Hurricane Shutters FAQ

NOAA/AOML/ Hurricane Research Division
4301 Rickenbacker Causeway
Miami, Florida 33149

Version 1.1
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 evacuation zone?
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.
When a 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 Warning phase 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.