There are several types of products that qualify as "shutter" protection for your home. Each option meets current Florida Building Code standards, and will also satisfy insurance requirements. They fall into one of the following categories:
- Manually Installed Aluminum Hurricane Panels
- Manually Installed Clear Polycarbonate Hurricane Panels
- Accordion Hurricane Shutters
- Bahama Hurricane Shutters
- Colonial Hurricane Shutters
- Electric or Motorized Roll-Down Hurricane Shutters
- Manual and Electric Roll-Down Hurricane Screens
- Hurricane Fabric
- Impact Resistant Hurricane Windows and Doors
Because each application has Florida Building Code approval, your choice should be based on your lifestyle and which product best fits the specific opening. You should consult with a professional licensed building contractor to determine what the best option is for an opening. Each application needs to be installed according to Florida Building Code specifications to meet the requirements of protection, which will satisfy local building codes and your insurance company.
Manually Installed Aluminum Hurricane Panels
This style is often what is thought of when someone hears the phrase "hurricane shutters". Aluminum hurricane panels are made from light-weight corrugated aluminum is very strong and can be installed vertically or horizontally to meet the needs of the opening. These panels are put up when there is threat of a storm, and taken down after.
The panels are measured and cut to cover the opening, and can be affixed to the house with a track or secured directly to the structure. The window will be completely covered when installed, and you can't see out of the window once they are in place.
This is generally the least expensive type of shutter protection. The panels are lightweight, making them easy to carry, but can be awkward when installing over large openings. You will also need a place to store the panels when they are not in use.
Manually Installed Clear Polycarbonate Hurricane Panels
This style is similar to aluminum hurricane panels, but the corrugated panel is a clear polycarbonate. The main benefit of the polycarbonate material is that light can get through the opening, and you can see the conditions outside.
Like aluminum hurricane panels, they are lightweight and strong and can be installed vertically or horizontally to meet the needs of the opening. These panels are put up when there is threat of a storm, and taken down after.
The panels are measured and cut to cover the opening, and can be affixed to the house with a track or secured directly to the structure. The window will be completely covered when installed, and you will be able to see out of the window once they are in place.
The panels are lightweight, making them easy to carry, but can be awkward when installing over large openings. You will also need a place to store the panels when they are not in use.
Accordion Hurricane Shutters
Accordion hurricane shutters will protect windows, sliding glass doors or enclose entire balconies or lanais. They are also a good option for opening that may be hard to secure, such as a rounded window, aquarium type window or corner-meet non-impact sliding glass doors.
They are made from a lightweight aluminum and installed into tracks on the top and bottom that guide the movement of the shutters as well as hold them in place. The top track holds a wheel carriage that adds to ease of movement. These are manually operated.
They are easy to open and close in almost every application. Once the interconnected aluminum panels are closed and locked, your protection is in place. You will not be able to see out of the opening, and light will not pass through.
Accordion hurricane shutters need to be maintained by lubricating and cleaning annually. You won't need to worry about storage as they are left in place retracted when not in use.
Bahama Hurricane Shutters
Bahama hurricane shutters might just look like decorative shutters that typify the look and feel of a tropical home, however when they are made of material strong enough to withstand hurricane force winds, and installed to meet current building code standards, they serve as viable protection for your home.
They are always in place, and can be lowered and latched with relative ease in the event of a storm. While extended, they can also serve as shade for any opening.
The style is not well-suited for every architectural style. It simply doesn't work for many homes. There are also some limitations on the maximum size that they are considered to be effective, such as a door.
Colonial Hurricane Shutters
Colonial hurricane shutters are also permanently affixed to the structure, and considered "decorative". Like Bahama hurricane shutters, when they are made of material strong enough to withstand hurricane force winds, and installed to meet current building code standards, they serve as viable protection for your home. They can also be easily closed in the event of a storm.
Like Bahama hurricane shutters, the style is not well-suited for every architectural style. It simply doesn't work for many homes. There are also some limitations on the maximum size that they are considered to be effective.
Electric or Motorized Roll-Down Hurricane Shutters
Electric or motorized roll-down hurricane shutters might very well be considered to be the most convenient shutter option. Just a flip of a switch and your protection is in place. In some cases, you can also operate the shutter manually if there is a loss of power.
Electric or motorized roll-down shutters are a popular solution for lanai area of a home. They can be installed to easily enclose the entire lanai. Some people like the ability to leave patio furniture in place during a storm, which is easy to do with this shutter option. They also come in handy for everyday use by adding noise reduction, security and privacy when they are down.
They are always in place, affixed to the top of the opening and contained in a small box. This may be a deterrent to homeowners who don't want to have this housing visible, especially on the front of the home.
Manual and Electric Roll-Down Hurricane Screens
Manual and electric roll-down hurricane screens are newer to the market, but most manufacturers have obtained Florida Building Code approval through stringent testing. The screen will stop flying debris from impacting your opening during a storm. These must be installed by a certified professional contractor.
They function much like a composite electric, motorized or manual roll-down shutter with a noted exception that you can have full visibility from the inside to the outside. The screen itself is a very dense, tightly woven material that not only withstands the force of hurricane winds of 130 mph, but also repels water in the same way that a composite shutter would.
They are a great solution for protection in large or unusually configured areas. They deploy with relative ease, and have the added benefit of use for privacy, shade and rain protection during mild storms.
Hurricane fabric is also called hurricane netting or hurricane curtains depending on the manufacturer. The function and installation is basically the same as long as it meets the same Florida Building Code approval requirements.
Hurricane fabric is a PVC coated woven fabric panel that has been tested and approved to block wind, rain and flying debris. You can see through the fabric from the inside, and it is also a great solution for protection in large or unusually configured areas.
The fabric comes in a variety of colors. It can be affixed to the structure of your home with straps, buckles (such as around columns) and grommets (such as around a window area). All methods of installation allow for easy access to exit your home quickly.
Impact Resistant Hurricane Windows and Doors
Impact resistant hurricane windows and doors are not considered "shutters". They are an alternative to shutters that offer full-time protection against the elements, intruders, UV rays and noise. This is generally going to be the most expensive option in hurricane protection.
The benefit of total home replacement of windows and doors with impact resistant products is that you never have to think about it again. Once installed by a qualified, licensed professional your protection is in place 24-7-365.
If your windows and doors need to be replaced, you might give serious consideration to replacing them with impact resistant hurricane windows and doors. The cost of replacing a window or door with a non-impact product and then adding a shutter to meet current codes is very close to replacing the opening with an impact product.
The bottom line...
You have a spectrum of options ranging from the least expensive shutter panels to replacing your windows and doors with impact resistant hurricane windows and doors. So how do you determine what is best for you?
Typically the least expensive option will be the most labor intensive and conversely, the most expensive options will be the most worry-free. So when narrowing your budget vs. expense, consider this:
The front of your home generally has the highest priority aesthetically. You want protection in place that doesn't detract from the architecture.
The back of your home will take the next level of priority, and typically will be the most expensive area to protect due to the fact that you generally see the most glass in the back. Most people want to preserve the view, and possibly enclose the lanai to be able to leave furniture out at all times. You can generally save a great deal on the back of the home with shutters vs. impact-resistant doors and windows.
The sides of your home usually are the last priority because they rally aren't seen by you and sometimes, not even your neighbor. Although they can't be seen, it is still vital to protect the openings as they are vulnerable.
The least expensive hurricane panels might be a good option. You can always upgrade in the future to a more expensive shutter option, or choose to replace the windows with an impact product.
You want to make sure that you choose products that fit your lifestyle, and hire a qualified contractor for the installation.
Feel free to contact me if you need advice on your project.