Hurricane Windows & Doors in Southern Florida
What We Learned from Hurricanes Frances & Jeanne
In the year 2004, Florida residents were inundated with four major hurricanes in the same year. It all seemed like a bad dream when Charlie, Frances, Ivan, and Jeanne each threw a devastating punch at the state of Florida.
On the Southeast Coast of Florida—our service area—Hurricanes Frances and Jeanne put the new impact codes to the test. With wind speeds up to 145 mph and local rainfall exceeding 12 inches, the actual hurricane conditions were more severe than the new impact code requirements.
The effects of the storms generated many questions from homeowners, builders, and architects. At H.B.S., Inc., we took the initiative to produce a helpful and informative piece of analysis about these events.
Lesson 1: Don’t Depend on Others to Install Shutters
You can only count on yourself to install your shutters! In 2004, most shutter installers had less than 24 hours to install the shutters on their “list” of customer’s homes. The bitter reality was that only a few customers were serviced before the installers were evacuated or left to take care of their own families.
Make sure you have a fool-proof plan to install your shutters (even when you are absent), or simply consider using impact-rated products for your windows and doors!
Lesson 2: Installation Matters
Your windows and doors are only as strong as the installation! Our service crews were called out to replace many window and door products that were blown out during the hurricanes, and found that most of the products were inferior in structural strength and failed under high-pressure hurricane forces. Some products were adequately designed but failed due to improper installation.
Use a quality AAMA-certified installation company like H.B.S., Inc. to insure that your products are installed as required by the approved product certifications.
Lesson 3: Prepare for Florida Hazards
Acknowledge the environment you are living in, and prepare for the risk!
We choose to live in Florida for this great tropical climate. But, this climate also includes hurricanes, lightning, and thunderstorms—not to mention those darn “love bugs” that stick to your car bumper. When you choose to live here, you must assume complete responsibility for the potential dangers of the environment around you. This also includes your responsibility to prepare yourself and your home for the physical effects of hurricanes and severe thunderstorms.
Your preparation should begin with a thorough interview with your insurance agent to verify your coverages and limitations in a hurricane event. Bring a list of hypothetical questions to make sure you know the limits of your coverage. Next, take every precaution to make your home as structurally sound as possible. Make sure your home has impact protection for your glazed openings (which required by building codes for new homes).
Lesson 4: Choose High-Quality Building Materials
Your house is only as strong as the materials it is made with! The story of the three little pigs will suffice for general construction purposes. We will focus on windows and doors.
All windows and doors are not the same. Just because a product meets the requirements of the building code doesn’t mean that it is the best product you can get. Remember, the code establishes a minimum standard of performance. The lower-cost products will generally meet this minimum standard, and rarely exceed it. The most noticeable differences are in performance and price. Naturally, the higher performance comes with a higher price tag. The old saying “you get what you pay for” comes to mind.
Consult with a window and door expert like H.B.S. to find the highest performing product that will best fit your architectural style and budget.
Lesson 5: There’s No Such Thing as “Hurricane-Proof”
There is no such thing as a truly hurricane-proof window or shutter. The most common misconception for impact-rated products is that the products were “hurricane-proof.” The fact is that an impact rated product is tested and certified to comply with a specific performance criteria. The most recognized impact protocol is the Miami-Dade TAS 201, 202, 203 certification. Products tested to this protocol will be awarded with specific performance level certifications (known as a “Design Pressure Rating”) based on how well the products performs during the testing. Some products achieve a low design pressure rating while others push the performance levels to a new height.
Choose the highest-performing product that fits your budget. You will find the return on your investment to be far greater than the cost savings of a lower-performing product.
Lesson 6: Nothing is Waterproof in a Hurricane
All windows and doors are tested to specific performance levels as required by AAMA/NWWDA 101/I.S. 2-97. This criteria includes structural loading, water infiltration, and air infiltration. Most people have the misconception that a window that is “140 m.p.h. rated” will also be “water-proof” in a 140 m.p.h. hurricane. Unfortunately, this is not true.
The 140 m.p.h. rating converts to a maximum structural design pressure of 50 PSF. The water infiltration test is only performed at 15% of the structural design pressure. This means that a 140 m.p.h. window will meet a 7.5 PSF load for water rating. Through engineering calculations, this 7.5 PSF load equates to a maximum 54 m.p.h. wind speed. This water rating will be greatly reduced if the water application is higher than the test application rate, and of course, a hurricane will apply water at much higher volume than the tested rate. The bottom line is that your typical 140 m.p.h. window still leak water at 54 m.p.h. wind speeds or higher.
Some products achieve a much higher water rating than the minimum 7.5 PSF, but, these higher performing products will never come close to being “water-proof” in a hurricane. We have been asked if a shutter will stop a window from leaking—the answer is “no!” The shutter is not a sealed gasket system. Water will penetrate through and around the shutter with ease. The pressure behind the shutter is the same as if the shutter were not even there. This pressure will convey the water to the window, and possibly through the window. The only certified function of a shutter is to protect the window from flying debris impact – not water infiltration or structural pressures.
On a Side Note
While performing emergency repairs after the hurricanes, we found a few instances where the windows were blown out behind hurricane shutters which were still in place!
Recommendation: Use the Highest Design Pressure Rating Possible
Consult your window and door expert to find the product with the highest design pressure rating for your project. In a hurricane, take precautions to prevent water damage near your windows and doors (and chimney flues, stove vents, etc.). Prepare your home as if you expect your windows and doors to leak during a hurricane. The most important concept you need to understand is that there is no “magical” window, door, or shutter product that can be certified to be water resistant in hurricane-force winds. Remember, your house has windows and doors–not port-holes and submarine hatches!
Lesson 7: Choose Your Window and Door Distributor with Care
Choose a window and door distributor that stands behind its products! After each hurricane had passed, all H.B.S. service crews went out into the community to help people secure their homes. For weeks we were using plywood to board up openings where windows and sliding doors once stood. During this depressing time we were enlightened to learn an astonishing fact.
H.B.S. has been selling and installing impact-certified products since 1997. During this time we have installed literally tens of thousands of impact windows & doors. H.B.S. is very proud of the fact that we had no structural failures of impact products and their installations.
Recommendation 7: Choose H.B.S.
Let H.B.S., Inc. supply and install all of your windows and doors to ensure that your products will perform to their maximum level!
As of March 1st, 2002 every new home built along Florida’s coast has been required to meet stringent new building codes based on those already in place in South Florida. These changes have made it necessary for every architect, designer, contractor, and homeowner to consider all of these new mandatory requirements for every window and door in a home. Area building departments expect a total compliance before any dwelling can be approved for occupancy.
“There is general misconception out there that ‘missile-impact’ compliance is the only issue necessary to be addressed for windows and doors in new code,” explains Ray Reinhard, a professional engineer at H.B.S.. “The fact is that there are several standards for the windows and doors themselves that have nothing to do with the missile-impact provision.”
In fact, every window and door in new homes is now required to pass structural test pressures to 140 miles per hour. In addition, each window and door must meet strict rating requirements for water and air infiltration. “That means that you cannot use a lower-rated window or door, and just cover it with a shutter system,” explains Jack Barrie, President of H.B.S., Inc. “These window and door standards are separate, and equally important, to the South Florida ‘missile-impact’ requirements that are now also in effect.”
Choosing the correct window and door products for your new home has now taken on a much greater significance. If you purchase windows and doors that don’t meet code requirements in regard to product performance or their installation, you will be required to tear them out and start over. This means ensuring you and your architect, designer, and contractor have all considered all the new requirements and chosen the options that you can afford. H.B.S. is an industry leader in this type of building code compliance, serving the needs of Palm Beach County where very similar codes have existed for quite some time.
“We have 16 professional crews dedicated solely to window and door installations,” explains VP Jaine Lue. “We have a tremendous amount of experience with these impact windows and doors, and we have been installing qualified systems in South Florida since 1997.” Reinhard adds, “The proper installation is just as important as the products themselves, and we feel this code is the right way to go. It will make homes safer in the event of any major storm, and by contractors and homeowners spending a little more time, effort, and money up-front, they will reduce their potential exposure to damage in the future.”
Barrie adds, “That means insurance deductibles should go down, because the insurance companies know that these new homes will stand up better to the storms, and they should have less liability as a result,” he continues, “As a company, we made the decision quite some time ago to take the ‘high road’ and have tried to make sure that everyone we’ve installed windows for was as prepared as possible for the occurrence of a major storm.” He concludes, “Now every company must take that attitude. It’s the new code, and will be enforced.”
H.B.S. is proud that our team of sales professionals understands the needs of every customer through consultation with the H.B.S. engineer to make sure that each and every code requirement is met. “Our sales people focus their efforts on finding the right fit for each customer’s needs, and this is the key ingredient to the planning process,” explains Barrie, “At H.B.S., we likely offer one of the greatest selections of these kinds of products in the entire United States.”
Working with Weather Shield
H.B.S. is the largest distributor of Weather Shield “Lifeguard” Windows & Doors in the state of Florida. And Weather Shield has made a tremendous corporate commitment to create window and door systems that comply with the Florida “missile-impact” requirements, as well as the high-performance structural load, water infiltration, and air infiltration code requirements.
Their newest addition to this “missile-impact” product line is a wood, double-hung window that meets the impact code requirement. H.B.S. offers a complete selection of window and door systems that comply with the new codes, without the need of any shutter systems, allowing homeowners to enjoy their window views all year round.
Founded in 1973, H.B.S., Inc. serves an area around South Brevard County with over fifty dedicated employees, working out of our expanded, original Vero Beach location, and our warehouse/showroom in Lake Worth.
If you’re ready to learn more about what H.B.S., Inc. can do for you, contact us now or give us a call at 772-567-7461.