DEAR TIM: My parents own a home in Florida. As you know, that seems to be ground zero for hurricanes. What is the best and most cost-effective way for them to protect their home from hurricane damage?
They told me about hurricane window film, but I have never heard of it. What is it and is it a good product?
I also get bad storms where I live, so I often wonder if I should consider some of this window film for my own home. Is this a do-it-yourself product? Jennifer T., Joplin, MO
DEAR JENNIFER: Hurricanes are really front and center in the news lately, since our southern states have been pummeled by many serious storms in the very recent past.
Big Storms = Huge Damage
The damage to both lives and property is almost beyond comprehension. The fierce winds of a hurricane can pick up large objects with ease, and throw them like you or I might toss a tennis ball. But the difference is, the objects carried about in devastating hurricane winds are often traveling at 120 to 175 miles per hour (mph).
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When small objects, like pieces of wood, rocks or sea shells, get transported toward glass widows or large patio doors, they can break them with relative ease. Imagine what happens when a mailbox or patio table is hurtling toward a window or door at 175 mph.
Not only will regular glass and even tempered glass shatter, but anyone behind the glass could also be seriously injured or possibly killed.
Lashing Rain Enters Hole
But that is not all that can happen. The torrential rains that are part of hurricanes can then be driven indoors once the windows and patio doors have been breached. The inside of a home can be seriously damaged as furnishings, fixtures and building materials get saturated by water.
Blow Roofs Off
The winds from the storm can also wreak havoc with homes once they are allowed inside. In the event windows are broken and the glass has fallen from the frame, the howling winds can pressurize the inside of the house, and in some cases, blow the roof off a home. If this happens, the walls of the house lose a critical means of support and they can blow down with ease.
Clear Film Protection
The fantastic hurricane window films can prevent all of this from happening. These passive protection products are crystal-clear sheets of high-strength plastic that adhere to the inside of window and patio-door glass.
If an object strikes the glass, the glass will, in all likelihood, break. But the destruction stops at that point. The durable window film keeps the glass in place and does not allow the glass to pop out of the frame.
The horizontal sheets of rain stay outdoors, and the winds are not allowed to blast the inside of the home.
Filter & Block UV and IR Light
Some hurricane window films also offer other cost-savings benefits. They can block massive amounts of ultraviolet light that send rugs, fabric upholstery and drapes to any early grave. The best hurricane window films also block tremendous amounts of direct solar radiation that tries to stream into windows on sunny days.
The light enters the house, but the heat stays outdoors. This lowers air-conditioning bills.
Films Are Less Than Shutters
When your parents start to do comparative shopping for window protection, they are going to be pleasantly surprised when it comes to cost. The hurricane window films are not nearly as costly as many of the hurricane shutters and other exterior products that cover over the windows to keep objects from breaking the glass.
Many of these other protective products are thought, by some homeowners, to be unattractive. Some require work to secure them in place before the storm hits. Once a hurricane window film has been applied, the homeowner never has to do anything more to protect the windows before a hurricane arrives.
Film Is Not DIY
These films would be a smart choice for your own home, if you live in an area where you are worried about flying objects striking glass. But they are by no means a do-it-yourself project.
To achieve professional results, the hurricane window films must be installed by highly trained individuals. Anyone who tells you that the films are just peel-and-stick, is not telling you the entire story. Once you have been trained you might be able to get fantastic results, but I would suggest you simply have a professional installer take care of the job for you.
Special Wet-Anchor Caulk
A critical component of the hurricane window film is the wet-glaze anchoring system. These are highly-specialized caulks that bond the clear window film to the interior window sash frame. If this anchoring system is not used, the shattered glass can pop out of the frame along with the window film. If this happens, the rain and wind are allowed to damage the home.
The specialized caulks come in several different colors to match the interior look of just about any window, and any type of painted or stained wood trim one might find in a home. When installed by a professional, the anchoring systems look like a wide bead of caulk.
Do not call a hurricane window film company a week before a storm is expected to strike. Some of the window films and the wet-glaze anchoring caulks need a curing time of 30-90 days before they can offer full protection. Not only that, many of the installers have a significant backlog of work since the window films are so affordable.