect to the home that filters sunlight and allows for the planting of “climbers” (roses, grapes, wisteria, etc.). In summer, the leaves further filter the sunlight giving a “Green” solution to excessive solar heating. Ideally mounted between roof eves, Pent Arbors can be put above garage doors or on sets of windows that adds even more character to the home. Vixen Hill is the country’s only supplier of modular cedar Pent Arbors.

“A 10ft Pent Arbor would cost the homeowner approximately $480 plus shipping and in today’s economy when money is tight for major remodeling projects, homeowners can find this to be a simple and affordable way to update the look of the exterior of their home,” Says Chris Peeples, President of Vixen Hill.  Chris adds, “There is no doubt that this decorative and aesthetically appealing detail adds elegance and personality to any home.”

Pent Arbors are available in standard lengths between 4’ and 20’ and have decorative joists with slats that protrude 24” from the wall. The arbors are also available in a variety of colors from natural cedar to a dark wood stain or in classic white to customize to the specific needs of the homeowner. Assembly is simple and accomplished with a drill, bit and ladder in about an hour.

For more information and to design online, visit

Shutter Dogs: A Hook with a History

Perhaps there is more that meets the eye when it comes to the small metal structures that hold the shutters of a window in an open position. Shutter dogs are commonly known to offer function and decoration to shutters, but they also allude to the history of a house as well as the traditional architecture in certain regions of the United States. In fact, the material, shape and mount style of shutter dogs differ throughout the country.

Rat Tail Shutter Dog

Rat Tail Shutter Dog

The first shutter dog named the “rat tail shutter dog” was hand forged in Colonial Williamsburg. Made with a hammer and anvil, steel was formed into an elongated hook that spiraled at the bottom. The earliest method of mounting the rat tail shutter dog involved a wrought nail hammered in to a wooden structure. The wrought nail later evolved in to a threaded bolt.

Cat Star Shutter Dog

Star Casting Shutter Dog

In the Valley Forge area, the high availability of iron allowed people to use a new material for their shutter dogs. From Maryland and north up to New York, shutter dogs were cast in iron. In Philadelphia, it was common to see decorative cast iron shutter dogs. The shutter dogs boasted decorative themes and motifs such as stars, shells and grapes. These decorated shutter dogs have a left and a right shutter dog and are not interchangeable. Stone houses, common in Philadelphia, created the need for a different type of mount. Homeowners mounted shutter dogs on arms that attached to the bottom sill of the window.

S Shutter Dog

S Shutter Dog

The S shutter dog and the Curled shutter dog exemplify the type of shutter dogs originally made in the New England area. Created though die cut stamping, these steel dogs offer yet another beautiful ornamentation style. While the Curled shutter dogs are interchangeable the S shutter dog has a clear left and right. Homeowners of New England style houses with siding and shingles used a plate mount and stanchion. This square metal plate was screwed in to the siding and then the S or Curl shutter dog was put on the stanchion.

Bullet Catch

Bullet Catch

Over the years, the styles and methods of New England, Valley Forge, and Williamsburg mixed and crossed regional lines. Manufacturers such as Vixen Hill offer a wide variety of shutter dogs, shutter hardware and methods of mounting. People often worry about the stability of their shutters. Vixen Hill offers the option of ordering a bullet catch mounted on the back of the shutter in addition to the shutter dog to hold it in place.

“Come Play at Our Place.” Porch Systems you can design and build yourself.

Wood porches look best for traditional architecture.

There are several companies that manufacture pre-engineered Porch Systems. Most can be found online with Google or similar search engines. The type of porch you select will depend on a number of considerations. Do you intend to use the porch year-round and what type of “feeling” and look are you seeking? Many “Florida room” designs consist of aluminum panels with thermal-pane glass and sliding doors. These materials are appropriate for modern architecture. Four-season porches are meant to be air-conditioned and heated while serving as additional living space. Wooden versions are also available with either the greenhouse or conservatory look. These go best with traditional architecture. All 4-season enclosures have building code requirements and property tax impact because they increase the square footage of your living space. When considering these types of porches, don’t forget solar exposure. South facing will dramatically increase solar gain. This is good during winter but much less desirable in summer. Some manufacturers offer specially coated glass to minimize greenhouse effect while filtering rays that fade fabrics.

Another porch type is the 3-Season variety. Modular versions can be purchased for new or existing porches as pre-engineered panels. Older Victorian homes included such porches, usually constructed of wooden screen doors. This gave the ability to switch between insect screens and glass. Such porches usually had high-ceilings and were used throughout the spring, summer and fall. You can still buy wooden screen doors to achieve the same traditional porch feel and look, but there are alternatives.

One company ( offers free online porch design. Simply enter a few dimensions and select options. The website software does the rest. You get a real-time quote with parts list and 3-D architectural views.

Even if you’re thinking of selling your home, an enclosed porch can add more value than its cost. Enjoy the pleasures of outdoor life without the weather and insects that can make a standard open porch uninhabitable.

Helpful Tips for Hanging Exterior Shutters. Preparing for Hurricane Season.

Click on image to read article.

Click on image to read article.

Hanging Exterior Shutters

We found this great, informative post on hanging exterior shutters at For shutters that stand the test of time – visit to design your own.

Why Hurricane Shutters are Needed

With hurricane season approaching, it’s best to consider sold wood panels such as Vixen makes for protection. Standard shutter dog hardware offers a year-round attractive look when in the open position and then easily close and latch when storms are approaching. The Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory (AOML) offers this information on why hurricane shutters are so important: People who live in coastal counties from Texas to Maine, and those in other hurricane prone areas, such as most of the Florida peninsula, will find shutters an excellent investment for protecting their lives and property. They protect against wind and wind-borne debris. These shutters protect not only the windows or doors they cover, but also possessions and people inside the building. Once a window or door has been breeched by hurricane winds tremendous pressure is brought to bear on interior walls and upward pressure on the building’s roof. This can lead to roof failure which exposes the entire contents of the building to the storm. Shutters are a first line of defense against the hurricane. Much of the damage and building failure in Hurricane Andrew could have been prevented by well installed hurricane shutters over windows and doors.

Much of the damage and building failure in Hurricane Andrew could have been prevented by well installed hurricane shutters over windows and doors.

Much of the damage and building failure in hurricanes could be prevented by well installed hurricane shutters over windows and doors.

Vixen Hill Gazebos – Strong Enough to Withstand the Worst Hurricane in a Generation

This Vixen Hill Gazebo withstood Katrina's force.

This Vixen Hill Gazebo withstood Katrina's force.

“It’s all in the wood preparation and engineering,” says Chris Peeples, president of Vixen Hill, when speaking about why a few of his gazebos held up against Katrina, one of the most infamous hurricanes in history. “The before and after photos are amazing, however, and most importantly, our hearts go out to the people who were affected by this horrific storm.”

Vixen Hill customers voluntarily wrote testimonials stating that their backyard gazebo withstood hurricane Katrina, which devastated much of New Orleans and the surrounding southern region around the Mississippi River almost four years ago. Check out the testimonials and photos at the Vixen Hill website, “We must be doing something right if our product can stand up to one of the worst storms of our generation,” says Peeples.

Weather is a huge factor when building outdoor structures. Hot sun, humidity, water, snow, even hail and insects are all elements to consider when engineering a gazebo, pavilion, or pergola. Strong wind is another and hurricane season in some parts of the country can bring gale force winds. While not a guarantee that Vixen Hill outdoor structures will sustain these extreme conditions, testimonies from customers puts a stamp of approval on these backyard products.

    "We live in Hackock County, Mississippi which was hit the worst in Hurricane Katrina....Many of our neighbors are nearly wiped out -- BUT -- our Vixen Hill Gazebo and Vixen Hill garden house had no problem holding up to Katrina."  Weather is a huge factor when building outdoor structures. Hot sun, humidity, water, snow, even hail and insects are all elements to consider when engineering a gazebo, pavilion, or pergola. Strong wind is another and hurricane season in some parts of the country can bring gale force winds. While not a guarantee that Vixen

"We live in Hackock County, Mississippi which was hit the worst in Hurricane Katrina....Many of our neighbors are nearly wiped out -- BUT -- our Vixen Hill Gazebo and Vixen Hill garden house had no problem holding up to Katrina."

“These letters and photos demonstrate the strength of the wood that we use and the benefits of our treatment process. Equally as important, is the knowledgeable engineers who have years of experience in building durable structures able to last for years,” says Peeples.

All of Vixen Hill products are made from the finest, western red cedar wood, which is air-dried at the Vixen Hill factory. This natural air- drying technique helps maintain the wood’s strength and repels termites and other wood boring insects that can cause damage.

Each customized piece is analyzed, by a licensed engineer who calculates the structural, wind and in some cases snow loads, in other words, how much of an element can the structure withstand. “Even snow must be accounted for, since heavy snow can typically cause a roof to cave in,” he adds.

Most standard structures are made to withstand anywhere from 100 to 125 mph wind speed. According to Peeples, “It’s not uncommon for hurricane winds to knock down cheaply-made gazebos and arbors, however, at Vixen Hill, our products are made specifically to endure whatever punishment Mother Nature doles out.” In addition, Vixen Hill offers durable anchoring hardware in strong metal choices like brass and zinc.

With detailed building plans available online, the engineers at Vixen Hill ensure that customers have every piece of information necessary to successfully build their dream gazebo, arbor or pergola. “If there is a question, our experienced customer service representatives are here to help,” says Peeples. For customers who aren’t the ‘do-it-yourself type’, Vixen Hill can recommend local expert installers to help with the project.

“We welcome feedback from our customers and proudly include their letters on our website,” he adds.

Five Weekend Makeovers that Turn Backyards into Retreats With New DIY Products from Vixen Hill suggests five weekend makeover projects that can turn backyards into retreats. These Vixen Hill products are easy to assemble and most can be designed and ordered online.

“Today’s homeowner wants to connect with the outdoors,” explains Christopher Peeples, President and Founder of Vixen Hill. “They want to take control of their own environment in a way that’s positive and improve the home they’re in. Especially if today’s real estate market has made renovation a priority over moving. Finally, our stressful lives require balance and creating peaceful spaces in our lives helps to achieve that balance point.”

Cabana_6x4Makeover #1: The Outdoor Cabana

Visit a resort without leaving home. Create a year-round clubhouse for entertaining and relaxing with friends. Make a yoga room that doubles as a poker room. Whatever the reason, or season – these stunning Cabana houses provide a tranquil focal point that’s both beautiful and functional. A 12’ x 16’ Cabana with no floor, copper roof and screened inserts will retail for $11,945.

ShowercabanaMakeover #2: The Outdoor Shower
Warm, luxurious water… soothing night air… the aromatic scent of cedar – transform backyards into outdoor spas with a garden hose and an outdoor shower from Vixen Hill. Melt away tensions after Vixen Hill’s outdoor shower melts the mud, sand or sea off the dog and the kids… a 4×4 outdoor shower retails for $5,830.

EconomyMakeover #3: The Rustic Gazebo
Get away from it all without leaving the backyard. A gazebo from Vixen Hill creates a peaceful oasis and a central place to create memories or occasions such as weddings, family photos, reunions and weekend barbeques. A rustic gazebo starts at $5,400 for a 9-foot gazebo.

After - Perfect place for relaxing, reading and entertaining.

Makeover #4: Sleeping Porch
Turn off the air conditioning and settle in for a relaxing evening of cool breezes with a Vixen Hill cedar porch system. Vixen Hill helps provide free design plans for porch enclosure systems that can be customized for three season or year-round use. These easy-to-install porch inserts are available in a variety of styles and price points whether they are used as a dining room, entertainment area or sleeping porch.

Pergola_1Makeover #5: Pergola
Outdoor kitchens are all the rage – but who wants to cook under a hot sun? Pergolas naturally filter light so one can enjoy the outdoors in comfort. They also provide a beautiful anchor for climbing plants that can add to the beauty of an outdoor kitchen and deck. An arbor roof pergola starts at $6,765.