Window and Patio Doors

Shandy Heil, Skinner, Patricia

There are several viable ways to protect your windows and doors against damage during a hurricane. We are often asked whether masking tape or any other type of tape placed across the glass will provide protection against storm debris - the unequivocal answer is NO. Hurricanes are devastating forces of nature and more substantial protection is required to withstand their wrath.

Window / Patio Door Shutters

One way to protect a home from damage in windstorms is to install impact-resistant shutters over all large windows and glass doors. Not only do they protect doors and windows from wind-borne objects, but they can reduce damage caused by sudden pressure changes when a window or door is broken.

The APA - The Engineered Wood Association offers a series of Hurricane Shutter Designs. They include:

Shutters for Wood-Frame Buildings

Shutters for Masonry Block Structures, Barrel Bolt Latch Support

Shutters for Masonry Block Structures, Steel or Aluminum Angle and Screw Supports

Shutters for Masonry Block Structures, Shutters Attached to Outside Wall with Permanently Mounted Brackets

Shutters for Masonry Block Structures, For Openings Wider than 8 Feet

Each design is available from APA - The Engineered Wood Association.

The easiest designs are those that simply cover the opening with a structural panel such as plywood. In past hurricanes, many homeowners, upon returning, have noticed their temporary plywood shutters blew off because they were not adequately fastened. If you have a wood-frame house, use adequate fasteners to attach the panels over the openings when a hurricane approaches. Have these temporary shutters stored and ready to use since building supply stores generally sell out of these materials quickly during a hurricane warning. If your home is made with concrete blocks, however, you will have to install anchoring devices well in advance.

If your residence has permanent shutters, evaluate their effectiveness. Manufacturers are responsible for testing their shutters up to the standards necessary to resist wind forces and wind-borne debris. Some shutters are very flexible, especially those that roll up.

If struck by a rigid piece of debris, shutters may bend and break the window. To determine whether your shutter can resist this impact, gently lean against it and see if it yields. You can also inspect your shutters to see if they are properly attached to the house and will not fly off during a storm by inspecting the shutter connectors for obvious excessive wear or missing connectors. Ask the shutter manufacturer for proper installation criteria.

Impact-Resistant Windows / Patio Doors

Another way to protect your home from damage in windstorms is by installing impact-resistant windows and doors.

Impact-resistant Standards: Several different organizations have missile impact test standards. Permanent and temporary shutters, in addition to impact-resistant window and door systems, should meet one or all of these standards:

Southern Building Code Congress International Test Standard for Determining Impact Resistance From Wind-borne Debris

Impact Test Procedures for Metropolitan Dade County Building Code Compliance Office:
PA-20.1-94: Impact Test Procedures
Photo Courtesy of Solutic

PA-202-94: Criteria for Testing Impact and Non-Impact-Resistant Building Envelope Components Using Uniform Static Air Pressure

PA-203-94: Criteria for Testing Products Subject to Cyclic Wind Pressure Loading

ASTM E 1886: Standard Test Method for Performance of Exterior Windows, Curtain Walls, Doors and Storm Shutters Impacted by Wind-borne Debris in Hurricanes.

Each design is available from APA - The Engineered Wood Association.

Although these products look no different from standard windows and doors, they offer significantly more protection from wind-borne debris. In fact, these systems are capable of resisting impacts from large objects. For this reason, temporary shutters do not need to be installed before a storm strikes.

In general, the frame and glazing work together to protect your home from both the elements and the significant internal pressure changes that lead to structural damage. While large wind-borne debris may crack the impact resistant glass during the course of the storm, the window is designed to retain its integrity and not break apart. If either the frame or glass is damaged, it can be repaired at your convenience after the storm has passed.

Consider installing impact-resistant windows and doors when your existing windows and doors require replacement or when you are planning new construction.

You can purchase certified windows and doors through qualified manufacturers at local building supply stores. There are a variety of different systems; the best impact-resistant windows and doors typically consist of either laminated glass, plastic glazing, or combination plastic and glass systems. Be sure installation guidelines are followed carefully.

Window Film

Some homeowners have considered window film as an alternative to other window protection systems. The most common method of installing window film is known as "daylight installation." The process involves pre-cutting the adhesive-backed film to a size slightly larger than the windowpane to which it will be applied. Then, at the time of installation, the film is trimmed back to the size of the windowpane.

One of the most common types of window film is known as "safety film." This type of film should never be less than 4 mils in thickness. Typically, safety film products meet the same break-safe requirements as tempered safety glass. This means that the safety film should hold the glass shards together, thus preventing a potential hazard from sharp, broken glass. Safety film may also offer a degree of protection in the case of high winds, but should not be considered adequate protection for windows in hurricane-prone areas.

As a homeowner in a hurricane-prone area, you should always purchase a product or system that has been tested and certified as passing one of the previously mentioned impact-resistant standards. To date, no daylight installed window film, regardless of its thickness, has passed any impact-resistant standard.

Related article:
Window Opening Protection

4/7/2005 7:36:53 PM
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