According to insurance company Universal Property, Florida experienced 120 hurricanes between 1851 and 2018, the most of any US state.
As a Florida homeowner or renter, you’ve thought of getting hurricane windows, but you’re still debating. One thing that may be holding up your decision is a lack of knowledge on whether they are optional or required by Florida law.
This article will thoroughly explain the Florida Building Code rule and examine hurricane windows so you can get your Florida home protected before the next hurricane blows through!
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Are Hurricane Windows Required in Florida?
The Florida Building Code requires door and window protection on any structure within a mile of the coast that experiences wind speeds of over 110 miles per hour. The law doesn’t mandate hurricane windows per se, but hurricane-resistant windows (and doors), and you must check your local code to be sure.
What Does the Building Code Say About Hurricane Windows in Florida?
As is true in much of the country, Florida is governed by its building code.
Given the prevalence of hurricanes in this southern coastal state, it makes sense that the Florida Building Code would address the need for fortifying buildings that could be in the potential line of fire of a hurricane.
Per the intro, if your building is located a mile from the coast and wind speeds exceed 110 MPH, you must safeguard both the doors and windows. The code doesn’t distinguish between residential and commercial properties, as either could easily be barreled over in a hurricane.
Another area where the Florida Building Code doesn’t distinguish is what kind of protection is required for windows and doors of buildings within the target area.
For the sake of this article, we’ll focus on protecting your windows. Unfortunately, the Florida Building Code doesn’t mention hurricane windows by name, and they’re not the only means you have of fortifying your windows (more on this later).
Instead, you need hurricane-resistant windows with no further specifications than that.
What Are Hurricane Windows Anyway?
When we refer to hurricane windows, what exactly are we talking about? We talked about this in a recent blog post, so this section will be a recap.
Hurricane windows are also referred to as impact windows. Unlike traditional windows, hurricane windows are comprised of several layers.
All glass used to manufacture hurricane windows is laminated. The laminated glass has the same level of tensile strength as windshield glass in a truck or car. Several layers of the glass are stacked together.
Further, hurricane window glass is manufactured and subjected to rigorous quality control standards. The windows are tested to pass specific requirements for strength and quality. If a window doesn’t make the grade, it’s not sold.
The average wind strength that a hurricane window can withstand is 158 mph. That’s the speed of a Category 5 hurricane, the most severe type of tropical storm that can occur (on a scale of 1 through 5).
You’ll recall from the last section that the protective windows mandated in the Florida Building Code must be designed to withstand hurricane winds of at least 110 mph. Hurricane windows can handle winds a great deal stronger than that—almost 50 mph stronger.
Hurricane windows are strong enough that even if you took a heavy-duty tool like a sledgehammer to the window several times (putting in all your might with each hit), you wouldn’t even crack a hurricane window, let alone break it.
That’s not to say that hurricane windows are impervious to breakage, but it takes quite a lot of brute force for it to happen. Temperatures below freezing aren’t enough to do it. Extreme heat isn’t enough to do it either.
Should a hurricane window finally buckle and crack, the way it breaks is not what you’d expect. You probably know that your everyday window will shatter, and you might have had a broken window in your home once or twice.
Hurricane windows don’t shatter. Instead, the glass breaks off into sizable pieces.
If you happen to be in the house when a hurricane window broke (which isn’t recommended, we should note), you wouldn’t be exposed to a highly detrimental glass spray.
How Much Do Hurricane Windows Cost?
You just learned through the Florida Building Code that your home needs protective windows and doors. Hurricane windows certainly sound capable of standing up to the rough storms the state is known for.
With all the benefits, you may wonder how much they will cost.
According to HomeAdvisor, the average range for hurricane windows is between $2,296 and $14,911, with a national average of $8,804. The high-end pricing is $28,000.
Factors such as the latch style, hardware finish, grille pattern, frame color, size, and the number of windows needed will influence how much you’ll pay.
For example, HomeAdvisor notes that a 24×30-inch hurricane window costs $110. A 52×44-inch window is $190.
If your home requires huge windows such as a 60×60-inch, you will pay $255 per window. A 60×96-inch window is typically the most significant size available and costs $325.
Impact glass is an additional fee and costs an average of $55 a square foot.
You have to factor in the installation fees as well. The average hourly installation rate is $30-$65, and it takes about two hours to install most hurricane windows. Labor fees could be $60-$130 in total.
If you currently have windows in place that the installation team has to detach (and dispose of), the labor rate may be higher than what is listed above.
How Long Do Hurricane Windows Last?
Should you decide to go ahead and pay for a set of hurricane windows for your Florida home, how long should you expect to have them?
We’ve seen estimates that hurricane impact windows can last for life. While that’s ideal, it may not always be realistic, especially if the windows are often exposed to hurricane-force winds, as may be the case where you live.
The standard lifespan estimate for hurricane windows is between 10-25 years. That’s about the average lifespan of a standard set of windows plus five years!
Other Options for Protecting Your Windows
Going back to the point we made before, nowhere in the Florida Building Code does it explicitly mention using hurricane windows on your home—you can also opt for hurricane shutters.
We also recently touched on hurricane shutters on the blog, so we recommend you check that post out. This section will mostly reintroduce what hurricane shutters are and how they work.
Hurricane shutters come in various styles, most of which are professional-grade but a few which are DIY.
Unlike your standard window shutters, which are usually just there for decoration, hurricane shutters can open and close. When closed, they cover the entire window.
As a hurricane brings its powerful winds, the hurricane shutter safeguards the window underneath, taking the brunt of the impact.
You can select from a variety of hurricane shutters, including:
- Roll-down shutters – living up to the name, roll-down hurricane shutters can close fully or partially. These vertical shutters are often made of high-quality aluminum.
- Colonial shutters – a more appealing type of hurricane shutter, colonial shutters are also aluminum and look great when not in use.
- Clamshell shutters – aluminum awnings, aka clamshell shutters, are low-cost, fast, and simple to install, making them a popular choice among hurricane shutter options.
- Bermuda shutters – a set of Bermuda shutters offers excellent impact resistance and an appealing exterior. They open partially when in use.
- Accordion shutters – finally, accordion shutters can open or retract horizontally. You set up the shutters ahead of a storm, and you’re ready to go.
Hurricane shutters are a great solution if you decide you can’t upgrade every window in your home to hurricane windows. Instead, you can leave your other windows and get a set of hurricane shutters installed.
That said, if you already have hurricane windows, you should not need hurricane shutters. The windows are more than strong enough to survive storm after storm!
The Florida Building Code requires homeowners and building owners who live or work within a mile of the coast where the winds can reach over 110 mph must have hurricane-resistant doors and windows.
Although not mandated by the building code, hurricane windows are a viable solution for fortifying your home from top to bottom. You might also consider hurricane shutters.
Good luck, and stay safe out there!