The Full Impact of Hurricane-Resistant Windows

A study commissioned by the Window and Door Manufacturers Association and American Architectural Manufacturers Association states Florida accounted for 89 percent of total impact-resistant window sales in 2005. Obviously, Florida’s severe weather makes it ideal for hurricane-proof glass, but these windows also offer protection from home invasions, harmful UV rays, rising insurance fees and annoying noises.

Building codes covering windows are strictest in Florida and increasing in stringency along the Gulf of Mexico and up the Eastern Seaboard. Hawaii has also joined the list of states requiring windows with storm protection qualities. These developments have pushed window manufacturers to step up their offerings in the impact-resistant product category.
“The building codes and their enforcement have become much more stringent over the last five or six years,” says John Kirchner, public relations manager for Marvin Windows and Doors. “The market range for impact products continues to expand. We must continue to improve products and their ability to protect homes.”

Marvin’s StormPlus Wood Ultimate Double Hung features laminated glazing and solid structural integrity, giving it the strength to withhold the force of a 2x4 hitting it at 34 mph. The clear, insulating glass makes it applicable to a variety of climates for savings on heating and cooling costs. With the addition of Low-E II, the window qualifies for the Energy Star rating. The windows feature a wood exterior that allows for flexible finish color options and interior jamb liners that can be painted or stained.

According to the National Weather Service, tornadoes caused more than $752 million in property damage in 2006. While any home in the direct path will almost certainly be decimated, wind and flying debris damage to structures outside the tornado’s trail can be greatly reduced.

“Impact-resistant products are extremely beneficial to tornado-prone areas,” advises Jon Sawatzky, architectural branding manager for Loewen Windows and Doors. “They protect families and their homes by creating a safer environment and by providing additional peace of mind. The popularity of these products is steadily increasing in tornado-prone areas, but we probably won’t see full acceptance until the insurance companies provide substantially discounted policy rates for homes that are constructed with impact-resistant products.”

Loewen offers three glazing options on Douglas Fir windows designed to withstand nature’s harshest elements. Series DP, enhanced design pressure performance, provides design pressure ratings that meet — and exceed — International Residential Code requirements. Series IP, impact-resistant insulated glazing, delivers impact resistance and superior thermal performance in an insulated glazing configuration. Series MP, maximum protection from hurricane forces, is the maximum impact protection — a monolithic, laminated glass product tested and certified to withstand Category 5 hurricane forces.

“There are select markets where insurance companies recommend the use of impact-resistant products. They may not be required by code, but by using these products, they may offer a discounted rate on the insurance policy,” Sawatzky adds.

Security and Safety

A Federal Bureau of Investigation report shows that 67 percent of all burglaries involved forcible entry, and more than half (52 percent) occurred during daylight hours. An unbreakable window is an excellent preventive measure.

“The laminated layer that is adhered between two pieces of glass is a very strong barrier. It’s strong enough to prevent a 2x4 from penetrating, traveling 50 ft. per second,” says Mark Harger, general manager of Kolbe’s vinyl division. “So imagine someone trying to gain entrance with a bat, or a hammer. Not that it’s impossible to break through or cut the laminate, but the level of effort, and therefore security, that an impact window provides is notable.”

Kolbe’s Windquest line of vinyl windows and patio doors includes casement, awning, sliding and single-hung windows, and sliding doors in a full range of sizes, shapes and configurations. As part of Kolbe’s K-Force impact-certified products, they have been tested according to Miami-Dade County HVHZ protocol. All Windquest Series impact-certified products have met large missile impact level D and wind zone 4 testing standards in excess of 140 mph. Design pressures in zone 4 often exceed 65 lbs. per sq. ft. and can approach 110 lbs. per sq. ft. The laminated glass also contributes to forced entry and noise resistance for day-to-day security, comfort and peace of mind. They are available with optional energy-efficient LoE glass with argon gas. Windquest Series’ low-maintenance vinyl products come in white or beige to complement today’s most popular design schemes.

Impact glass addresses another safety factor. “There is no way that a child can be playing around one of these windows and fall through and be hurt,” says Dave Olmstead, senior public affairs and code compliance specialist for PGT Industries.

“They’re much safer than tempered glass because even if the window is broken, it stays together.”

Sun damage is also no longer an issue. “One of the most significant benefits is the added UV protection,” Sawatzky says.

“On its own, laminated glass will block a high percentage of UV light. When placed in a sealed unit with a layer of annealed or tempered glass, the UV blockage will be approaching 100 percent.”

Noises Off

On top of physical and financial protection, impact-resistant windows also can preserve mental health. Who hasn’t been disturbed by car alarms, barking dogs or noisy neighbors?

“They do a good job of keeping outside noise outside,” Olmstead says. “With almost every homeowner, that’s the first thing they notice: How quiet the home [became]. Noise abatement is far more important than people realize.”

For the look of wood with the low maintenance of aluminum, PGT offers the new Eterna finish exclusively on select WinGuard impact-resistant windows and doors. Eterna’s simulated wood finish is available in five woodgrains: acacia, cherry, light oak, dark oak, and dark walnut. It is available on WinGuard casement, architectural and picture windows, sliding glass doors and French doors.

“Consumer demand has driven these improvements,” explains Dave Koester, brand manager for Weather Shield.

“Architects, builders and homeowners have said they understand the need for the codes but at the same time want a home that doesn’t look like a fortress. We’ve minimized or eliminated external hardware or other fortifying measures without compromising the impact-resistance of our products. We continue to test and certify all of our LifeGuard products in an AAMA-certified testing facility. We’ve given them the best of both worlds — great design and reinforced protection.”
Weather Shield’s LifeGuard windows and doors include casement, awning, double-hung tilt and direct-set shaped windows that are built for strength without compromising beauty. A true wood jamb liner, which can be painted or stained to match the double-hung sash, adds architectural detail to the unit. The LifeGuard line features laminated glass with a layer of a minimum 0.090-in. gauge polyvinyl butyral bonded between two panes of annealed, heat-strengthened or tempered glass. All LifeGuard single-glazed products have been tested to the requirements of the Florida Product Approval, the Miami-Dade County Protocol TAS201, TAS202 and TAS203 as well as the ASTM E1886 test method and ASTM E1996 standard specification.

“When impact codes first came out, the window industry looked at them as hurdles to overcome. We’ve all come to understand now that the codes have driven innovation and safety in residential construction, and that impact products don’t necessarily have to detract from a home’s design,” Koester adds.

The outlook is great for impact glass. “Over time as prices get more and more competitive, laminated glass will be used much more than regular glass because it offers so many benefits,” Olmstead says.