How To: Select Storm Shutters

Select the right storm shutters for your home and be sure to install them properly.

Photo: Flickr

There are growing number of businesses in coastal areas selling and installing storm shutters. As all shutters are not alike, it’s critical to get the product best suited to your needs — and equally important to be sure that your shutters are properly installed. The following are a few tips to help guide you.

• Storm shutters offer two kinds of protection. They can be designed to protect against wind pressure, debris impacts, or both. It is important to know what kind of protection you are getting.

• If the shutter is designed to withstand debris impact, look for the Dade County, FL, standard. It is a very tough standard developed for the extreme wind conditions found in South Florida. It is also appropriate for use elsewhere along the Southeast and Gulf Coasts on barrier islands, other highly exposed sites, or locations with a particularly high potential for airborne debris. Shutters designed to a lesser standard may be sufficient for locations without these high risk factors and be a more cost-effective alternative.

• Shutters should be attached to the structural framing of the house and the window or door frames. Window and door frames may themselves be inadequately attached to the structural framing to withstand extreme pressures caused by severe winds.

• Make sure all exposed metal fittings (including screws, embedded anchors, etc.) are weather- and corrosion-resistant.

• For the do-it-yourselfers, design and installation guidelines for plywood storm shutters are available. These shutters provide some level of protection and are typically the least expensive option. However, they often require a significant amount of time to mount, and the process can be difficult and even dangerous. Plywood shutters are heavy, probably require at least two people to mount, and for upper-story windows require the use of a ladder. Even moderate winds exacerbate the danger of working with heavy plywood on a ladder. For these reasons, plywood storm shutters are best suited to lower-story windows.

• Homeowners with garages, especially attached garages, should also ask their shutter dealer about retrofitting their garage doors for high winds. If a garage door fails due to high winds, it can cause the interior of the house to become pressurized and increase the chances of losing all or part of the roof.

While properly selected and installed shutters should add to the performance of a home in high winds, it’s important to bear in mind that nothing is hurricane-proof.

Remember also that every home is unique and there are no general recommendations that are universally applicable to all homes. For specific advice about hazard retrofit recommendations for existing homes or hazard mitigation techniques for new construction, homeowners are urged to contact a licensed, consulting engineer in their area.

These tips were developed by the SC Sea Grant Extension Program in consultation with faculty of the Clemson University Civil Engineering Department’s Wind Load Test Facility.