The front of a building with hurricane shutters rolled down over the windows

If you live in a hurricane-prone state, the homes in your area are usually built differently than in states where hurricanes are rarer or nonexistent. For example, your house might come equipped with hurricane windows or hurricane shutters. 

Both of these technologies protect homeowners from the destructive forces of a hurricane. However, there are distinct differences between the two.

The post will explain hurricane windows and shutters individually and then delve into how the two are different. When finished, you’ll know whether hurricane windows or shutters are a better choice for your home! 

But first, a quick answer regarding how the two mechanisms differ.

What’s the Difference Between Hurricane Shutters and Windows?

Hurricane windows are multi-layered laminated glass windows with a breakage strength akin to car windshields, whereas hurricane shutters are designed to safeguard regular windows. The two features lead to a safer home but don’t have to be used together.

What Are Hurricane Windows?

When a hurricane is on the horizon, the high winds can easily blow out windows. Thus, hurricane windows have become one solution for preserving a home’s windows when the weather gets stormy.

Hurricane windows might look like your average window, but they’re anything but. The production process is the most significant difference.

Only laminated glass is used to manufacture hurricane windows, a type of safety glass. 

Annealed glass is connected via a layer of polyvinyl butyral (PVB) or another type of plastic to make laminated glass. The result is sort of like a sandwich. The plastic layer in the middle is flanked on either side by the glass. 

Still, hurricane windows need more durability and resistance, so usually, they feature several of these layers. The layers of glass and plastic are less like a sandwich and more like a cake.

The additional layers lend the hurricane windows more durability. The strength of a hurricane window is often compared to the glass windshields in cars and trucks. The glass can break, but it takes a heck of a lot of effort for it to happen. 

Should a hurricane window break, it shouldn’t shatter. Instead, it chips off into dull chunks. The pieces are much larger than the glass spray you’d experience when breaking an average window (or mirror!). 

A hurricane window undergoing an impact resistance test in a facility
A hurricane window undergoing an impact resistance test in a facility

Hurricane windows are designed for weather extremes, including sweltering and freezing-cold temperatures. 

Flying ice, hail, and debris won’t damage them, are they’re built to withstand the conditions accompanying a Category 5 hurricane. Even in winds as strong as 158 miles per hour, hurricane windows will not buckle.

You wouldn’t want to be in your home if hurricane-force winds were blowing that strongly, but the peace of mind in knowing that your windows would be okay does make evacuating easier to do. 

Now let’s look at hurricane shutters, also known as hurricane coverings. 

What Are Hurricane Shutters?

Hurricane shutters look like an average set of house shutters, but looks can be deceiving. These shutters are designed to endure hurricane-force winds without being ripped off at the hinges. 

If you only had a few hurricane windows in your home or none at all, a set of hurricane shutters could protect regular windows to prevent them from blowing out and shattering during a hurricane or severe storm. 

You can select from five types of hurricane shutters—roll-down, accordion, plywood, Bahama, and colonial. Let’s take a closer look at all five.

Roll-Down Shutters

Built from aluminum or polycarbonate plastic, roll-down hurricane shutters can partially, halfway, or wholly cover a glass window, depending on how you adjust them. The convenience of roll-down shutters is by far one of their most significant advantages. 

Closeup on an exterior window with roll-down hurricane shutters

However, you will need to add an enclosed box atop and below each window that features these shutters. Some homeowners have complained that these boxes reduce the curb appeal of their homes compared to other types of hurricane shutters. 

Accordion Shutters

Accordion shutters are named since they folds and unfolds just like the musical instrument. The panels are constructed of aluminum for durability and less weight, are linked to one another, and move along a metal track. 

hurricane shutters on a home's second story exterior windows

An accordion shutter is an excellent choice if you have a picture window or a sliding glass door you wish to protect from the impact of hurricanes. 

Plywood Shutters

Unlike the other types we’ve discussed, plywood shutters are a DIY solution. You can match a piece of plywood to the dimensions of your window and then attach it with nails or screws. 

Any less durable attachment point will blow away along with the plywood when a hurricane passes through. 

Plywood shutters are by far the least appealing type of hurricane shutter. They’re cheap and significantly detract from your home’s curb appeal. 

Even once you take plywood shutters down, the holes in your siding from hammering or drilling in nails will never disappear. 

Further, you can only protect so many windows in your home with plywood shutters. You won’t be able to easily access any second-story windows using this method. 

Bahama Shutters

The Bahama style of hurricane shutters features louver and hinges. Each louver shutter is attached to the hinge and installed atop the window. 

A set of Bahama Shutters on two exterior windows of a beige-colored home

You must open a Bahama shutter to see its full effect. The shutter drops down over the window, preventing sunlight from coming in. 

If you live in a warm, hurricane-prone state such as Florida, this can be a welcome reprieve from the heat. However, you might feel that parts of your home are too dark when using Bahama shutters, as they block out sunlight a little too well. 

Colonial Shutters 

The last type of hurricane shutters is colonial shutters. 

These shutters are built from either aluminum or wood. They are dual panels attached to hinges on both sides of the window.

When open, colonial shutters don’t look like much. It’s once you close them that the shutters cover your windows so they won’t sustain hurricane damage. 

Differences Between Hurricane Windows and Shutters Explained

Now that we’ve taken the time to clearly explain what a hurricane window is versus a hurricane shutter, it’s time to delve into how they’re different. Both features protect your windows, but it’s a matter of how.

Hurricane windows are built tough to survive winds over 150 mph. 

If you can trust your glass windshield when driving, you can also have faith in a hurricane window. Both are built the same and designed to endure tremendous amounts of damage.

On the other hand, hurricane shutters take the brunt of those gale-force winds, so your windows don’t have to. They cover the standard windows throughout your home.

Since these windows aren’t as robust, it wouldn’t take much for them to shatter—that’s why most types of hurricane shutters envelope the window entirely.  

Hurricane Windows vs. Shutters – Which Is Right for You?

Your home usually needs only hurricane windows or shutters. Hurricane windows are enough on their own to prevent storm damage, and hurricane shutters are as well. 

In this section, we’ll present the pros and cons of hurricane windows and shutters to help you decide which is the more suitable solution for your home. 

Hurricane Window Advantages

  • Hurricane windows look like standard windows and will not detract anything from your home’s curb appeal. If anything, upgrading your windows might increase your home’s curb appeal even more. The same certainly cannot be said for some types of hurricane shutters.
  • Even if you’re not using your hurricane windows, you can still rest easy and enjoy the peace of mind knowing they’re there. 
  • Hurricane windows are great for safety outside of events caused by Mother Nature. If a burglar tries to break into your home, breaking hurricane windows would be highly challenging.
  • Hurricane windows can handle temperature extremes on both ends of the spectrum, so no matter what kind of weather is on the horizon, you don’t have to stress about it. 
  • You can still enjoy a view of your backyard or side yard with hurricane windows and know that you are protected during a weather event. Unfortunately, most hurricane shutters block your view of the outside either partially or wholly. 

Hurricane Window Disadvantages

  • Compared to shutters, buying hurricane windows can be a costly venture. HomeAdvisor states that hurricane windows cost $2,696 to $14,877 versus $1,962 to $6,012 for hurricane shutters.
  • Due to the high price of hurricane windows, you might opt to only get a few windows around your home upgraded. Unfortunately, this leaves the rest of the windows prone to storm damage.

Hurricane Shutter Advantages

  • Hurricane shutters are available in a variety of appealing styles that are sure to match any price point and personal preference. Of course, you can also choose how much light you want to let it, depending on the type of shutter.
  • Like hurricane windows, a set of hurricane shutters can also deter would-be thieves. Some shutters lock so that a burglar wouldn’t want to go through the effort of trying to break in. 
  • Most hurricane shutters are removable if you change your mind and decide you don’t want them anymore. 

Hurricane Shutter Disadvantages

  • Some styles of hurricane shutters can detract from your home’s beauty, as they’re downright unappealing and boxy.
  • Even though you can remove hurricane shutters at any point, the damage left behind via drill marks is a permanent reminder of your home modification. 

Conclusion 

Hurricane windows and shutters are two solutions for safeguarding your home from severe hurricane damage. A hurricane shutter covers the window so it won’t shatter, whereas a hurricane window is a total window replacement with stronger glass. 

We hope this article provided you with the knowledge to decide whether hurricane windows or shutters are better for your home.

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