Looking out at a rainy day street view from inside a home through a hurricane window

High-impact windows are often referred to as hurricane windows and vice versa. People also use the terms storm windows, hurricane-rated impact windows, and impact-resistant windows interchangeably.

So, are high-impact and hurricane windows the same, or is there a difference?

Despite being different, hurricane and high-impact windows have some similarities. However, both have a few distinct types with varying characteristics, which will probably influence your decision to opt for either. 

Keep reading to know every difference between high-impact and hurricane windows.

Is There a Difference Between High-Impact and Hurricane Windows?

Hurricane and high-impact windows aren’t the same. Generally, high-impact windows are significantly stronger, heavier, and costlier than hurricane windows—a hurricane window uses safety glass technology, while high-impact windows have impact-resistant glass.

Distinctions Between High-Impact and Hurricane Windows

Here are the main differences between high-impact and hurricane windows:

FeaturesHigh-Impact WindowsHurricane Windows
Glass TechnologyImpact-resistant, laminated glassSafety glass, laminated
Window StrengthStronger than hurricane windowsWeaker than high-impact windows
Protection AgainstHurricane, debris, brute force, etc.Only wind: hurricane, storm, etc.
DisintegrationMay not fall apart, don’t shatterDon’t shatter into shards
Type of InstallationSpecial frames are necessaryStandard window installation
Total CostCostlier than hurricane windowsComparatively affordable

The specific differences between high-impact and hurricane windows depend on many factors, including the following:

  • Glass quality, not just the technology.
  • Lamination: the material, layers, etc.
  • Installation, i.e., the size, frame, etc.

Bearing these factors in mind, here’s a comprehensive high-impact vs. hurricane windows assessment based on their characteristics:

Impact-Resistance Glass Is Much Stronger

Both hurricane and high-impact windows use laminated glass. The foundation of both is safety glass technology. But high-impact windows have stronger glass panes and laminations.

Safety glass technology uses a laminate to bind and strengthen the panes. This laminate is usually a resin. The most common laminate used in safety glass technology is polyvinyl butyral (PVB). 

Hurricane windows have at least one layer of PVB, so the glass is more robust and doesn’t break apart into shards or sharp pieces that could cause injury and property damage. The laminate or resin essentially holds the glass pieces together even if a pane breaks.

Closeup on a cracked impact window installed in home

An advanced form or feature of safety glass technology is impact resistance. This type of glass uses the PVB layer as the binding and strengthening agent.

Additionally, the glass panes are laminated. Each glass pane is typically laminated with polyethylene terephthalate (PET).

High-impact windows have multiple PET-laminated glass panes and PVB layers for protection against blunt force, such as solid objects or flying debris. Therefore, they will stand firmly against the strong winds of hurricanes and endure things striking the glass.

In other words, hurricane windows won’t endure blunt force or strikes with solid objects or flying debris during a storm, such as outdoor furniture. Most will only protect your property against strong winds unless it uses impact-resistant glass.

In contrast, high-impact windows protect against many forces, not just wind. The limit of its strength is obviously based on the quality and specific features.

Subject to the specs, high-impact windows are also known as:

  • Anti-burglary glass
  • Vandal-proof glass
  • Laminated safety glass
  • Laminated security glass
  • High-impact-resistant glass

High-Impact Windows Require Wider and Sturdier Frames

Hurricane windows may have only two glass panes and one PVB layer as the laminate. Some types may have more than one layer of laminate.

In contrast, high-impact windows have more than two PET-laminated glass panes with over two PVB layers. This construction makes the glass thicker and heavier than hurricane windows’ glass.

Thus, homeowners cannot install high-impact windows with standard frames. Instead, heavy-duty frames made of aluminum or polyvinyl chloride (PVC) are typically used to mount them.

Furthermore, high-impact windows warrant installers with appropriate training and experience to handle heavier and thicker glasses. 

A homeowner on a ladder installing hurricane window panes above an interior door in his home

Installation errors or mishandling impact-resistant glass may jeopardize the primary objectives of the entire investment.

Hurricane Windows Cost About Half as Much

High-impact windows use stronger glass and more materials. Unfortunately, the installation requirements are demanding, too. So, both material and labor costs are significantly higher than that for hurricane windows.

The exact cost difference depends on several factors, not solely limited to the quality of glass or installation. For example, your location and project scope will likely influence the estimates from installers. 

But you can expect to pay nearly twice as much for high-impact windows as you would for hurricane windows.

The average cost of a standard-sized hurricane window is around $1,200, including installation. The cost may be as low as $400 for a small hurricane window or more than $2,400 for a large one that you can open.

Looking out from inside a home through a PGT Winguard Energy Star Hurricane Window
Our founder, Erin, installing hurricane windows in our second Net-Zero home

The average cost of a standard high-impact window is around $1,500, including installation. While the price may be as reasonable as $800 in some cases, it is still twice that of a small hurricane window. Sizeable high-impact windows or sliding doors may cost a few thousand.

Similarities Between High-Impact and Hurricane Windows

The main similarities between high impact and hurricane windows include:

  • Both types use safety glass technology, so the windows won’t shatter into shards even if they break – the bond between the panes and laminates prevents these glasses from disintegrating, which you may encounter with normal windows during hurricanes.
  • If these windows break, the glass may crack or form a star pattern, but the panes stay bonded to the laminate – while hurricane windows cannot endure impact from flying debris or blunt force strikes, the glass cracks and falls instead of splintering.
  • Safety and impact-resistant glasses may have similar ratings for strong winds – a high-impact window has additional features on the forces of solid objects. But the level of wind protection may be almost identical if the varieties have similar ratings.
  • Both high-impact and hurricane windows offer better UV protection and thermal insulation than ordinary glass – hurricane windows are not as insulating or protective against ultraviolet radiation as high-impact glass, but both may have enhanced features.
  • Both safety and impact-resistant glasses have a more significant noise cancellation effect than ordinary windows. But, again, high-impact glass is thicker with heavy-duty frames, so it offers better noise cancellation than the safety glass used in hurricane windows.

The other similarities between hurricane and high-impact windows depend on the brand manufacturing the glass and the final product. 

For instance, both types may use tempered and laminated glass

The exact process may be heat or thermal tempering. The outcome would be heat strengthened or thermally toughened. A reinforcing method, such as tempering, precedes the lamination and subsequent processes.

A sheet of tempered hurricane window glass is fabricated in a factory
A sheet of tempered window glass is fabricated in a factory

Likewise, chemical toughening is a standard manufacturing method. Some companies create composites with synthetic binding materials. 

In the case of safety glass, the tempering method may be similar, so the type of lamination and number of panes or layers are the main difference. 

These factors influence the similarities between hurricane and high-impact windows. Also, the same characteristics and other specifications will determine the practical differences between these two broad categories of glasses.

The Hybrid Case of Impact-Resistant Hurricane Windows

The differences and similarities between high-impact and hurricane windows almost merge for hybrid varieties. Some companies label these types as impact-resistant hurricane windows.

So, these variants combine multiple characteristics of both hurricane and high-impact windows.

Pros and Cons of High-Impact Windows

The most remarkable benefit of high-impact windows is the resistance against indirect or direct force—these glass windows don’t flex, bend, or break easily.

They are sturdy and formidable. Impact-resistant glass is tested against brute strikes with hammers, axes, etc.

Thus, high-impact windows will protect you against hurricanes and burglary attempts. However, the cost and installation are two arguable disadvantages, especially if you are on a budget or your property needs some modification for the heavy-duty frames.

A burglar facing an exterior hurricane window of a home winds up to smash it with a crowbar

That said, the additional cost and complicated installation are justifiable if you consider the other merits of high-impact windows, such as:

  • Energy efficiency due to thermal insulation
  • More than 99% protection from UV radiation
  • Exceptional two-way noise cancellation effect
  • Superior protection against storms or hurricanes
  • Enhanced mechanical security at access points

Pros and Cons of Hurricane Windows

Hurricane windows pose no risk of bodily injury or property damage due to shattered glass or sharp shards. These glasses can flex to endure strong winds and don’t splinter even if they break. However, your property is vulnerable to storm damage if windows break.

While the cost and ease of installation are undisputed advantages, hurricane windows don’t use heavy-duty or reinforced frames. Also, hurricane glasses don’t protect from flying solid debris and other direct brute force attacks.

That said, these windows are substantially more robust than ordinary glass panes. As a result, a burglar or intruder will have a tougher time breaking in compared to standard windows. Also, safety glasses offer better insulation if glazed and a certain degree of noise cancellation. 

Final Thoughts

Hurricane and high-impact windows have different grades, determining the quality and structural characteristics. Hence, depending on the primary objectives, you should compare the features of a specific type of safety or impact-resistance glass with other available options.

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