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Hurricane Guide

Shutter Up: Protect Your Home Against Hurricanes

The Tampa Tribune
Published:   |   Updated: May 14, 2013 at 11:50 AM

OK. You pressed your luck again and, though hurricane season isn't quite over yet, it looks like you've made it through once more. Gustav and Ike could have taken that scary turn in the Gulf and roared into Tampa Bay, but they didn't.

Nature has just given you one more chance to prepare for the big one.

One thing that will surely give you some peace of mind is window and door covers at the ready. They keep the high winds from slinging tree limbs and charcoal grills through your windows which, once broken, allow the wind inside to literally raise your roof.

You'll want materials with the highest rating, the Miami-Dade building code approval. That means the material can deflect a 9-pound wooden two-by-four traveling at 34 mph. Install them allowing 3 to 4 inches between the glass and the shutter, so the window won't break if something dents the panel.

Beyond that, what you choose depends on what's most important to you.

For The Very Frugal

The least expensive but most cumbersome material, plywood at least 3/4-inch thick, comes close to meeting the Miami-Dade hurricane code. Thinner plywood can be penetrated by that 9-pound two-by-four, according to the Institute for Business & Home Safety. Two 3/8-inch panels together offer the same protection as a single 3/4-inch panel. CDX plywood is recommended; OSB plywood is not.

Plywood may not be the best option for second-floor windows because it's so heavy, trying to install it while standing on a ladder is dangerous.

Even for first-floor windows, you'll probably need someone to help you lift and hold the panels. Secure them to the walls with screws or anchors with wing-nuts. For garage doors, the most common entry point for hurricane winds, install framing at the base of the door to secure the plywood's bottom edge.

Cost: $1 to $2 per square foot if you do it yourself.

For The Claustrophobic

Cellular polycarbonate sheets come in 4-by-8-foot panels and they're about a third lighter than plywood, so they're easier to handle. They also allow light into the house. To install, drill holes in the panels and screw corresponding Tapcon anchors into the wall. Slip the panels over the anchored studs and secure with a washer and wing-nuts. After the initial installation, it should take no more than five minutes per window to install and remove the panels.

Cost: $10 to $15 per square foot to do it yourself.

For The Less-Than-Physically Fit

Steel or aluminum accordion shutters are professionally installed, permanent fixtures. They're among the most expensive coverings, but the easiest for homeowners to put into operation. The panels recede into compartments on each side of the window when not in use. The homeowner pulls them closed when a storm threatens.

Cost: $18 to $28 per square foot, installed.

For The Low-Hassle Budget Conscious

Corrugated metal panels take some manpower to install initially. The homeowner needs to secure racks above and below the windows. The panels slide into the rack above and are secured with wing-nuts on the rack at the bottom, or held by pins driven into a groove. Once the racks are up, installing the panels is fairly fast and easy.

Cost: $3 to $6 per square foot to do it yourself.

For Those With Storage Issues

Fabric panels are made from a polyester weave with PVC coating on both sides. Once fitted to your windows, holes and grommets are placed around the sides. The panels fit over studs in the wall and are secured with wing-nuts.

Cost: $4.50 to $6 per square foot to install yourself

$8 to $12 per square foot installed

For The Historic District Dweller

Colonial hinged shutters are popular on historic homes, because of their look. They're made of aluminum-reinforced PVC or fiberglass. They stay up as window adornments year-round and can be quickly closed for hurricanes.

Cost: $38 to $50 per square foot, installed.

For Those Who Like Looks, Convenience

Bahama awning shutters are hinged at the top of the window and keep it shaded during the year (a nice energy-saving bonus). They're easily closed to protect the opening during hurricanes.

Cost: $38 to $50 per square foot, installed.

For Those Who Want Zero Hassle

High-impact windows meet Florida's code, but not the higher standards of Miami-Dade. Get single glazed impact glass laminated windows or double glazed. Single glazed is two sheets of glass with laminate between them. Double glazed is insulated glass. The laminate is bonded between two pieces of glass on the inside; the outside is regular glass.

Cost: $28 to $50 per square foot for single-glazed and $40 to $70 per square foot for double-glazed, installed.

Sources: Consumer Reports, FEMA, the Institute for Business & Home Safety and Lowe's Home Improvement Stores.

Photos from Lowe's Home Improvement and Tribune archives


Reporter Philip Morgan can be reached at (813) 259-7609 or pmorgan@tampatrib.com.

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