The U.S. is in the midst of Hurricane season, which seems to be a good time to discuss hurricane window protection. Whether you live on the coast in the southeast or several hundred miles inland, you should consider hurricane window protection products to protect your home in the event of a storm. Taking the time to cover your windows prior to the storms arrival will not only protect the windows themselves, but can also protect the contents of your home and the people inside.
The type of protection you choose may be budget driven, however you need to know that not all hurricane window protection products are created equal. I found this interesting video that demonstrates what can happen to your windows during a typical hurricane. To assess the various products, they have setup a cannon in a test lab which fires a 2×4 at a speed of 34 MPH. The cannon launches the 2×4 directly at the various window covers to see which one performs the best. After watching the video, you may change your mind on how you will cover your windows before the next storm.
Hurricane Window Protection Video
Hurricane Window Protection Comparison
During a hurricane, loose debris such as tree branches, wood, and metal objects are picked up by the strong winds. Hurricane force winds will launch these projectiles at your home at speeds well over 30 MPH. At these speeds, the flying objects can easily penetrate your windows, doors, and skylights. Subsequently, the storm will dump a tremendous amount of water inside your home causing extensive damage to your property. Here’s how the various hurricane window protection products faired in the test.
Particle Board: Particle Board (a.k.a. OSB) may be much cheaper than plywood but a 2×4 travelling at 34 MPH punched a hole in the 1/2” thick particle board like it was made of butter. Of course, the 2×4 carried on through the glass, leaving the home and contents exposed to the elements.
Plywood: Most local building codes recommend a minimum of 5/8” thick plywood to protect your windows in a storm. The lab test shows that the same 2×4 traveling at 34 MPH simply bounced off the plywood. The laminated layers of plywood, make it much stronger than the OSB used in the first test. The window behind the plywood was unharmed.
Fabric: In this test they mounted a ballistic nylon fabric in front of the window. While the ultra-strength fabric prevented the 2×4 from entering the home, unfortunately the window behind the fabric was damaged.
Metal Huricane Shutters: While the metal hurricane shutters used in the test kept the 2×4 from entering the home, much to my surprise, the window behind the shutter was broken in the test.
Impact Glass: The outer layer of glass used to construct impact glass windows is actually 3 layers, a flexible membrane sandwiched between 2 layers of glass. It works much like the windshield of a car. If the glass is broken, the membrane is still intact. In the lab test, the glass shattered but there was no hole in the membrane. Keeping you dry inside.
It seems apparent to me that the only viable options are impact glass windows or temporary protection using 5/8” thick plywood. Kudos to the “This Old House” Team for performing the hurricane window protection test.