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What Are Hurricane-resistant Windows?

Updated on January 14, 2011

Because of the abundance of hurricanes that have hit the continental United States, particularly in the southern regions, over the past decade, people have been obsessively literally bullet-proofing their homes for that very unwanted phenomenon. Mother Nature is unpredictable and all-powerful so preparing your homes as much as you can is just good sense. One such preparation, which has even become a requirement in some beachfront areas are hurricane-proof windows. These are basically windows made from impact-resistant glass and shutters.

Impact-resistant glass is a standard safety item on automobiles. The idea is to keep the windshield intact in case a high-speed crash happens, so that shattered glass debris prevent further damage—we all know how dangerous a flying glass shrapnel can be. To make this happen, standard glass is laminated, and a protective film keeps the glass intact, in one piece at least, when shattered. What you end up with is collage of shattered glass.

When Hurricane Andrew hit Florida in 1992, the local government began promoting hurricane-resistant glass and the use of impact-resistant architecture such as doors, roofs and windows. Today, it is a legal requirement to make use of such in construction in the Eastern Seaboard and Gulf Coast areas.

Are there real hurricane-proof windows?

The short answer, no. Hurricanes are just very-powerful forces and no man-made thing can survive it if it chooses to. However, impact-resistant glass can literally be the difference between life and death. In a dangerous situation, you need to take what you can get and experience tells us that a shattered but intact window is a whole lot safer than a completely shattered one.

So really, what are hurricane-resistant windows?

Windows are whole fixtures which contain everything from the glass, frames, shutters, blinds, etc. To have a hurricane-resistant window, its components must be impact resistant. The first way to do this is through impact-resistant glass.

Cross-section of an impact-resistant glass

Impact-resistant glass can be done via two ways. Inner-membrane windows contain an invisible layer of PVB (polyvinyl butaryl) sandwiched between two thin sheets of glass. The glass shatters on impact but the film keeps it pieced together in conjunction with a sturdy frame built around it. The second option is place an adhesive transparent shatter-preventing film to regular glass. The basic principle is the same but this time the film is on an outside surface—not in between.

Another way to hurricane-proof one’s windows is to use tough hurricane shutters. Shutters, normally, are fixtures that prevent sunlight from passing through glass. These are normally made from wood that can be opened or closed, and are normally situated outside the glass. These can also be decorative or made to look like anything an architect wants it to be. In case of a storm, the shutters prevent high-speed debris from coming into contact with the glass. Shutters can have multiple styles and be made from different kinds of materials including aluminum. They can also be close manually or electronically.

What kind of costs are we looking at?

Of course doing all of this entails a price. For starters, impact-resistant glass costs about $50 per square foot, which can go up to around $600 per window—depending on the size of the window, of course. Shatter-resistant film is substantially cheaper, but is deemed less effective. Shutters, on the other hand, are hard to price because many design factors have to be considered.

Final words

Even if the costs for such are quite steep, it is actually the price of you and your loved ones’ lives you are protecting. In reality, there shouldn’t be a price for that but we all know how budget can be so steep, especially in this economy. Impact-resistant glass is more effective than film, but I’d still rather have film than none at all. Also remember that when using shutters, the system is only as effective as how fast you can “shut” them, in case of a storm or hurricane, before debris hit them.

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