Hurricane Shutters FAQ
April 21, 2010
Welcome to the hurricane shutter webpages, co-sponsored by the
Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological
Laboratory's Hurricane Research
Division. They are designed to answer some basic questions
about hurricane shutters and offer instructions on making plywood versions. This page is organized in
a Question & Answer format.
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: Should I put shutters over my doors ???
A: Obviously sliding glass doors, french doors or any door with
considerable glass in it should be protected. Some double
doors or garage doors should either be shuttered or reinforced.
In Hurricane Andrew many of these type doors gave way.
Q: Why should I get hurricane shutters ?
A: People who live in coastal counties from Texas to Maine, and
those in other hurricane prone areas, such as most of the
Florida peninsula, 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 breeched 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. Much of the damage and
building failure in Hurricane Andrew could have been prevented
by well installed hurricane shutters over windows and doors.
Q: Why should I bother with shutters if I live in an
A: Shutters will protect your house and possessions from wind
damage whether you are there or not. If the
storm surge should reach your home then the shutters
won't protect against the flood of water. But not every
place in the evacuation zone will flood. You should take
every reasonable precaution to protect your property.
Q: What kinds of shutters are available ?
A: Click here for a listing.
Q: What are the best kind of 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.
Which ever 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: How do I choose an installation company I can trust ?
A: The same way you go about choosing any company that performs
a service. Make sure they are licensed, get references, and
then check the references. Ask your neighbors and friends
about who installed their shutters and if they had any complaints
or recommendations. Check out a company with the Better Buisness
Bureau, your local licensing authority, or contractor accociation.
Q: When is the best time to get my shutters installed ?
A: The best time to have shutters installed is when the house is built
so they can be a part of the design. If you own a house without
shutters have them installed as soon as is pracitcal. Keep in mind
that the beginning of hurricane season
may be a busy time for most installation companies. Do NOT wait until a
Hurricane Watch is
issued for your area.
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.
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
so that you are not struggling with panels during high winds.
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,
it 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 effectivness. For full instructions on
how to make these shutters click here.
If even these 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.
Q: Can condominium associations prohibit shutters ?
A: The short answer in Florida is NO. Chapter 718 of Florida
Statutes of the Comdominium Act (1991) permits each board of
administration to adopt specifications as to color, style, etc.,
but all specifications "shall comply with the applicable building
code". The Florida statutes further state "... a board shall not
refuse to approve the installation or replacement of hurricane
shutters conforming to the specifications adopted by the board."
Return to main Shutter page.