|Answers to common window protection questions|
Q: During a hurricane are you supposed to have the windows and doors on the storm side closed and the windows and doors on the lee side open?
A: No! All of the doors and windows should be closed (and shuttered) throughout the duration of the hurricane. The pressure differences between inside your house and outside in the storm do not build up enough to cause any damaging explosions. (No house is built airtight.)
Q: Should I tape my windows when a hurricane threatens?
A: No, it is a waste of effort, time and tape. It offers little strength to the glass and NO protection against flying debris. After the storm passes, you will spend many a hot summer afternoon trying to scrape the old, baked-on tape off your windows (assuming they weren’t shattered). Once a Hurricane Warning has been issued, you would be better off spending your time putting up shutters over doors and windows.
Q: Why should I get hurricane shutters?
A: People who live in hurricane prone areas 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 breached 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.
Q: What are the best kind of hurricane shutters?
A: The best kind are those that are affordable, are easy to install, and offer the greatest protection. Which of these properties is most important to you depends on individual circumstances. For a disabled or elderly person, it may be ease of installation with either an automatic closing mechanism or accordion type shutters. For those with limited incomes, plywood shutters may be the only affordable option.
For most people the best compromise would be steel panels, which offer good protection, but are expensive and take effort to install. Aluminum panels are lighter and easier to install, but offer less protection and may not meet the building code for your area.
Whichever type you decide on, it is important to remember that shutters are only as good as the quality of their installation. Ensure that the shutters or their anchors are installed by qualified workmen and that quality materials that meet the building code for your area are used.
Q: What about the plastic film and shatter resistant windows I’ve heard about?
A: Although these are remarkable products that are being improved every year, they are no substitute for shutters. If you have windows that for some reason, such as access, can’t be shuttered, then you may wish to consider using the film or installing the shatter resistant glass.
Remember that the film only protects the glass. The frame is still under pressure, and the whole window could fail. Windows with these treatments will still suffer damage from the impact of debris and may have to be replaced after a storm, whereas a shutter would take most or all of the energy of such an impact. Films and special glasses also might not meet the building code for your area.
Q: What if I can’t afford commercial shutters?
A: The least expensive, effective method of protecting windows is probably using plywood. The key to plywood shutters is thickness and installation. Use at least 5/8-inch exterior grade plywood, which makes the shutters heavier but safer.
They should be cut to fit inside the window frame, installed prior to hurricane season, marked for which window they are made for, and stored with their hardware, preferably in a dry location. Heat and moisture over time will warp plywood, and a good fit is essential to their effectiveness.
If even shutters seem too expensive, consider making them for two or three windows at a time, starting with the most vulnerable. After a few years, you will have your whole house ready.
Check your shutters
At the start of each hurricane season you should test out your shutters. For permanently installed shutters try closing each one to make sure they work smoothly and lock tight. For panels and plywood shutters try a couple of windows and doors to ensure the hardware works and check the time you need to complete the job. Check all panels for warpage or other damage which could compromise its integrity. Repair any problems at this time so that everything is ready when a storm threatens.
When a Hurricane Watch is issued for your area check all mechanisms and hardware again, and maybe pre-install the more difficult shutters. If you live in an evacuation zone and it will take 2 or 3 hours to complete your shutter installation, you may want to start during the Watch phase. If you are not in an evacuation zone you should time your installation early in the Warning phase so that you are not struggling with panels during high winds.