What Are Hurricane-Proof Windows?

by Alicia Howe

In recent years, an abundance of hurricanes have hit Southern regions of the United States and caused dramatic damage to homes. If you prepare your home for a hurricane before it hits, it could save you thousands of dollars in repairs. Some waterfront areas even require hurricane-proof materials now. One of the most important items to provide your home with is hurricane-proof windows, which include impact-resistant glass or shutters.

History

Impact-resistant glass has been used in the automotive industry for years. Laminated glass aids in keeping windshields intact during high-impact accidents. In August 1992, Hurricane Andrew swept through southern Florida and destroyed many homes. After this, Florida began promoting hurricane-resistant architecture, including impact-resistant roofs, doors and windows. Today, many areas in Florida require new homes to contain hurricane-proof windows, which include homes around the Eastern Seaboard and the Gulf Coast area.

Function

According to BobVila.com, no window is completely hurricane-proof, but impact-resistant glass or shutters can withstand high winds and flying debris. Some types of hurricane-proof windows also include a heavy-duty frame that surrounds the glass and prevents the home's structure from collapsing. If glass breaks or the window frame collapses, wind sneaks into the house. When this occurs, the pressure inside is different from the outside, and the roof or walls collapse. Impact-resistant glass, sturdy window frames and hurricane shutters all work to prevent this from happening.

Impact-Resistant Glass

When it comes to choosing a type of hurricane-proof window, options include impact-resistant glass or shutters. Two types of impact-resistant glass are available. The most effective type is inner-membrane windows. These windows contain an invisible layer of polyvinyl butaryl (PVB) between two slabs of glass. Though the glass may shatter on impact, the inner membrane stays intact along with the sturdy frame around it. Another option is shatter-resistant film that covers regular glass. This film helps prevent glass from easily shattering.

Hurricane Shutters

If not using impact-resistant glass, hurricane shutters are another option. Shutters cover the windows during a storm to prevent wind and debris from coming into contact with glass. Hurricane shutters include a variety of options. Colonial shutters flank the windows as decoration year-round, then close and lock across the window during a storm. Bahama shutters are made of aluminum and are snapped shut during a storm. Accordion shutters slide across sliding glass doors, and roll-down shutters can manually or electronically be rolled over a window.

Advantages

Impact-resistant windows with the transparent polyvinyl membrane in the middle can withstand winds up to 200 mph. They go unnoticed by guests and don't take away from the visual appeal of your home. These windows are also energy efficient, come in numerous styles and sizes, include little maintenance, reduce sound travel, protect against intruders and provide UV protection. They are permanently set and ready to protect against a storm at any time, without any work. Hurricane shutters can add a decorative flair to the house and are usually cheaper than impact-resistant glass.

Disadvantages

Impact-resistant glass is expensive. The average cost is $60 per square foot, which could add up to around $800 per opening. However, this glass usually lasts many years, with little maintenance. Shatter-resistant film is cheaper, but less effective. Hurricane shutters are effective, but they may need to be replaced after a storm, they could take away from the home's visual appeal, and they need you to be present during a storm to pull them across the windows.