If you live in an area where hurricanes are prevalent, you'll eventually need to decide whether you should have hurricane shutters on your home. While the National Weather Service recommends covering all your home's windows in the event of a tropical storm or hurricane, shutters can be a costly investment and may not be right for everyone.
Learn what hurricane shutters are, who typically needs them, and how much they can cost to install to help you decide whether this is the right purchase for you.
What are hurricane shutters?
Hurricane shutters protect your home's windows and doors from high winds and projectiles in the event of a tropical storm or hurricane. There are a plethora of options when considering materials and style. They come in roll-down, accordion, Bahama, or colonial styles, and they can be made of wood, high-tech fabric, fiberglass, or metal.
Quality hurricane shutters will meet one of several testing standards and have a proof-of-compliance sticker on the package. If you don't see that label on the product, it has likely not been tested to withstand the impact, pressure, and cycle tests that your home could face in the event of a hurricane.
Hurricane shutters are custom fit to your home, and for this reason, they must be purchased prior to an impending storm and installed by professionals.
Do I need hurricane shutters?
Hurricane preparedness, including installing shutters, is primarily used on properties in states along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts where hurricanes and tropical storms are common. If you reside in an area known for these types of storms but are unsure whether hurricane shutters are a worthy investment for your property, contact your local emergency resources. They can provide information about your area's evacuation zones and whether your location is deemed high risk for wind damage or debris during a storm.
Keep in mind that an evacuation zone is for storm surge and flooding only. It does not indicate whether an area will be exposed to high winds or projectiles, which are what hurricane shutters are made to withstand. With that being said, if you are in an evacuation zone, it's most certainly a good idea to consider installing hurricane shutters on your home.
For those located outside of an evacuation zone, it may be helpful to consult local resources like the division of emergency management for your state or county. They have information on the frequency and severity of past hurricanes to help you determine whether shutters would be a good idea for your property.
Are hurricane shutters worth it?
Hurricane shutters can be a big-ticket item for a home-improvement project, costing between $50 and $60 per square foot, so it's not a decision to be taken lightly. For example, a single three-by-four-foot window opening will cost between $600 and $720. This can quickly add up to thousands of dollars, even for small homes.
If you've established that your home would need protection from high winds and projectiles in the event of a storm, then hurricane shutters are likely worth the time and money to install on your house. However, even if deemed appropriate, shutters may not be an option for you.
If hurricane shutters are out of your budget, or aren't warranted for your property's location, an alternate option is to use plywood to cover windows and openings around the home. While plywood may prevent some storm damage, it should always be a backup option as it's not as effective as true hurricane shutters. Plywood will save you money, but if installed incorrectly, it can be torn from the home to become a projectile itself.
Plywood is also one of the first things to go out of stock when a storm is announced as a possible threat, and there is a strong chance it will be sold out at stores if not purchased ahead of time. If you do decide to use plywood, it's important to use 5/8-inch exterior grade or marine plywood custom fit to your windows with proper attachments.
Hurricane shutters can be an invaluable way to protect your home during storms, giving you peace of mind that you can quickly and easily secure your home. When you plan ahead, you won't find yourself needing to go to the store in a rush to purchase plywood, or worse yet, leaving your home vulnerable as a storm approaches. Ultimately, each homeowner will have to carefully weigh the expected risks against the cost of installing hurricane shutters before a storm is on the horizon.