Disaster Restoration Services

Hurricane guide 2014: Shuttering out the storm

By Teresa Mears

From inexpensive panels to automatic shutters with wind detection sensors, there’s protection for any budget.

Hurricane season is bearing down upon us. Is your house ready?

Everyone knows that covering windows, skylights and glass doors before a storm is one of the most effective ways of preventing storm damage. Yet many South Floridians still enter hurricane season unprepared.

“If you have nothing, that palm tree that comes down, it’s going right through the window,” said Paul Licata, director of business development for Dean Mitchell Restoration in Riviera Beach, a company that does repairs after storms. “The important thing is to keep the elements out of the house.”

Approved storm shutters or impact-resistant windows also can qualify you for discounts on windstorm insurance.

Shutter technology is constantly changing, and new products continue to be created.

If price is no object, you can now get a system that you can operate via your smartphone or one with a wind-detection sensor that will automatically activate roll-down shutters.

Some high-tech features can be added to existing shutter systems, said Ryan Kuechenberg, owner of Maximum Shutter Systems in Dania Beach. “It if senses a certain mile an hour, it will automatically activate a roll shutter system,” he said.

The most popular shutters are the accordion-style shutters, because of price and ease of use, Kuechenberg said. When a storm approaches, you pull them closed and lock them.

The most economical shutters are metal storm panels, which homeowners can buy and install themselves. Those are installed along a track, which should be put on the house long before a storm is anticipated, or attached to the house with screws.

In recent years, lighter weight Lexan clear storm panels have become available. These are actually more durable than aluminum or steel panels, said Kuechenberg. Plus, they are easier to put up and let light into the house when they’re in use.

Gladiator screen is another option. This material can be used as a rolling shade to cover a lanai (either year-round or during a storm) or attached with clips over windows as a hurricane shutter.

Before you sign a contract for shutters, check out the company with the Better Business Bureau, the county and the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation. Make sure you get a warranty of at least five years. Some companies offer lifetime warranties. When choosing products, make sure you pick those with current Miami-Dade County product approval.

In the last decade, impact-resistant windows have become popular, especially in new construction. Even if a projectile breaks the window, it usually can’t penetrate, protecting the home against the damaging water damage that often follows wind damage. Plus, with impact windows, you can still see outside before, during and right after a storm. But the cost of windows remains a deterrent, since they can cost $30 to $150 per square foot, depending on the window.

Plywood, once a popular inexpensive option, should be a last resort. To be effective, it should be installed inside window frames and attached with barrel bolts. Plywood nailed to window frames can easily be ripped off by wind.

At the beginning of the season, find your panels, check your tracks and make sure everything is in working order and you have coverings for every single window, glass door and skylight.

The other issue that’s important, Licata says, is to make sure your windows, doors, skylights and stucco are caulked and watertight.

“It’s great that you have shutters on but if the windows aren’t properly caulked and sealed, you’re still going to get water intrusion,” he said. If the stucco exterior isn’t sealed, you can also get water between your stucco and your drywall. You may not notice immediately if water gets into those areas, allowing time for mold to grow and create a very expensive problem.

“I see a lot of complacency now because we haven’t had a storm [since Wilma in 2005]. Don’t be complacent,” Licata said. “You don’t need a hurricane to sustain damage.”

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