Closeup on a cracked impact window installed in home

An impact window is a protective window designed to withstand the high winds and flying debris associated with a hurricane.

If you’re considering purchasing hurricane impact windows for your home, you may have questions about what they are, how they work, and what benefits they offer.

In which case, you’re in the right place. This post will answer some of their most common questions, from their strength to soundproofing properties. 

So, keep reading to learn more!

How Do Hurricane Impact Windows Work?

Hurricane impact windows work by incorporating a polyvinyl butyral (PVB) interlayer into the layers of tempered glass. When the window is broken, the PVB holds the glass fragments together, preventing them from breaking apart in severe weather conditions. 

Can Impact Windows Withstand Category 5 Hurricanes?

Hurricane impact windows can withstand Category 5 hurricanes. Manufacturers specifically design these windows to withstand hurricane-force winds. In fact, most impact windows can withstand winds up to 140 mph (225 kph), and some may even withstand winds of 157 mph (252 kph) or more.

Some properties that make hurricane windows so resistant to high winds include:

  • The PVB interlayer – this plastic layer is the crucial element that strengthens impact windows. The PVB interlayer prevents the glass from shattering and becoming a safety hazard.
  • The frame – hurricane windows usually have aluminum or reinforced vinyl frames. These materials are much stronger than wood, a material often used in standard windows.
  • The hardware – manufacturers rigorously test impact-resistant windows to ensure that the hardware can withstand high winds. They also design the fasteners, hinges, and other hardware to keep the window in place during a storm.

That said, it’s important to note that no window is entirely indestructible. Even the most robust impact windows can fail if subjected to sustained high winds or flying debris. That’s why it’s always a good idea to have a backup plan (such as hurricane shutters) in case your windows get damaged during a severe storm.

Can Hurricane Windows Break?

Hurricane windows can break, but they are much less likely to break than standard windows. That’s because manufacturers design impact-resistant windows specifically to withstand the high winds and flying debris associated with a hurricane.

As mentioned, the critical element that makes impact windows so strong is the PVB interlayer. The interlayer holds the glass fragments together even if debris or winds break the window.

A hurricane window with a crack and buildings across the street reflecting off the glass

However, While manufacturers design them to be much stronger and more resistant to damage than regular windows, they’re not invincible. If the window is exposed to sustained high winds or a large piece of flying debris hits it just right, it can break.

Here are a few things that can compromise the strength of your hurricane windows:

  • Improper installation – if you don’t install the window correctly, it will be weaker and more likely to break. Therefore, it’s important to have hurricane windows installed by a qualified professional and ensure they properly seal and secure the windows to provide the best protection possible.
  • Damaged frames – the window frame is just as important as the glass. If the frame is damaged, it can cause the window to break. If your windows are damaged or need repair, get them fixed ASAP to prevent potential damage.
  • Poor-quality glass – not all impact-resistant glass is the same. Some types of glass are stronger than others. Make sure to choose high-quality impact-resistant glass for your windows.

However, if the winds are strong enough to blow the entire window out of the frame, the PVB interlayer will not be able to do its job. That’s why it’s crucial to ensure that your windows are correctly installed and that you securely anchor the frame to your home.

Besides proper installation, some tips to ensure that your windows can withstand high winds include:

  • Choose the right product – not all impact-resistant windows are created equal. When shopping for windows, choose a product tested to withstand high winds.
  • Check the rating – impact-resistant windows have a rating that indicates how much wind they can withstand. The higher the rating, the stronger the window.
  • Get the correct size – make sure your hurricane windows are the right size for your opening. If they’re too small, they won’t be able to provide adequate protection.
  • Install shuttershurricane shutters can give your windows an extra layer of protection. You can also use them to secure your windows if they get blown out during a storm.
A worker installs hurricane shutters on a home's interior window
A worker installing hurricane shutters on a window

How Thick Should Impact Windows Be?

Impact windows should be at least 7/16-9/16 inches (11.1-14.3 mm) thick. That width ensures they can withstand high winds and provide the best protection for your home. Some areas may require thicker windows, so it’s essential to check with your local building code regulations.

A few other things to keep in mind when choosing the thickness of your impact windows include:

  • The thicker the window, the better the soundproofing – if you live in a noisy area or want to reduce the noise level in your home, choose windows that are at least 7/16 inches (11.1 mm) thick.
  • Thicker windows will also provide better protection from intruders – if security is a concern, look for 9/16 inches (14.3 mm) thick windows.
  • Thicker windows may be more expensive – therefore, you may have to strike a balance between thickness and cost.

Do Hurricane Windows Have Screens?

Some hurricane windows have screens, but not all. Some manufacturers make hurricane windows with integrated screens designed to protect them from both the wind and flying debris.

Other manufacturers make removable screens that can be attached to the window when needed. And still, others make hurricane windows without any screens at all.

So, it boils down to what you’re looking for in a hurricane window. But one thing to remember is that even if a hurricane window doesn’t have a screen, it will still provide better protection than a regular window without one.

Are Hurricane Impact Windows Bulletproof?

Hurricane impact windows are not bulletproof. Manufacturers design these windows to resist high winds and flying debris, not bullets. Generally, they provide excellent protection in a hurricane or other severe weather event.

If you’re looking for windows that protect you from bullets, you must choose those specifically designed for that purpose. A variety of companies offer bulletproof windows, and you can find more information by searching online.

Still, if you want to make your home secure from armed intruders, be sure to follow these guidelines:

  • Install a security system with motion detectors and alarms – that will alert you if someone tries to break in.
  • Use impact-resistant glass – manufacturers design this type of glass to resist break-ins and help slow down an intruder.
A burglar facing an exterior hurricane window of a home winds up to smash it with a crowbar
  • Add bars to your windows and doors to make it difficult for someone to break in.
  • Get a large dog that will bark and protect your home – a dog can significantly deter would-be burglars.
  • Plant thorny bushes outside your house – burglars don’t want to get scratched, so they may be less likely to try and break in if there are thorny bushes around.
  • Buy a gun and learn how to use it safely – that way, you can protect yourself and your family if someone does break in.
  • Ensure your windows and doors are locked – even if you have all of the above, an intruder can still get in if your windows and doors are unlocked. So be sure to keep them locked at all times.

Are Impact Windows the Same As Hurricane Windows?

Impact windows are not the same as hurricane windows. The former can resist high winds and flying debris, but the latter is only designed to withstand high winds. Hurricane windows offer flexibility in high wind conditions, while impact windows resist direct impact force.  

Therefore, consider installing impact windows if you live in an area susceptible to hurricanes and severe weather like tornadoes. These windows share similar features with hurricane ones but with the added benefit of being able to resist flying debris.

An impact window ready for installation outside one of our Net-Zero homes
An impact window ready for installation outside one of our Net-Zero homes

Some critical factors to consider when choosing between impact and hurricane windows include:

  • The climate where you reside – hurricane windows may be sufficient if you only need protection from high winds. However, impact windows are a better choice if you also need to worry about flying debris.
  • The level of protection you need – hurricane windows protect your home from high winds, but impact windows offer a higher level of security since they can resist high winds and flying debris.
  • Cost – hurricane windows tend to be less expensive than impact windows. However, if you need the added protection that impact windows provide, the extra expenditure may be worth it.

Are Impact Windows Soundproof?

Hurricane impact windows are not typically soundproof. However, they can reduce noise levels significantly. If you’re looking for windows that eliminate noise, you must choose those specifically designed for that purpose.

As mentioned, manufacturers design hurricane impact windows to resist high winds and flying debris. While they can help reduce noise levels, they are not intended to be soundproof.

If you need to reduce noise levels in your home, you can also try these tips:

  • Add insulation to your walls and ceilings – insulation works by absorbing sound waves and preventing them from echoing through the house. Choosing the right type of insulation for your needs is essential, so consult with a professional before making any decisions.
  • Install weatherstripping around your doors and windows – weatherstripping helps seal gaps and cracks around doors and windows, reducing noise levels significantly.
  • Hang heavy curtains over your windows – curtains can help absorb sound waves and reduce noise levels in a room.
  • Use rugs or carpets – rugs and carpets can also help absorb sound and reduce noise levels. By adding rugs or carpets to your floors, you can make a significant difference in the noise levels in your home.
  • Install acoustic panels or tiles on your walls and ceilings – go with these Fstop Labs Acoustic Foam Panels. These panels feature a 3D acoustic design for maximum noise reduction, making them an excellent choice for those who need to reduce noise levels in their home.

Are Impact Windows Double-Pane or Triple-Pane?

Most hurricane impact windows are double-pane, but some are triple-pane. Double-pane windows are typically sufficient for most homes. However, if you live in an area prone to hurricanes or other severe weather events, you may want to consider triple-pane windows.

Triple-pane windows offer the highest protection against high winds and flying debris. They’re also more energy-efficient than double pane windows, so they can help you save money on your energy bills.

If you’re not sure which type of window is right for your home, consult with a professional. They can help you weigh the pros and cons of each option and make the best decision for your needs.

That said, here are a few factors to consider when choosing between double-pane and triple-pane windows:

  • The climate in which you reside – if you live in an area with severe weather conditions, you may want to opt for triple-pane windows.
  • The level of protection needed – triple-pane windows are the way to go
  • if you need the highest security possible.
  • Cost – triple-pane windows tend to be more expensive than double-pane windows. However, the extra charge may be worth it if you need the added protection they provide.

How Can I Tell if I Already Have Impact Windows?

To tell if you already have impact windows installed, check the glass for a permanent mark, temporary label, the thickness of the glass, or the type of glazing. Also, you can examine the number of reflections or call a professional to inspect them.

Here’s a rundown of the different ways you can tell if you have hurricane impact windows:

Check for a Permanent Mark

Most manufacturers of impact windows will place a permanent mark on the glass.

It will usually include:

  • The company’s name or logo
  • The type of glass
  • The thickness of the glass
  • The date of manufacture
  • Any standards the glass meets

The indication is placed on the glass to quickly identify the window as hurricane impact resistant.

Tip: When searching for replacement windows, looking for the permanent mark is essential to ensure you get a product that meets the highest standards for hurricane resistance. While it isn’t required by code, it’s proof that the window has been tested and certified to withstand the high winds and flying debris associated with hurricanes.

Check for a Temporary Label

In some instances, impact windows manufacturers may place a temporary label on the glass. It will include the same information as the permanent mark, but the information is on a sticker that you may remove.

Closeup on the temporary sticker on the bottom of a slightly opened hurricane impact window

Therefore, if you see a label on the glass, it’s essential to check the information to ensure the window is certified to withstand hurricanes.

Check the Thickness of the Glass

One way to tell if a window is hurricane impact-resistant is to check the thickness of the glass. Most impact windows have a minimum thickness of 7/16 inches (11.1 mm).

However, some windows may be thicker. The thickness of the glass is an essential factor in determining the window’s strength. A thicker sheet of glass is more likely to withstand the force of a hurricane than a thinner sheet.

Therefore, when shopping for hurricane impact windows, be sure to ask about the thickness of the glass. You can also look for indications on the label or sticker that adheres to the window.

Note: If you cannot find this information, you can always contact the manufacturer directly to inquire about the thickness of their windows.

Check the Type of Glazing

Another way to tell if a window is impact-resistant is to check the type of glazing. Impact windows are tempered glass or laminated glass.

Tempered glass is a type of safety glass that is treated with heat and chemicals to make it stronger. Laminated glass is a type of safety glass made by bonding two or more pieces of glass together with a layer of plastic.

Both tempered glass and laminated glass are strong enough to withstand the force of a hurricane.

Note: You can check the label or sticker on the window to find this information.

Examine the Number of Reflections

When you look at an impact window, you should be able to see multiple reflections. That’s because manufacturers make impact windows with numerous layers of glass. Multiple layers help reinforce the window and make it more resistant to shattering.

Therefore, when you are inspecting an impact window, be sure to look for various reflections.

Call a Professional

If you’re unsure if a window is hurricane impact-resistant, you can always call a professional. A certified installer or inspector can tell if a window is impact resistant.

You can contact your local building department to find a certified installer or inspector in your area.

Note: It’s always best to err on the side of caution when it comes to impact windows. Therefore, if you have doubts about a window’s ability to withstand a hurricane, it is best to replace it with a certified impact-resistant window.

Call the Manufacturer

If you still can’t determine if a window is hurricane impact-resistant, you can always call the manufacturer. The customer service representative should be able to tell you if the window is impact-resistant.

In addition, they may provide you with more information about the window, such as the thickness of the glass or the type of glazing.

Before you call customer service, ensure you have the following information about the window:

  • The model number
  • The serial number
  • The date of manufacture

With those details, the customer service representative should be able to tell you everything you need to know about the impact resistance of the window. Besides, they may be able to tell you if it is still under warranty.

For more insights into how to check if a window is hurricane impact resistant, watch this video:

Courtesy of TruView Inspections

Are Impact Windows Tempered Glass?

Impact windows are tempered glass that has been heat-treated for added strength. However, these layers of glass have also been laminated with a shatterproof plastic layer of polyvinyl butyral for impact resistance and are more substantial than merely tempered glass.

The shatter resistance of heat-treated glass and the power of the PVB lamination between the tempered glass sheets make impact windows suited for severe weather conditions. 

Why Should I Switch to Impact-Resistant Windows?

You should switch to impact-resistant windows to protect your home from the devastation of a hurricane. Besides, they can help you save money on your insurance premiums and increase the resale value of your home. In addition, they can improve your home’s energy efficiency.

There are many reasons to make the switch to hurricane impact-resistant windows.

However, some of the most important benefits include:

  • Protection from hurricanes – the main benefit of hurricane impact-resistant windows is their protection. They can help protect your home from a hurricane’s high winds and flying debris.
  • Lower insurance premiums – homeowners with impact-resistant windows may be eligible for discounts on their insurance premiums. Some insurers offer discounts of up to 35%.
  • An increased resale value – impact-resistant windows can increase the resale value of your home. That’s because they offer protection from hurricanes, a significant selling point in hurricane-prone areas.
  • Improved energy efficiency – impact-resistant windows can enhance your home’s energy efficiency. That’s because they block out UV rays, which can help keep your home cooler in the summer. In addition, they can help reduce noise pollution.

Final Thoughts

Hurricane impact-resistant windows are a vital part of protecting your home from the devastation of a hurricane. By investing in them, you can better protect your home against the high winds and flying debris that can cause much damage during a storm.

While these windows can be a bit more expensive than regular ones, the peace of mind and protection they offer are well worth the investment. So, if you live in a hurricane-prone area, ensure you install impact-resistant windows.

It could just be the best decision you ever make.

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