Thunderstorms: Doors and Windows - Protecting

Material provided by Federal Alliance for Safe Homes

The Myths of Masking and Duct Tape  

Many people still believe they can use masking tape to protect their windows when a hurricane is on its way. This is a myth. Imagine a mail box that has been ripped from the ground, post and all, by a 120 mph wind gust. A dangerous projectile will not even slow down as it passes through masking tape or any other tape. Windows are best protected with code-approved impact-resistant glass, or hurricane shutters. 

Opening Protection 

Protecting the home's openings from winds and wind blown objects is the single most important step a homeowner can take in protecting the structure from serious damage. If you can keep the wind outside, you and your possessions will be safe inside. 

Many products and systems are available to protect your home's openings, but it is critical that any product or system be both tested and approved for wind load and wind borne debris. Unprotected standard glass windows can be penetrated easily by wind borne debris in severe windstorms allowing damaging water and wind to enter your home. Once the window glass fails, the subsequent pressurization of the structure can cause total destruction of the house. 

FLASH recommends using opening protection that meet one of the following tests to protect your windows and doors: 

The most common device for opening protection is the hurricane shutter system. Choices include permanent or temporary shutter systems for use on windows and skylights as well as gable end vents, sliding glass doors, exterior doors and garage doors. There are two types of shutter systems, permanent shutters and temporary shutters.  

Permanent Shutters 

Permanent storm shutters are usually made of aluminum or steel and are attached to a building in such a way that they can be closed quickly before a storm arrives. They should be installed according to the manufacturer's specifications by trained individuals to ensure the shutters will perform as designed and tested. 

Factors to consider when choosing a shutter system are cost, approval status, design and test results for wind and impact resistance. Permanent shutter types include Bahamas, Roll Downs, Accordion, Awning and Colonial Hinged.  

Choosing a shutter style can be based on the building location relative to the coast and the cost and ease of operation. Ease of operation is an important factor to consider because if shutters are too hard to close, owners may not use them. 

If shutters cover windows on an upper floor or hard to reach location, they should be operable from the inside. Roll-down shutters are often the easiest to operate in these conditions.  

Temporary Shutters  

Temporary shutters are typically made from corrugated panels that come in standard widths and can be joined to cover wider openings. They are commercially available in many types of materials including steel, aluminum, and clear plastic. 

The mounting hardware for temporary shutter systems should be installed by trained individuals according to the manufacturer’s specifications. Nearly all hardware or permanent shutter installations require a building permit. 

Each panel should be clearly labeled to aid in quick installation and should also bear approved labels. 

Plywood Shutters… The Last Resort  

Covering your windows and doors with plywood should only be used as a temporary emergency board-up option not a permanent solution. 

Plywood that is not properly attached to your house can rip off during high winds and become a projectile that can cause serious harm to properties. 

See Emergency Board Up for detailed instructions about building plywood shutters for emergency board up.  

Benefits of Using This Mitigation Strategy 

Estimated Costs 

Storm shutters can cost $50 to $60 per square foot of window and on average the openings that need to be protected is on average 15 percent of the home’s total square footage. A set of shutters for a 3-foot by 4-foot window will cost approximately $600 to $720.