Hurricane Window Protection: Separating Fact from Fiction

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When the forecast shows a building hurricane, window protection should be one of the first things you consider. Whether or not you are required to evacuate, you want to ensure your home is as weatherproofed as possible. But in all the good advice out there about protecting your home, there are also a few harmful myths. In this article, we’ll tackle what’s fact and what’s fiction when it comes to how to protect your windows in a hurricane. We’ll also show you how to tell if you have hurricane windows installed.

Facts: How to Protect Windows From a Hurricane

There are three main ways to help keep your windows safe during a major storm like a hurricane, and they range in difficulty, cost, and permanence.

1. Cover Your Windows With Plywood

With this protection measure, plywood gets attached directly to the window frame to help keep debris picked up by high winds from breaking your window glass. This is one of the most popular options due to how inexpensive it is.

However, you should be fairly handy if you want to attempt this yourself. You’ll need to measure your windows, have plywood cut about eight inches larger than the window on all sides, and then install the plywood with bolts or screws every ten to 12 inches. All of that means you will need power tools, a ladder (if your home is more than a single story), and an additional person (or two) who is also comfortable with projects like this.

If you’re not particularly handy or don’t want to rely on a last-minute fix, talk to a window contractor about more permanent solutions, like upgrading to hurricane windows (which we cover in detail below).

2. Get Film, Shutters, or Fabric

You can also invest in more permanent products. Here’s what to know about each.

  • Hurricane film is very affordable and can be left on your windows year-round. However, it doesn’t protect the window as much as it protects occupants in the home. The film won’t keep windows from breaking, but it will keep glass shards from being blown inside.

  • Hurricane shutters protect your windows in the same way plywood does, but they are much stronger and are also much quicker to put up and take down. Some shutter styles are even designed to stay attached but out of the way year-round. There are multiple shutter styles available at a variety of price points, including storm panels that get installed in a track, automatic shutters that roll down over a window, and colonial shutters that get closed with a storm bar.

  • Hurricane fabric is an extremely durable fabric that protects against wind, rain, and debris. Like other options, it is installed directly on top of each window, so it will still require labor and power tools to be securely anchored. However, unlike plywood or shutters, the fabric itself is extremely lightweight and easy to install. It is also to leave the fasteners attached year-round while rolling up and storing the fabric when it’s not needed.

3. Get Hurricane Windows or High-Impact Glass

This is the most expensive solution, but also the most permanent one. If your home windows are reaching the end of their lifespan, getting storm windows (also called hurricane windows or impact windows) can significantly increase how protected your home stays during severe weather. If your windows are still in good shape, then you can keep them and simply replace the glass with high-impact glass (also called hurricane glass and laminated glass).

One thing to know: while many people use the terms “hurricane windows” and “impact windows” interchangeably, some window manufacturers offer these as two distinct products. You want to find a window or glass that meets Florida Building Code requirements, no matter what the window manufacturer calls the product.

A window contractor can give you recommendations tailored to your home and exact location. You can also get a quote on hurricane windows and figure out what the overall investment would be vs how much money you could save.

Fiction: What Not to Do to Your Windows During a Hurricane

There are two persistent myths about hurricane window protection that need to be debunked once and for all: taping an X over the glass and leaving the window open.

1. Why You Should Not Tape an X Over Your Window Glass

This myth claims to do what hurricane film actually does: keep your glass from shattering into pieces if it is hit by debris. In reality, taping an X on your window does not prevent the glass from shattering, and in fact, could make the shattering worse. If debris strikes your window, the tape could end up sticking multiple shards together, creating larger and more dangerous pieces.

In short, there are no benefits to taping an X on your window glass. If you’re concerned about window glass shattering, get hurricane film or replace your window glass with hurricane glass/impact glass.

2. Do Not Open Your Windows During a Weather Event

Similar to the myth above, this myth actually makes the problem worse instead of better. The rationale behind this poor advice is that opening a window helps to release or stabilize pressure changes caused by a storm, which keeps your roof from being lifted off. However, roofs lifting from homes and the catastrophic damage that comes with it is actually caused by high winds blowing into broken or open windows and doors. In addition, any openings allow rain and debris to get inside.

During a hurricane, you should keep your windows and doors closed and covered to prevent damage.

How Do I Know My Windows Are Hurricane Proof?

Whether you just moved into your home or simply have never known, there’s an easy way to tell if you already have hurricane windows installed: there will be a marking in one of the corners of the glass. Manufacturers typically include the window’s safety standards by permanently marking it into the glass. You should be able to find the manufacturer’s name as well as the date it was made and the glass’s rating.

If you don’t see any kind of marking or label, you may want to consult with a window professional to double-check exactly what kind of window and window glass you have.

The Final Word on Hurricane Windows

Though hurricane windows are more expensive than standard windows, they also provide permanent protection for years to come. Get a quote from a window contractor if you’re curious about the ROI of hurricane windows or hurricane/impact glass. You can also check with your insurance company to see if hurricane shutters, hurricane fabric, or hurricane windows would result in a lower monthly payment.