With Irma’s devastation mercifully behind us and your annual Halloween sugar binge mercifully hours away, it’s easy to forget that hurricane season is not yet over. While the peak season begins to drop off in early October, hurricanes may form throughout November, and the official end of the season is the 30th of that month.

And then there’s next year—and the year after that.

If you’re a South Florida resident, hurricanes are simply part of the deal. Outside the peak season, the sunny skies and gorgeous coastlines of Florida seem like an evenhanded trade for a few nasty storms every year.

However: because storms feed off warm air, some scientists believe that, as temperatures rise in the earth’s atmosphere and oceans, storms are getting stronger. While there is no need to panic or pack up and move the family inland, there is ample reason to invest in quality hurricane protection for your home.

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When hurricane-proofing a structure, windows are a good place to start. Windows—especially older installations—are particularly vulnerable during Category 3 or higher storms. During hurricanes, windborne debris and wind pressure can break window glass and frames, allowing water and debris intrusion and compromising roof structure, which can cost thousands in repairs.

In this article, we will discuss the various options available to homeowners when installing or upgrading a window protection system. With the number of styles, materials, and varying costs of hurricane shutters and impact glass on the market today, appropriate window protection is accessible to every budget and aesthetic.

Types of Hurricane Shutters

Of the options listed below, storm panels, accordion shutters, roll-down shutters, and plywood can also be used to protect exterior doors.

Storm panels

storm panels

Made with steel, aluminum, or polycarbonate, storm panels are installed when needed using bolts and/or tracks permanently attached above and below the window. They are corrugated—shaped into alternating ridges and grooves—to interlock for maximum strength.

At $7-$15 per square foot (depending on size and material), storm panels are an inexpensive permanent hurricane shutter option, and they provide excellent protection for windows and doors.

Fabric storm panels

fabric storm panel

Unlike metal storm panels, these reinforced-PVC or mesh sheets are lightweight and easy to install on one’s own, and they can be automated to lower via push button. Approximately $12-$15 per square foot, fabric panels are also considered a cost-effective alternative to traditional hurricane shutters.

Fabric storm panels detract less from curb appeal than many traditional shutters and let light through the window when deployed. However, metal, polymer, or wooden hurricane shutters decidedly afford better protection against flying debris.

Accordion hurricane shutters

accordion hurricane shutters

Accordion shutters consist of one or two hinged panels made of metal or polycarbonate which fold into a unit permanently installed on either side of the window. To use, homeowners unfold the panels and lock them in the middle or on the opposing side.

While they require no extra storage space and are easy to use, accordion shutters are typically bulkier than other permanent shutter fixtures, and they can disrupt the aesthetic of a home’s exterior. Available in metal and polycarbonate, these shutters cost on average $15-$25 per square foot.

Roll-down hurricane shutters

roll-down hurricane shutters

When not in use, roll-down shutters are stored in a box affixed above the window. Perhaps the quickest and easiest shutter to use when preparing for a storm, roll-down or rolling shutters can be lowered manually with a hand crank, or for maximum ease, lowered automatically via push button.

Made of metal or polycarbonate, roll-down shutters are durable, effective, and customizable. At the higher end of the cost spectrum, roll-down shutters vary in price from $20-$55 per square foot.

Colonial hurricane shutters

colonial hurricane shutters

Many homeowners choose this style of shutter for their traditional aesthetic. Similar in appearance to decorative shutters, colonial hurricane shutters are permanently mounted on either side of the window and remain open when not in use. To defend against storm damage, these shutters are bolted closed and/or held shut by a sliding metal bar.

Costing an average of $18-$30 per square foot, there are a variety of materials available on the market, including aluminum, polycarbonate, and natural wood.

Bahama hurricane shutters

Bahama hurricane shutters

Named for their country of origin, Bahama shutters lend a distinctly tropical style popular among South Florida homeowners. These shutters are attached above the window on a hinge that allows them to prop open at an angle, providing shade and visual interest as well as protection against airborne debris when they’re lowered and secured during a storm.

Bahama shutters are available in standard window sizes and cost about $18-$30 per square foot.

Plywood hurricane shutters

plywood hurricane shutters

Securing plywood over windows and doors is a common DIY alternative to the more permanent storm protection systems listed above. Although plywood has the economic advantage at around $1-$5 per square foot, most plywood shutters do not meet building codes and must be properly cut and installed to be effective.

If you find yourself without window protection as a storm approaches, correctly installing at least 5/8-inch-thick plywood is your best bet against inclement storm damage.

Note: The price approximations above include only the cost of materials, not of labor. With the exception of plywood shutters and some fabric storm panels, hurricane shutters are professionally installed. Additionally, while most shutters are prefabricated to suit standard window dimensions, custom sizing will add to total cost of installation.

Another Option: Hurricane Glass

Hurricane glass—or impact-resistant windows—can eliminate the need for shutters altogether or reinforce the effectiveness of lower-cost options. These windows are manufactured with a layer of laminate sandwiched between two thick panes, so they act like a car windshield when struck hard enough by flying debris: the glass will crack upon impact but remain embedded in the frame.

Generally three times thicker than standard window glass, hurricane glass can also improve energy efficiency and deter theft; and some brands will qualify for an insurance premium reduction. Hurricane glass is increasingly popular in new construction, especially in counties like Miami-Dade, where building codes require protection for all windows and exterior doors.

The drawback: For all their advantages, at $35-$50 per square foot, or around $600 for a standard window, impact-resistant windows are expensive to install, especially when replacing older models.

Call a Best Pick Hurricane Shutter Expert

What’s the scariest Halloween costume this year? For South Florida homeowners, Pennywise has nothing on Irma.

However, if you’re living in a properly fortified home come hurricane season, an approaching storm isn’t nearly as alarming.

All Best Pick window and door or hurricane shutter experts meet our strict qualification standards annually. At EBSCO Research, our in-house research team ensures the companies we promote carry all the state-required licenses and insures and come highly recommended by your neighbors, so you can feel confident hiring a Best Pick specialist to help protect your home against hurricane damage.

It’s never too early to prepare your home and your family for the eventuality of natural disaster, but it can be too late. No matter where you live, the foremost consideration when preparing for inclement weather is not price, but quality of materials and installation—and your home is worth it.