Peace of Mind

Charlie, Wilma, Ivan, Jeanne, and Frances are all names painfully familiar to residents of Southwest Florida. The financial impact of these hurricanes continues to be felt long after the completion of the clean-up and re-building. Insurance premium costs have skyrocketed. Updated building codes designed to better safeguard homes against Mother Nature have increased new construction costs and forced existing homeowners to either undertake code compliant protective measures or pay even more for insurance. For owners of noncompliant homes, finding insurance coverage at any price has been difficult.


Retrofitting an existing home to meet current codes can be a confusing and expensive undertaking for the layman. A little knowledge of the available options can make the process more palatable.


“Homeowners often think that simply replacing the glass in their windows will bring them into compliance,” says Mark Schwartz of Storm Force, a Naples-based company that provides hurricane protection to homes and businesses. “Actually, that’s not the case because the entire window system is involved. That’s why replacing windows can be expensive. Fortunately, when it comes to code compliance, there are several options available. The homeowner can choose the one that works best for them based on budget, aesthetics, and complexity.”


The most basic and lowest-priced solution is storm panels that provide a hard surface barrier over windows and doors to keep wind pressure and rain out of the home. The panels can either be installed as a storm approaches and then taken down when the weather clears, or installed for the duration of the hurricane season. Available materials include room-darkening corrugated steel or aluminum panels, or a see-through plastic material called Lexan. The panels have no moving or breakable mechanical parts. Storage space is required, however, and there is labor involved with putting up and taking down the panels.


“Armor Screen® is another option that can be put up and taken down as needed,” adds Schwartz. “It’s more expensive than the storm panel solution, but more attractive and easier to work with, and it does allow the homeowner to see out. This manually deployed, polypropylene fabric blocks 97 percent of wind and water penetration and is lighter than solid metal or plastic. It can be folded up and requires less storage space.


Accordion-style metal shutters that ride in a track and are manually operated are another alternative. Once they’re affixed on either side of window and door openings, there’s nothing to put up or take down. They’re deployed quickly and easily by being pulled to the middle of the opening. One factor to consider is that these shutters are permanently installed on the home, which means aesthetics could be an issue.


Roll-down shutters are the most familiar form of hurricane protection. A series of horizontal slats are linked together and stored in a box over a window or door. They’re lowered and raised with a manual crank or a motor that’s operated by a switch or remote control. This option provides protection that can be deployed over openings up to 24-feet wide. Roll-down shutters require little or no maintenance and are easy to operate.


Replacing existing windows and doors with high-impact windows and doors is the most expensive option. It’s also the most aesthetically pleasing approach, and there’s nothing to deploy. All the homeowner needs to do is make sure the windows and doors are closed when the storm comes.


“Whichever option the homeowner selects, getting their home into code compliance will keep their insurance premiums under control and provide peace of mind,” concludes Schwartz. “If they decide on a window and door replacement, they will ensure lower utility bills, protection against furniture color fading, and greater security against break-ins. This option will also enhance the beauty and value of their home. What is most important for the homeowner to know is that there are options available that will allow them to comply to current codes and become protected from whatever curveball Mother Nature throws their way.”