Protect Your Windows


Make Resilient Upgrades | Strengthen Your Home • Hurricanes

Why do they matter?

When windows break and allow wind to enter your home, the pressure can build until it eventually causes the weakest part of your home to rupture. Think of it like blowing up a balloon. Once the internal pressure reaches a certain level, it pops. Often, the first thing to “pop” in your home is your roof, so that is why it is critical to protect all your home’s openings with hurricane shutters, panels, or plywood.

When you protect your openings, they can resist impacts from windborne debris like flying missiles, tree limbs, or roofing materials that can break windows and breach doors and allow pressurization to occur. Protecting your openings and keeping them intact can also prevent wind-driven rain and moisture from entering your home.

Tested and approved, permanently mounted hurricane shutters, as well as temporary panels made from metal or other materials, can all serve as adequate protection for home’s openings. If you do not have a shutter system for your home and a hurricane threat is imminent, you can use emergency panels made with ⅝ inch thick plywood.

What do I need to know?

  • Shutters or other opening protection is necessary for all of your home’s unprotected openings, including windows, entry doors, garage doors, skylights, sliding doors, gable end vents, etc. However, many of these elements, mainly garage and exterior doors, may already be wind- and impact-rated, so check your paperwork to evaluate your current protection level.
  • Installing impact-rated shutters over windows and doors is necessary to protect them from windborne debris impacts like flying limbs, construction materials, or even playground items. Protection prevents breakage that allows wind and water to enter and build inside your home.
  • Most shutters are designed to prevent windborne debris from breaking the windows; however, some opening protection choices, e.g., screens, will protect from pressurization but will not keep wind-driven rain out of the home.
  • If your underlying window or door system is weak or poorly anchored to the walls of your home, it can still fail behind a shutter. Failure could allow internal pressure to build and cause potential damage.
  • Even high-quality, permanently mounted shutters may not keep the doors and windows from failing due to wind pressure if they are installed incorrectly.
  • Shutter systems are less expensive than impact-rated glass. However, while the impact-rated glass is always in place, shutters must be deployed before a high-wind event. Moreover, the cost of new windows plus shutters may be close to the cost of impact-resistant windows alone.
  • Some shutters are easily deployed by automatic means, even from a distance. Others require placement in mounting trays or brackets.
  • Shutter systems, doors, and garage doors should carry proof of compliance identified on a sticker or label or imprinted into the product. Alternatively, the product paperwork should document compliance with all relevant testing standards.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s specifications when installing any opening protection system. Improper installation may cause a voided warranty or worse, a product failure that presents a threat to life and property.

Where do I start?

Begin by identifying all the openings on your home and evaluate any that are already wind- or impact-rated. Review shutter and opening protection options, and remember that you can mix and match different options so long as whatever you select is tested, approved, and certified to the relevant standards. For example, you may want to choose permanently mounted, motor-operated protection for the second story or hard to reach windows to avoid using ladders as a hurricane approaches.

Temporary, emergency plywood panels do not carry any testing or approval. However, you should still learn and plan for how to use them correctly if they are your only option.

Purchasing shutters

  • There are many excellent options when it comes to choosing the best type of shutters for your home. Selecting the right type depends on a variety of factors, including your budget, style, and ability to deploy the panels. Use this comparison table to find the right shutters for your home.
  • Ask your local building and zoning department for information about the wind rating and windborne debris protection requirements where you live.
  • Contact an established, local, licensed, bonded, and insured professional company to discuss the different types of shutter or opening protection options in your area.
  • Keep in mind that permanently-mounted, motor-operated, roll down type shutters can be closed quickly before a storm arrives. Most include a remote control option using either a smartphone app or website, so you may not need to be home to deploy them.
  • Make sure you understand how to operate any motor-driven shutters manually in a power outage, so you can get them open after the storm passes.
  • Reinforced screens or fabric opening protection may not protect from deflection (pushing) that can break windows or door glass. Often, the best use for these shutters is to protect openings, or lanai’s where they do not sit directly on top of glass panes or panels.

Temporary Emergency Board Plywood Panels

FLASH recommends that you install certified, tested, and code-approved, wind- and impact-resistant opening protection to achieve the highest level of protection from windborne debris. However, in an emergency where a temporary measure is the only option, properly cut and mounted ⅝” plywood can provide adequate protection for exposed openings.

Consider hiring a contractor or handyman to create the temporary plywood covers, and do so before hurricanes threaten. If you plan, your local home improvement store may also be willing to cut each panel to fit and help you pre-drill the holes.

Step One: Plan the Project

  1. Count and measure each window and door with glass, including entry doors, sliding glass doors, French doors, skylights, and garage doors. Evaluate roof and gable end vents or any opening that, if damaged, is large enough to allow wind inside your home.
  2. Measure each opening horizontally inside the exterior trim and vertically from the sill to the bottom of the top trim. Add eight inches to both the height and width to provide a four-inch overlap on all sides. When measuring a window with an extended sill, measure from the top of the sill to the top of the window and add four inches instead of eight.
  3. Standard plywood panels are generally 4 feet by 8 feet, so calculate how many you will need using your measurements. Be sure to purchase plywood that is ⅝” or thicker, exterior grade (CDX) instead of oriented strand board, or OSB.

Step Two: Assemble Your Tools and Hardware

  • You will need a circular saw, drill and drill bits, hammer and wrench, work gloves, and safety goggles for this project.
  • You will also need an assortment of hardware including bolts, wood or masonry anchors, nuts, and large washers. Different types of bolts will be needed for wood frame versus masonry homes.
  • Use lag screws and plastic coated permanent anchors for wood-frame homes. Use expansion bolts and galvanized permanent expansion anchors for masonry homes.

Step Three: Get Started

Having someone help you with this project will make things a lot easier. Form a team with neighbors and work together to make the project more manageable.

  1. First, drill holes in the same diameter as the bolts or screws, 2-inches in from the edges of the plywood at each corner, and at 12-inch intervals around the panel.
  2. Next, hold the plywood firmly in place over the opening to mark where to drill mounting holes.
    • If the window sill is flush to the wall, secure the plywood on all four sides.
    • If the window sill extends out at the bottom, secure the plywood on the top and sides.
  3. Use 1/4-inch lag screws and plastic coated permanent anchors for windows 3 feet by 4 feet or smaller that are installed on a wood-frame house. The lag screws should penetrate the wall and frame surrounding the window at least 1 3/4 inches. For larger windows, use 3/8-inch lag screws that penetrate the wall and frame surrounding the window at least 2 1/2 inches.
  4. Use 1/4 inch expansion bolts and galvanized permanent expansion anchors for windows 3 feet by 4 feet or smaller installed on a masonry house, The expansion bolts should penetrate the wall at least 1 1/2 inches. For larger windows, use 3/8-inch expansion bolts that penetrate the wall at least 1 1/2 inches.
  5. If a window or door is larger than a typical 4 x 8 sheet of plywood, you will need to join the panels with 2 x 4 bracing along the entire seam using this method:
    • Attach the 2 x 4’s to the outside of the plywood panel with ten gauge, 2 inches long galvanized screws (exterior deck screws) spaced every 4 inches.
    • Use the widest side of the 2 x 4 to run the length of the entire seam.
  6. When you finish, use a permanent marker to label each panel with the name of the opening, so you will know where to install it when a storm is approaching.
  7. Consider waterproofing the panels with paint or a sealant.
  8. Store the panels, washers, and nuts together in a location away from the elements.



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