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Wonderful Home Design

Choices in Hurricane Window Protection

Choices in Hurricane Window Protection

Hurricane shutters are the most economical, therefore the most popular solution chosen by homeowners. However, hurricane impact windows and doors are also very popular because of the added benefits of convenience, security enhancement, better energy efficiency, sound proofing and its attractiveness over shutters. The least expensive system is plywood or panels; these offer great protection, but take a great deal of time to install.

Your considerations: Cost, appearance, and convenience (this one is often under estimated).

First, understand what it is your protecting: it’s not just the shards of glass from the broken window that are dangerous – having your roof blown off will really get your attention. During a hurricane, the strong wind that blows over your home creates a ‘lift’ effect on your roof. If a window or door opening is blown open during the storm, this creates an additional upward ‘push’ on the roof, thus doubling or tripling the lifting effect. This is how roofs are blown off.

Here are the vitals on your choices for hurricane window protection for your home.

Myth Buster- Window Film and a little info on Impact Windows:

Window film can reduce the sun’s damaging rays into your home and it is promoted to be a theft deterrent. It may also very well reduce the chance for shards of glass to go flying through your home in the event of a hurricane, but do you really think slapping a thin piece of film on your existing windows is going to keep your roof on in the event of a hurricane? By comparison, impact windows are almost three times as thick as regular window glass. Hurricane windows are made up of two layers of glass and sandwiched between these layers of glass is a strong tear resistant interlayer (film) that keeps the glass together in the event it is broken. They are much like the windshield of automobiles.

A key factor in the strength of impact windows is how the glass & interlayer are VERY securely attached to a reinforced frame (both mechanically and through the use of industrial adhesives) so the impact glass does NOT detached even under extreme pressure. The goal is to establish hurricane window protection for all openings (whether one does this through the use of hurricane shutters or impact windows, or a combination of the two) and keep the openings sealed so as to not cause a change in pressure inside the home thus blowing off the roof. The idea of putting hurricane window film on a regular window with its lightweight frame and expecting it to even remotely resemble a Miami-Dade approved impact window is ridiculous. Yes, it would be better than nothing, but your money would be better spent on plywood.

Plywood Shutters ($2 – $4 / sq. ft.):

A popular and effective choice, installing plywood shutters to fit snugly inside the window or door frame is an efficient and affordable option for homeowners. These shutters were effective even in the highest winds of Hurricane Andrew, and are relatively easy to install. If you are going to use this method, the plywood needs to be 5/8″ to 3/4″ thick, and since it takes a lot of time to prepare, it should be cut to size way before we have a storm bearing down on us.


    Most inexpensive of all hurricane protective systems Strong and can provide excellent protection


    Require storage, but can be stacked Heavy and difficult to handle, hanging may require more than one person Require the most time to install Not a safe option for 2 story homes

Storm Prep: 20 – 25 minutes per window (if pre-cut); 5 to 8 hours for an average home

Storm panel hurricane shutters ($5 – $8 / sq. ft.):

Another popular and effective choice, these hurricane shutters are typically steel or aluminum corrugated panels that attach to the walls around windows and doors. There are several mounting methods using either pre-mounted tracks and bolts or just bolts.


    Most inexpensive of the ‘permanent’ hurricane shutter systems Strong and can provide excellent protection Can be installed by a handy DIY


    Require storage, but can be stacked Can be heavy and difficult to handle, hanging may require more than one person Time consuming – other than plywood, these require the 2nd most time to install Have sharp edges – can be dangerous Not a convenient option for 2 story homes

Storm Prep: 15 – 20 minutes per window; 4 to 6 hours for an average home

Accordion Hurricane Shutters ($15 – $18 / sq. ft.):

Accordion hurricane shutters are attached directly to your home at the window or door opening, folded up when they are not in use and easily unfolded, accordion-style when you need to cover and protect the opening during a storm.


    Easily deployable by one person when they are needed. Permanently attached next to the window, don’t require storage. Some can be locked and may be used as a theft deterrent.


    Bulky and not attractive. Seriously consider aesthetics before purchasing these. More mechanical parts, so may require more maintenance than other devices.

Storm Prep: 30 minutes for an entire home

Colonial and Bahama Hurricane Shutters ($18 – $28 / sq. ft.):

These are louvered hurricane shutters that attach directly to the wall beside or above the windows


    Permanently attached next to, or above the window, don’t require storage. Easily deployable by one person when they are needed. Since they are decorative they can beautify the home as well as protect it.


    Cannot be used as protection for doors, must be combined with another system. Designs and style may limit their use.

Storm Prep: 30 minutes to an hour for an entire home

Roll-Down Hurricane Shutters ($35 – $55 / sq. ft.):

These hurricane shutters attach permanently above the window in an enclosed box when they are not in use and roll down, either manually with a hand crank or electronically by motor, when you need them.


    Permanently attached next to, or above the window, don’t require storage. Easily deployable by one person when they are needed. Since they can be locked, they make an excellent theft deterrent.


    One of the most expensive systems. Requires a battery backup so they can be operated during power outages.

Storm Prep: Minimal, easiest of the hurricane shutter systems

Impact Windows ($40 – $55+ / sq. ft.):

Hurricane impact windows can withstand hurricane debris and completely eliminate the need for hurricane shutters. It costs more to retrofit an existing home, but is most cost effective if a homeowner is considering replacing old windows anyway. This is the most value added of the hurricane window protection systems, since impact windows also improve energy efficiency, are an excellent theft deterrent, provide sound deadening from outside noises, as well as give your home hurricane window protection in the event of a storm. Further, adding new impact windows is likely to increase the value of your home, more so than with any of the other hurricane protective systems.


    Eliminates the need for hurricane shutters Great for people with 2nd homes- the home is hurricane ready all the time. Excellent theft deterrent, nearly impossible to break through the glass. Added value of sound deadening & energy efficiency over regular windows.


    Like roll-down shutters, this is one of the most expensive systems.

Storm Prep: NONE


Keep in mind that if the aesthetics of shutters is bothering you, but the cost of impact windows is nearly out of reach, you can always combine the two. Install impact windows on the front, and possibly the sides of your home. Then protect the window openings that are cannot be seen from the street with shutters.

And don’t underestimate the hassle of installing shutters every time there is a hurricane warning. I frequently go out to do estimates for impact windows on homes that have shutter panels because the homeowner is tired of dealing with installing them.

Finally, if your existing windows are in need of replacement because they are old, I encourage you to retrofit them with impact windows since the cost difference between non-impact windows with hurricane shutters versus only impact windows is marginal.

Once you have narrowed your choices to what type of hurricane window protection system is best for your situation, talk to an expert to help you in your final selection. Depending on which of the above systems best suits you, be it hurricane shutters or impact windows, there are many different style choices, and manufacturers who offer different options. Window contractors are your best experts. How to find one? Ideally, get one who is referred to you by a family member, neighbor or a friend. If they have done a good job for them, this person can provide you with a wealth of knowledge that has been learned over the years. If you must select a contractor you find online, check out their references (at least 5), call them, and go look at the contractor’s work.