Written By: Brad Campbell | January 26, 2021
Windows that are marketed as hurricane-proof or storm-proof are really different types of hurricane-resistant windows that can help mitigate storm damage. These windows can have different compositions with varying levels of impact resistance.
In other words, there is no such thing as a special type of glass that is 100% invulnerable to hurricanes, but certain types of reinforced windows can play an important role in strengthening your property’s hurricane defenses.
Why the Need for Hurricane Impact Windows Is Increasing
Hurricanes are nothing new to residents of Florida and other Southeastern states, but the demand for hurricane damage mitigation solutions really shot up after Hurricane Andrew devastated Florida in 1992.
In response to the incredibly expensive damage caused by Hurricane Andrew and other storms over the past few decades, states like Florida and other at-risk areas have increasingly implemented new construction guidelines, especially when it comes to windows.
For instance, all new homes in Florida and other hurricane-prone areas must be built to include hurricane shutters or some type of approved hurricane impact windows to reduce the chances of building failure during a hurricane.
For something to be approved as hurricane-resistant, it must undergo a series of impact tests and meet certain requirements for both small and large missile impact resistance. To pass the tests, the window glazing and framing must still be intact after the impacts.
Not all areas have the same standards for hurricane resistance. Florida (and specifically Miami-Dade County) has the most rigid building guidelines.
When it comes to hurricane-proof windows, the specific product people are really referring to can vary. Generally, there are three main categories of glass and glass-like products that can be used to protect your windows against storm damage:
If you ever hear someone talking about hurricane window film, what they’re really referring to is a special type of heavy-duty safety and security window film.
It’s important to know that, although these films can provide many benefits, they DO NOT make your windows hurricane-proof. In fact, they won’t even stop your glass from breaking if it’s impacted by flying storm debris.
However, these films do help to make your home or business more secure during a storm because they can hold broken shards of glass in place instead of letting them fly inwards and leaving an open space in your window frame.
This does two main things:
So, while window film can’t make your glass indestructible, it is a very affordable and easy-to-install product that can be used alongside other hurricane mitigation barriers to secure your home and protect against storm damage.
Our solution for you: 3M™ Safety and Security Window Film
Although 3M™ states on their website that this film is not approved in the State of Florida for use as hurricane, windstorm or impact protection from wind-borne debris from a hurricane or windstorm, they do back the claim that it can help prevent injury and worse damage.
When we talk about hurricane-resistant windows, what we usually mean is laminated security glass. This is a special type of impact-resistant window glass consisting of a thermoplastic interlayer sandwiched between two outer layers of strong glass.
There are many varieties of laminated security glass that provide varying degrees of protection against storms and hurricanes. The strength of the glass greatly depends on its thickness and its specific composition.
So, how exactly do security glass laminates make your windows hurricane resistant?
Well, in some cases the impact resistance of the laminates is enough to completely protect your glass doors and windows. However, they will probably crack after impacts from flying debris hurled by hurricane-force winds.
But, just because the glass cracks doesn’t mean that it no longer protects your home or business during the storm. The hurricane-resistant windows typically stay in their frames and don’t allow shards of glass to shatter inwards.
Additionally, laminated security glass can often be retrofitted over your existing glass, so even if it breaks, your regular windows remain safe and sound behind it. It’s also available for new construction.
Some of the key benefits of using laminated security glass for hurricane protection are:
Our solution for you: Laminated Riot Glass®
Riot Glass® is our proprietary line of laminated security glass. It has an extremely resilient thermoplastic interlayer that consistently outperforms other types of safety and security glass available on the market (up to 100 times stiffer and five times stronger)
In some cases, hurricane impact windows don’t contain any actual glass at all, but are instead made out of different combinations of plastics like polycarbonates and acrylics.
You might be balking at the idea of installing plastic windows for hurricane protection, but these types of products are actually the closest you can get to creating truly hurricane proof windows.
In fact, polycarbonate and acrylic hurricane panels are made out of the same materials used to create bullet resistant and bomb blast resistant windows. That should give you an idea of the level of storm damage protection they can provide.
When combined with heavy-duty framing, these panels form a formidable hurricane mitigation barrier over your existing glass. Depending on the thickness and specific composition, the panels can be virtually unbreakable.
Even when they experience multiple high-velocity impacts — whether they’re from storm damage or anything else — the panels won’t break apart or diminish in strength.
Not only do these panels provide the highest level of 24/7 hurricane protection for your home or business, but they also help keep your property safe from forced entry, burglary, and other threats.
Why you should consider using polycarbonate and acrylic panels for hurricane protection:
Our solution for you: ArmorPlast® Panels and Framing
ArmorPlast® is our patented system of polycarbonate panels and framing. It’s available in thicknesses from 0.25 inches to 1.25 inches and from containment-grade to ballistic-grade.
Our ballistic-grade ArmorPlast® panels have received various ratings from the Underwriters Laboratories (UL), which is the industry standard for rating the bullet resistance and impact resistance of glass and glass-like products.
The level of security that ArmorPlast® provides has made it a popular choice for government, religious, and detention facilities, as well as schools, banks, specialty retailers, and more.
It’s really difficult to put an exact number on the cost of hurricane windows. There are just so many factors that go into calculating the price.
The costs of new construction in hurricane-prone areas is higher because of new hurricane resistant building requirements, but some studies suggest that the end price of a new home is only a few thousand dollars more than elsewhere.
If you’re upgrading an older home with hurricane impact windows, the cost depends on the specific materials used in the construction of the windows, their thickness and strength, and the price of labor.
Something to keep in mind is that if the hurricane resistant glass can be retrofitted onto your property, it is much more affordable than complete window replacement.
What we can say for sure is that the investment you make in reinforcing your property’s windows against hurricanes is far outweighed by the money you can potentially save on storm damage repair.
Not only is it an investment that can pay for itself over time by protecting your property, but it can also save you thousands of dollars a year on insurance premiums. Insurers are eager not to experience the type of loss and even bankruptcy caused by Hurricane Andrew back in the 90s.
Remember That There Is No 100% Hurricane Resistant Glass
It’s important to always remember that anything marketed as “hurricane proof” simply isn’t. That being said, the solutions we’ve provided you in this article are all viable options for strengthening your windows against storm damage.
As with all business and home security systems, the most effective defenses have multiple layers of protection. If one layer fails, there’s still something behind it.
For example, security window film can keep your windows intact after an impact, but it won’t keep them from breaking completely. If you install hurricane shutters on top of the film-coated windows, however, you’re creating two layers of defense.
Laminated security glass is not designed to completely replace the strength of other hurricane mitigation barriers, but it can be enough during some storms. This can be especially beneficial if a storm makes landfall by surprise or if you’re not around to put other barriers in place.
For the closest thing to hurricane proof windows, consider installing virtually unbreakable polycarbonate panels and framing. The UL ratings that these panels hold can make them an approved product for hurricane resistant construction in Florida and other at-risk areas.
Give us a call today or have your local glass contractor contact us to discuss the best hurricane mitigation solutions for you and your property.