Those who live in the southern coastal regions of the US are well aware of the damage and destruction that a hurricane can cause. While there may not be a foolproof way to ensure a home survives a hurricane completely intact, there are steps you can take to prevent hurricane damage. For windows in particular, one of the best ways to protect them is to cover them with durable sheets or panels.
Homemade window storm covers can be made from plywood using common tools that many DIYers will already have in a shed or garage, and the materials can be purchased for as affordable as $25 to $50 per window, depending on the size. necessary. Next, learn how to board up a window to protect your home from potential damage before the next big damage hits.
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The Best Plywood for Hurricane Window Protection
Thickness is key when choosing plywood for hurricane protection. Any boarded up window using plywood less than 5/8″, 21/32″, or 3/4″ will not be able to withstand objects thrown by hurricane winds. While most grades of plywood will help, show-rated CDX or RTD plywood are the best options for making DIY window storm covers.
How to board windows
The steps below will explain how to secure a window using plywood sheets and basic tools, including how to measure, cut, and install these panels. The instructions also contain tips for reusing these boards so you can board up your windows whenever a hurricane approaches. This method only covers boarding windows from the outside; while windows can be boarded up from the inside, it’s not as effective.
BEFORE YOU START
Be sure to wear safety glasses, gloves, and other necessary protective gear when operating power saws and drills. While the steps for installing hurricane panels over windows are similar, regardless of the type of windows you have, installation may vary depending on the siding on your home. In addition, it is also helpful to ask one or two helpers for help when installing the panels.
- If your house has brick veneer, you will need to use a masonry drill bit and screws to attach the boards to the house.
- If your home has vinyl siding, you’ll need to use a different spacing when drilling fastener holes to ensure the panels are attached to the home’s structure and not to the weaker siding.
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STEP 1: Measure the windows.
Use a tape measure to measure the width and height of the window opening in a wood frame home. Add 8 inches to each measurement to allow the plywood boards to overlap the window 4 inches on each side. Panels should be no thinner than 5/8″, 21/32″, or 3/4″ thick.
STEP 2: Cut the panels.
Using the dimensions you took in step one, use a circular saw or jigsaw to cut the plywood panels to size, making sure to account for overlap. For windows that are larger than a sheet of plywood, use a 2×4 to connect two panels.
Secure the 2×4 to both pieces of plywood at the seam with 2½-inch screws spaced every 4 to 6 inches. To make sure each pane matches the correct window, label each window pane with a permanent marker as you cut each one and draw an arrow indicating which end goes up.
STEP 3: Prepare panels for installation.
After cutting the panels, use a pencil, tape measure, and a 4-foot level to draw a straight line 2 inches from each edge of the panel. If your home has vinyl siding, draw the line 3¼ inches from the edges to make sure the clip touches the frame around the window when you install the panels.
Mark the drill locations along the line at 12-inch intervals and at each corner. Drill holes in each location with a drill bit that is slightly smaller than the screw or bolt you plan to use to fasten it.
STEP 4: Prepare the window for installation.
Start by having a helper position the panel over the window, making sure it is aligned correctly. Then use a pencil to mark the hole locations through the pre-drilled holes in the plywood. Mark the corners of the panel on the surface of the house with a pencil, and then remove the panel.
Next, use the drill to make pilot holes about 2 inches deep at each drill reference point with a bit that is slightly smaller than the fastener. If you’re drilling into brick, you’ll need a masonry drill bit. For vinyl, be sure to drill through the studs that frame the window frame.
STEP 5: Install the panels.
Use 3-inch long 3/8-inch lag screws to secure large panels. For smaller panels, 2½-inch long 1/4-inch lag screws will suffice. If you are installing the boards over a brick veneer house, use masonry screws.
Return the panels to their position on the window, using the corner marks made in the previous step to line them up. Use a power drill and fasteners to secure each piece of plywood to the window.
Tips for Making Reusable Hurricane Window Protection
If you live in a hurricane-prone region, then it may make sense to create reusable window boards to avoid having to buy and make new ones each time a hurricane threatens. By using the same panels each time, you are also limiting wear and tear on the window frame by repeatedly installing and removing fasteners in different locations.
Window panes will last longer if you cover them with exterior paint or wood sealant. You can also install clips on the panels that make it easy to insert and remove the boards, eliminating the need to fasten the panels directly to the window frame each time you want to install them. Hurricane window clips are an especially good idea for vinyl siding homes, as they eliminate the need to fill holes left by clips.
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Boarding up windows is an effective way to prepare a home for the high winds of a hurricane, and is an inexpensive alternative to installing hurricane shutters. By using the methods described above, you can learn how to cover up a window correctly. When completing this project, remember to use the correct fasteners and method to suit the type of siding on the house. Also, whenever you use power tools like a drill or circular saw, be sure to wear safety glasses.