How to Install Hurricane Shutters

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Install Hurricane Shutters
Install Hurricane Shutters (Image: Microsoft Office clip-art, NOAA AOML, Scott Reynolds)

Those of us who live near the ocean worry about storms that sweep in and cause so much destruction, whether we call them hurricanes, typhoons, cyclones or Noreasters. One of the things we can do to protect our property is to install hurricane shutters. Shutters not only keep debris from entering your house, they help maintain the integrity of the structure itself by keeping wind and water from gaining a foothold in the building's walls. Different types of shutters are made for different uses and budgets. Correctly installed, they minimize the damage done to homes and buildings. Read on to learn how to install hurricane shutters.

Things You'll Need

  • Your local building code
  • Hurricane shutters
  • Recommended hardware
  • Screwdrivers
  • Drill with wood and masonry bits
  • Hammer
  • Adjustable wrench
  • Carpenter's level

Understand that plywood shutters require the most work from the homeowner but they are the least expensive type of shutters to install. Plywood is cut to fit the wall opening exactly and is set in the window or door frame so that there is at least an inch between the surface of the plywood and the outside edge of the frame. The shutter is attached with three or four-inch barrel bolts--the type of bolt you find as a privacy lock on doors--one set in the center of each side. Holes just the size of the bolts are drilled in the window casing to receive the bolts. Larger windows require more bolts. The idea is to set the plywood into the window frame instead of over it where the wind or debris can wedge itself under the plywood and pull it off. This type of shutter should be painted or varnished to protect the plywood from humidity and needs to be stored between uses.

Plywood shutters
Plywood shutters

Keep in mind that some homeowners choose Bahama or awning shutters. These shutters are hung on heavy hinges, screwed into the top of the window frame, again inside rather than on top of the window casing. When closed, they fit snugly against the window (Bahama shutters are louvered to allow ventilation) and when open, they shade the window. A locking latch is attached to the bottom of the window at the edge of the awning as it lays in the window frame.

Know that sliding shades are a variation on the awning-type shutters. They are attached using one or two sliding rails on the top and bottom of the window, secured with bolts or screws, depending on whether the window casing is metal or wood. Shutters are made of corrugated metal and slide along the rails like patio doors. Shutters lock to each other when closed. Installation consists of mounting the bottom channel and top "h bracket," screwing stops on either end of the window and hanging the shutters.

Sliding storm panels.
Sliding storm panels.

Large panels can be installed, much like the sliding shutters above, to protect glass patio doors. Here, this large door in Tokyo is protected by a metal panel that slides into the storage shell on the left of the door when not in use. These steel or aluminum shutters are found in plain metal, like the type pictured above, or in pleated, accordion shutters that can be pulled open along the track. Install shutter stops or latches as instructed.

Tokyo door shutter
Tokyo door shutter

Remember that Hurricanes Andrew and Katrina caused the re-examination of building codes along the Gulf of Mexico and in Florida. Many codes now require professionally installed hurricane shutters that roll down over the opening. A frame is attached, flush with the wall, to the window with a casing at the top that includes a roll-down shade. The frame is attached to the window frame on the interior of the shutter as well as along the outside. Models range from very simple covers that can be installed with a screwdriver and level by a homeowner to heavy-duty, ornate models that are generally installed professionally.

Shutter
Shutter

Tips & Warnings

  • The important thing to remember when installing hurricane shutters is to mount the shutter flush against the window so that it fits inside the window casing instead of hanging on the outside of it.
  • If you buy manufactured shutters, be sure to use the recommended hardware.
  • Turnbuckle-type bolts are available to use with plywood or corrugated metal. They are placed over the shutter, inside the window casing and expanded to hold tightly against the inside of the window frame like a heavy duty expandable curtain or shower rod.
  • Hanging a large window or door-sized shutter requires careful squaring with a level while installing the tracks above and below the door.
  • Shutters can not protect against a strong storm surge.
  • Plywood shutters are not permitted by some building codes. Always check local building codes before choosing storm shutters.
  • Taping will not keep windows from breaking.
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