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Protecting Your Home Before the Next Hurricane Hits

Although most Westchase-area homes escaped serious damage during Hurricane Irma last September, window protection remains a hot-button issue for the next storm season.

The Tampa Bay area hasn’t had a direct hit from a hurricane since 1921, so maybe its run of luck will continue. But even though a threat (or potential threat) could be months away, it’s never too early for planning ahead.

Last September, some panicked residents looked on with envy at neighbors who had already secured window protection. Maybe they vowed a move to future action. But months of clear weather can lead to complacency and a sense of security.

If you’re inclined to be proactive, the time is right. Companies that specialize in storm window protection are often quicker to respond – and less expensive – before storm warnings start being posted.

“It’s always a good idea to investigate some type of protection for your windows,’’ said Future Home Realty’s Susan Abraham, a Realtor and longtime resident of The Shires. “We have seen homeowners use all sorts of options. There’s probably no right or wrong answer. It might depend on your budget or the dynamics of your family. It’s definitely something to consider ahead of time, well before a storm could be on the way.’’


There’s old-fashioned plywood.

There’s custom-made metal hurricane protection.

There are accordion-style shutters.

There’s hurricane-proof glass.

There’s even emerging technology, such as high-tech fabric.

Regardless of the choice, it’s paramount to plan ahead and make sure you have the right tools and hardware on hand before the storm nears.

Here’s a closer look at what’s available:

Plywood — If you don’t have shutters or another pre-installed system, this is an extremely common option.

Most experts recommend 5/8-inch thickness to be effective.

You could construct barrel-bolt plywood shutters (for use on concrete-block stucco homes with windows inset at least 2 inches from the exterior wall) or overlapping plywood shutters.

This requires some handyman competence because you’ll be drilling holes in the wall and plywood.

If plywood is your thing, you must act promptly. When a storm nears, plywood quickly flies off the shelves of hardware stores and home-improvement warehouses.

Plywood costs range from $1-$5 per square foot. Count on about an hour to 90 minutes for each window. You will save money, but it will cost you some sweat equity. And if you opt for the 5/8-inch thickness, the weight of each sheet makes it more than a one-person job. Wrestling with such heavy sheets of wood above a first floor may also prompt some to opt for more durable but lighter options.

Metal — Steel or aluminum shutters attach to the walls around windows and doors, using bolts and tracks. The panels are corrugated and each piece overlaps the next, assuring maximum strength.

One option is the panel slipping into a track above the window, while the bottom is secured by bolts that are permanently attached beneath the window.

There’s also a style with a set of C-shaped tracks above and below the windows and doors. Bolts slide into the tracks and must be manually aligned with the panel’s holes. Some homeowners have bolts permanently set into the wall. They are loosened as the panel is hung horizontally, then secured with tightened screws.

It’s important to have properly organized storage for the panels, which are generally stacked together in tight fashion. If you need them in a pinch, it’s frustrating to realize that a panel is missing or cut improperly. They also can be heavy, so installation often is a two-person job.

They offer strong protection and are removable, so the home’s look isn’t affected.

There are also some polycarbonate plastic panels, which are more expensive, but they allow light into your home.

Metal panels are about $7-$8 per square foot. Installation time is about 15 minutes per window.

Accordion-Style Shutters — These are one-piece or two-piece shutters that are generally housed beside the windows or doors. They unfold like an accordion to quickly cover and protect the windows.

No extra storage space is needed and they are usually can be set up by one person. Some models can be locked with a key (so they could actually double as a home-security device).

Some models are a bit bulky and don’t have the proper aesthetics for some homes. Some glide on wheels and can break, so care is needed.

Accordion-style shutters are about $16-$20 per square foot. You are paying for convenience. An entire home can be set up by one person in 30 minutes.

A more expansion option is roll-down hurricane shutters. These attach above the window, so they are rolled up and stored in an enclosed box when not in use. They run approximately $30-$55 per square foot.

There are also colonial hurricane shutters (two-piece louvered shutters that attach to the wall beside each window, approximately $18-$30 per square foot) and Bahama hurricane shutters (one-piece louvered shutters that attach directly above the windows and prop open for shade, also approximately $18-$30 per square foot).

Hurricane-Proof Glass — No shutters are needed with this glass, which can withstand hurricane debris.

It might be costly to retrofit an older home. Meanwhile, some code requirements, which mandate shutters or other protections on new homes, make hurricane-proof glass a good option at the time of construction.

Think of it like a car windshield, featuring a durable plastic-like layer sandwiched between glass that helps to prevent a hole even when an outside layer is shattered.

Cost is $35-$50 per square foot, including new window frames and the layered glass.

Its major selling point? When the storm nears, there’s no installation. You are already good to go.

Nevertheless, if you opt for this approach, make certain that you find out from your supplier how the window frames are engineered and attached to your home. The attachments must withstand hurricane force winds and impacts too – or intact windows will simply wind up inside your home.

High-Tech Fabric — It doesn’t look nearly durable enough, but it protects from high winds to meet hurricane codes, while allowing light and visibility.

The panels are generally made from a geo-synthetic, PVC coated fabric or Kevlar. They are attached with grommets, bolts, straps and buckles. The mesh fabric allows light and some air to come into the home.

If you opt for this approach, realize that some fabrics, while guaranteeing they will keep out flying debris, they don’t guarantee that windows won’t break. Keeping wind pressure out of the inside of your home is essential for keeping your roof on. Explore whether, if a window breaks, the fabric will still protect the envelope of the home from pressure changes.

If you opt for this approach, realize that some fabrics, while guaranteeing they will keep out flying debris, don’t necessarily guarantee that windows won’t break. Keeping wind pressure outside of your home is essential for keeping your roof on. Explore whether, if a window breaks, the fabric will still protect the envelope of the home from pressure changes that can lift a roof.

Hurricane fabrics cost about $15 per square foot.

By Joey Johnston


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