Storm Protection for Exterior Windows and Doors

Anyone who lives in South Florida is familiar with the rituals and warnings that go along with living through a Hurricane season.  The last active hurricane season was in 2005 when hurricanes hit the South Florida region on 3 separate occasions leaving their marks in several areas.  The entire tri-county area was struck on October 25, 2005 when category 3 hurricane Wilma slammed into the area leaving nearly 6,000,000 people without power and billions of dollars in property damage.  Much of the damage could have been prevented with proper hurricane protection where none existed.

Image Credit: FEMA_-_150

The Florida Building codes have addressed protection requirements for all new home construction as well as those that are substantially remodeled. The defined protective measures specify requirements for openings that include windows, sliding glass doors, glass French doors, or any other type of doors that contain glass in them.  Any of the protective measures specified for new construction can be implemented as replacements or supplemental protection for existing homes.

Impact Resistant Windows

The best option albeit the most expensive is to simply replace all of your current windows with new impact resistant windows. These windows are designed to withstand flying debris. This does not mean that they cannot break; but if they do, they will maintain the integrity of their structural envelope and not allow the wind and rain into the home. During a storm when an opening is breached, the wind is able to enter the home while pressure builds until another structural component fails. Impact resistant windows are designed as a complete system, meaning that the glass has been designed to specific standards incorporated with the frames and the method of attaching the windows to the opening.

 Install Storm Shutters

Another method of storm protection is the installation of hurricane / storm shutters. There are several different types of storm shutters available. There are the roll down type shutters which require a permanent installation and should be done by a professional licensed installer. A second form of shutter is the accordion style. These are also permanently installed and used for large openings such as large glass sliding doors as well as regular windows. The final type is the individual panel/slats, which get mounted when a storm warning is present. These will need a place to store them like a garage, as they are not permanently installed, as opposed to the first two mentioned are. Should you select the storm shutter method to protect your windows and or doors, confirm that you are receiving state approved materials. These products should carry one of the following labels; ASTM E 1886 and ASTM E 1996 or Miami-Dade TAS 201, 202 and 203.

Using Sheets of Plywood

The final and least expensive option is the use of plywood to protect your windows. The Florida Building Code does not allow for anything less than 7/16 inch thick plywood, also it must be plywood, and not particle board. Even though the code allows for the use of 7/16 inch plywood the thicker the plywood is, the stronger it will be. It should be of an exterior grade which is usually the least expensive. If you decide to use plywood, it needs to be securely attached to the structure, and not cut to fit inside of the opening.

There are many different types of anchoring devices that you can use. The Florida Building Code requires that the hardware be corrosion resistant and permanently attached to the building. It is suggested that you look into the different options available and pick the one that will work best for your application.

Erin Emanuel