A professional installer pulls down a hurricane window screen on the exterior window of a home

The devastation of Hurricane Katrina in August 2005 resulted in 1,518 deaths and over 89 billion dollars worth of damage, much of which was focused on New Orleans, Louisiana.

This massive storm event was the costliest hurricane ever to hit the US and caused many people living in areas at risk from hurricanes to re-examine the protective measures they were using to protect their homes.

A wide range of products is available to help protect your home from the worst of the high winds and intense rainfall that hurricanes bring.

Hurricane window screens are one such option and are an excellent solution for hurricane protection, offering a relatively low-cost, flexible, and effective solution.

In addition to hurricane screens, there are many other ways you can protect your home from hurricanes.

Some building codes even specify protective measures. We’ve written a roundup of different code requirements relating to hurricane straps in the Southern US, which you might find helpful.

This article answers some of the most common questions asked about hurricane window screens and how they contrast from other hurricane protection options, so read on to find out more.

What Damage Can Hurricanes Do to Your Home?

Before we get into the specific questions and answers on hurricane window screens, let’s briefly mention what can happen if you haven’t enacted adequate hurricane protection measures.

Hurricanes are very intense tropical storms that form in the Atlantic Ocean, mainly from June to November each year.

The warm sea temperatures cause humid air to rise into the storm, intensifying the low pressure beneath and increasing its power. When the hurricane lands, although it loses the source of its power, it continues to track across the land bringing high winds and intense rainfall to areas it passes through.

The high winds lift objects from the ground, hurling them through the air at high speed. If these objects collide with your home, they are likely to cause damage, particularly if they strike a window, which is one of the most vulnerable parts of any building.

If a window smashes, it lets in wind and rain, which can significantly damage the contents of the building and the structure itself.

Once the building envelope is breached, the wind rushes in, causing a sudden increase in the pressure inside, which can lift the roof off the walls and blow them over, destroying the house.

The remnants of a modular home with several walls still standing after a tornado.

Therefore, protection is critically important for the openings of your home, including windows, doors, and skylights.

A wind mitigation inspection can help to reduce your home insurance premium. For more information and other tips on how to reduce your premiums, read our article on the subject, here. It focuses on Florida, but homeowners in other states can also apply many of the tips.

What Are Hurricane Window Screens?

Hurricane window screens an extremely versatile, effective, and economical method for securing your house against the destructive forces of a hurricane. In addition, they aren’t visually obtrusive, unlike some permanently installed shutters, which can dominate the look of a house.

Hurricane window screens are made from high-strength material, such as geotextile fabric, which is created by weaving polypropylene monofilament into a robust blanket of material. Sometimes they are made from Kevlar, which is famously able to withstand the force of a bullet—perfect for stopping flying objects during a hurricane.

The screens are flexible and lightweight, making them easy to deploy and just as easy to take down and put into storage once the storm has finished. When a storm is on its way, the screens are installed over the windows or other structures that require protection.

Hurricane window screens are held in place by one of several methods. At the low-tech end of the range is the grommet system, or buckles and straps, which are relatively labor-intensive, manual options.

More expensive, higher-tech options include roll-up systems permanently installed above the window or opening that you can roll down at the touch of a button or even from your smartphone or Alexa device.

These features make hurricane window screens a very convenient option that can serve multiple purposes besides hurricane protection.

For example, you can roll down your screens for privacy or shade from the sun, and thanks to the translucent nature of the geotextile material, you can still see outside.

Hurricane window screens can be designed to fit any structure. Unlike shutters, which are suitable only for rectangular openings, hurricane screens can be “made to measure” and can easily be used to protect archways, porches, balconies, carports, and any irregular shapes you might find on older, historic buildings.

Exterior view of a home with hurricane window screens deployed over all openings
Courtesy of Storm Solutions Inc.

Do Hurricane Window Screens Really Work?

Hurricane window screens are tested to the same standards as hurricane shutters and impact windows. The strict building code requirements for hurricane risk areas help to ensure that homes are protected from the worst effects imaginable.

The compliance test for hurricane protective products such as window screens involves firing a 2” x 4” piece of lumber from a special cannon at a speed of thirty-four miles per hour into the center of the screen.

Wind testing is also carried out to ensure products can keep the high winds at bay.

Hurricane screens that meet these standards will help to keep the wind and rain outside your home and prevent damage.

Homeowners should bear in mind that hurricane window screens are an excellent protective measure, but they are not hurricane-proof. If a powerful storm blows strongly for long enough, the best state-of-the-art protective measures might not be sufficient to protect your home.

However, the same is true of all hurricane protection measures, and hurricane screens provide an equivalent level of storm protection while offering other benefits such as better aesthetics and use as an everyday sunshade.

How Much Do Hurricane Window Screens Cost on Average?

According to homeguide.com, installing hurricane protective measures on a typical house ranges from $2,000 at the low to $8,000 at the high. The typical average falls around $4,700, according to a survey of 26 respondents who shared the costs of their projects.

The final cost will depend on the number and size of windows and other openings requiring protection in your home, so these figures can only be used as a rough guide to potential costs, but they are helpful to get an idea.

Hurricane window screens vary in price according to the specific type you install and the complexity of the installation process.

They normally cost around $20-$30 per square foot, with additional features such as motorized operation, UV deflectors, and insect deterrents increasing the cost. Motorized screens will typically add about $600 to the overall cost of an installation, although this varies across different areas and installation companies.

Many people feel this additional cost is worthwhile because it saves having to wind the screens up and down manually. Instead, they can be rolled up or down at the touch of a button. Some systems allow you to do this remotely via a smartphone or smart speaker.

Are Hurricane Screens and Hurricane Fabric the Same Thing?

Hurricane fabric and screens are often made from similar or strong material like woven polypropylene or Kevlar. The distinction between the two is how it is installed in your home.

A hurricane window screen rolls down over an opening or window similarly to a hurricane shutter. The top of the screen is held in position by the winding mechanism that houses the screen when it is completely rolled up, and the sides are retained in place firmly by tracks.

Hurricane fabric, on the other hand, is installed by placing it over the window or other opening and manually securing the edges of the fabric all the way around using straps or clips.

The front exterior of a home with hurricane fabric installed on all the windows and doors
Courtesy of Hurricane Shutters USA

The most popular systems for securing hurricane fabric are either strap and buckle systems or grommet and wing nut systems. 

In addition to these basic attachment methods, some manufacturers have proprietary attachment systems, such as the Hurricane Fabric LLC Clip, which was designed after taking inspiration from the world of sailmaking for yachts.

Do Hurricane Window Screens and Fabric Block the Wind?

One of the main functions of hurricane window screens is to keep the wind out of your home during a hurricane.

If a piece of flying lumber breaks an unprotected window, the building envelope is compromised, allowing wind to rush in. The inrush increases the air pressure inside and can lift the roof off and knock over walls.

Hurricane window screens are designed to prevent this from happening. As the first line of defense, the hurricane fabric repels any flying objects and prevents the window from smashing.

However, because the fabric is flexible, a direct hit from a flying object might still break the window, mainly if the fabric is installed very close to the windowpane.

Even if the window smashes, the hurricane fabric will remain in position and prevent a sudden inrush of wind and increased pressure inside the building. This stability protects the house from the worst damage a hurricane can cause and prevents the roof from being lifted off.

Do Hurricane Screens and Fabric Keep Water and Rain Out During a Storm?

A hallway in a home with a puddle, presumably from openings in the building envelope caused by a hurricane

Hurricane window screens and fabric made from woven polypropylene are slightly porous, with about 5% of their structure open, which allows light to pass through.

However, this porosity does not allow rain and wind to pass through, which keeps your home protected from the storm while you can still see outside.

Visibility is a benefit many people enjoy because they say it is great to see what’s going on outside and not feel trapped in a cave as you shelter from the storm, a common experience for those using plywood panels for protection.

What Category Are Hurricane Screens and Fabric Rated For?

Some hurricane fabrics and screens are approved for use in the Miami-Dade and Broward counties of Florida, which have some of the strictest and best-enforced building codes in the country, if not the world.

One such example is Astroguard Hurricane Fabric, which meets these stringent requirements and will provide excellent protection for your home.

Miami-Dade and Broward counties are part of a High-Velocity Hurricane Zone, where a building’s envelope must be wind-resistant, and the designs of all windows and doors must pass stringent lab-based tests to show their suitability.

These counties have 195 and 185 mph wind speeds attached to Risk Category IV Buildings and Structures. These speeds equate to a Category 5 hurricane, which starts at wind speeds of 157 mph.

There are no guarantees that any protective measures will be able to withstand sustained, Category 5 hurricane-force winds. However, fabric and screens that have passed the stringent testing required for Miami-Dade and Broward County will give you the best available protection.

How Do Hurricane Screens and Fabric Compare to Hurricane Shutters?

Hurricane window screens and fabric do a very similar job to hurricane shutters, but there are some critical differences to consider.

Which option you choose will depend partly on budget considerations, your lifestyle, and how much work you are prepared to do to prepare for each impending storm.

Hurricane Screens and Fabric

Hurricane screens and fabric are made of flexible, woven material.

These protective measures are woven from durable polypropylene thread, or sometimes Kevlar, the same material used to manufacture bullet-proof vests.

Despite being very strong and capable of withstanding severe storm conditions, hurricane fabrics and screens are translucent, meaning you can still see through them from the inside.

This characteristic reassures many people because they can see what is happening outside as the storm passes, rather than being holed up in bunker-like darkness.

Fabric covers are lightweight and can easily be stored when not in use. They don’t take up much space and can easily be fitted across windows and other openings by a single person, thanks to their ease of handling and simple design.

Although straightforward to put in place, there is quite a lot of manual work required to do this because of the multiple fixing points that each need to have a clip screwed in or grommet and wing nut fastened in place.

This quality is where screens have a distinct advantage because they can come in a motorized form and can easily be rolled up or down at the press of a button.

A lanai with hurricane window screens in place over all its openings
Courtesy of Storm Protection Industries

Screens are also great for everyday use as sunshades or to keep insects out of the living space. They can also be rolled down around a lanai to prevent rain from being blown in during minor thunderstorms—something you wouldn’t want to do with manually-fastened fabric covers.

Hurricane Shutters

Hurricane shutters come in various designs, including stylish colonial shutters, functional roll-down shutters, accordion shutters, and Bermuda shutters.

Hurricane shutters are permanently installed on your building, so there is no need to store them when they are not in use, unlike hurricane fabric protectors. This permanence makes hurricane shutters as convenient to use as hurricane window screens.

However, the design of shutters often limits the amount of light that can come through the window, and sometimes leaves occupants in complete darkness.

This opaqueness contrasts with hurricane screens, which due to their porous material, allow light into the building and make it possible for occupants to see outside when the screen is rolled down.

hurricane shutters on a home's second story exterior windows

Some types of shutters, such as Bermuda shutters (or Bahama shutters), allow homeowners to easily control the amount of light entering the building. This style has a hinge at the top and swings out from the bottom, allowing them to provide varying amounts of shade or complete privacy when fully closed.

Accordion shutters are a solid option for sliding doors or lanais and fold away to the side of the opening when not in use. However, they are not very attractive compared to hurricane screens, which are much more appealing to the eye.

Hurricane window screens allow light into the building, whereas accordion shutters do not. Screens are also multi-purpose, functioning as sunshades and insect screens, making them a preferable option for many who can afford them.

How Do Hurricane Screens and Fabric Compare to Hurricane Windows?

Hurricane (or impact) windows are permanently installed windows much stronger than standard ones, boasting reinforced frames and impact-resistant glass.

The panes are constructed from layers of very strong tempered glass with a layer of plastic-like material in between. The material between the sheets is made from ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA) or polyvinyl butyral (PVB) and is the secret to the fantastic strength of impact windows.

The glass is very similar to the glass used in automobiles and remains in place even after a strong impact shatters it; most of the pieces of glass remain stuck to the plastic layer.

The glass fragments break into much smaller pieces than standard glass and don’t have the sharp edges typical of regular shattered glass. This feature makes it much safer during a storm because, even if the glass does shatter, there is far less chance of injury.

A hurricane window undergoing an impact resistance test in a facility

Hurricane windows tend to be more expensive than hurricane window screens and fabric. Still, many people think they are worth the extra cost because they are a completely passive form of protection, requiring zero preparation for an impending storm.

Hurricane fabric, by contrast, requires a lot of work to securely fix the protective sheets in place before the storm arrives. This required effort is less of an issue for hurricane screens, but you still need to roll them down, albeit by pressing a button on the remote control.

But, if you’re out of town and unable to get to the house to ensure the screen is rolled down, you might kick yourself that you didn’t install hurricane impact windows that protect the home 24/7 without needing to do anything.

Hurricane screens, fabric, and windows are designed to maintain the envelope of your building and will help prevent the sudden inrush of wind through a smashed window that can blow the roof off your home.

So, in terms of maintaining your home’s structural integrity, they all do a good job.

Advantages Of Hurricane Screens

There are several benefits that hurricane screens have over other methods of window protection, such as shutters or impact windows, and these are nicely demonstrated in the video below.

The video is by Rob Sanchez, who installed his Storm Smart roll-down hurricane screens at his Florida home in 2019.

Screenshot from a video displaying a back patio and pool with hurricane window screens installed
Courtesy of Rob Sanchez

Rob is delighted with the system he has installed and draws attention to the following points that he feels are essential advantages.

Available In Various Colors

Several colors are available, with brown and white being the two most popular. The brown option allows you to see outside better when you are inside your home, which is why Rob chose it.

Remote Operation

Rob’s screens come with a remote control that allows him to control the shutters individually or simultaneously. They roll up or down at the touch of a button and can even be controlled via a smartphone app or an Alexa-enabled device.

Now that’s convenience!

Hurricane Screens Are Visually Appealing

Hurricane window screens are often praised for their unobtrusive style because they can be made to fit any opening size, even archways, and intricate traditional buildings.

They roll away entirely so that you can’t see them when not in use, which means they don’t disturb the lines of your home, which permanently installed hurricane shutters can do.

Rob particularly likes the way the installation company put a mitered joint in the corner so that the run of shutters looks like crown molding and is more stylish as a result.

Can Protect the Whole Lanai

The hurricane window screens extend all the way around Rob’s lanai, which provides total protection. When a storm comes, he places all furniture inside the patio, where it is protected from the storm.

Hurricane Screens Serve as a Sunshade

A great benefit of installing a hurricane window screen is that it can double as a sunshade, keeping the worst of the sun’s rays at bay during times when it would otherwise shine right into the house.

Courtesy of Shutterdown

Rolling the screen part of the way down blocks the sun while still allowing fresh air into the home. This application helps keep the space cooler and more comfortable, as well as protect furniture from UV damage and the fading of colors.

Hurricane Screens Keep the Rain Out

Screens do a proper job of keeping the rain out during a thunderstorm. Even if the wind blows the rain onto the screen, it just catches it and allows it to drain off.

Rob often used to get wet furniture during heavy rain, but since he installed hurricane window screens on his lanai, all he needs to do is roll them down, and the area stays nice and dry.

Protection from Insects

The closely woven mesh from which hurricane window screens are made serves as an excellent barrier to insects. So if you suffer from insects entering your home, you can roll down your screens to easily keep them at bay.

If insects are a problem in your home, you might benefit from reading our article on different insulation types that can help keep the little critters at bay. Check it out by clicking this link.

Great for Privacy

Hurricane window screens made from super-strong woven material are translucent, allowing light in when rolled down. You can also see outside from behind them, making them ideal privacy screens.

Another benefit of these translucent screens is that you don’t have to stumble around in darkness when they are rolled down.

A partially-rolled down hurricane window screen shielding a home's interior from the sun
Courtesy of Shade & Shield

Many people report feeling claustrophobic when hurricane shutters are down during a storm, which can cause feelings of anxiousness and makes you reliant on artificial lighting, which might not be available if there is a power outage.

Seeing what is going on outside during a storm can be reassuring and make you feel less isolated, reducing anxiety.

Have Backup Operation 

In case of a power cut, homeowners can manually operate each roll-down hurricane window screen with a winder.

A powerful storm could cause a power outage along with the other damage it does, which would leave you exposed in the case of only having electrically-operated hurricane screens.

With manual winders fitted as standard, you’ll never be caught out, even if the power goes down.

Offer Good Value for Money

Rob mentioned in his video that his screens cost $17,360. This figure is quite a lot of money but is worth it compared to the damage a hurricane could inflict.

Especially given the additional benefits you get from everyday use of hurricane window screens, such as increased privacy, improved shade from the sun, and an effective barrier to insects.

Hurricane impact windows would not be practical for a lanai, but a hurricane window screen is likely to be more cost-effective when you have the option to install either. 

Do Hurricane Window Screens Come with a Warranty?

Most hurricane screens will come with some sort of warranty.

Storm Solutions offer one of the best we’ve come across—its Atlas Armor Hurricane Screen comes with a 10-year warranty.

During the warranty period, the company offers to replace a damaged or faulty screen, which shows a lot of confidence in its product. Furthermore, it also offers a five-year warranty on the motors in the motorized screens.

Final Thoughts On Hurricane Window Screens

The devastation caused by hurricanes equates to billions of dollars every season. With the severity and frequency of storms increasing due to climate change, it is more important than ever to have adequate protection in place for your home.

Protecting your home with hurricane window screens isn’t just about preventing broken windows and water damage from rain getting into your home.

It’s also essential to maintain the integrity of the building envelope to prevent the inrush of wind and sudden increase in air pressure that can cause the roof of a house to be lifted off.

Hurricane window screens are a fantastic solution that will protect your home from hurricane-strength winds while looking stylish and not breaking the bank.

Let’s remind ourselves of the critical benefits of hurricane window screens:

  • Available at a reasonable price
  • More convenient to use than hurricane fabric, which must be put up and taken down for each storm
  • Very effective at keeping out the wind and rain during a storm
  • Available in a choice of colors and visually appealing
  • Can be operated remotely
  • Ideal for protecting large openings such as a lanai
  • Multi-purpose – can be used as a sunshade, for privacy and to keep insects out
  • Available with up to a 10-year warranty

Whether you go with a hurricane window screen or one of the other options available, make sure you protect your home before the next big storm. Adequate protection is always money well-spent.

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