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If you're new to coastal living, this may be your first time boarding up windows in preparation for a hurricane. Yet, even old salts may be surprised to discover the best method depends on the materials used on your home's exterior. Find out about the options and the steps you can take to keep your home protected during a hurricane.
Safety is always important as you’re boarding up windows. You should always use multiple people for these projects, and you should make sure the windows are boarded before wind is too much of a factor and makes the plywood difficult to work with. If any of the tips below don’t apply to your house, make sure to consult a knowledgeable contractor to help you. Make sure to also check your local insurance coverage requirements or regulations from the TDI (Texas Department of Insurance) before you start boarding up windows.
These steps work best for homes that are wood-frame and have a vinyl, wood, or fiber-cement siding like James Hardie®.
1. Measure the height and width of all your windows.
You’ll want to measure the opening inside of the trim. Make sure you take good notes and have an easy method to remember which measurements match each window. For example, start at the front door and go clockwise around the house.
2. Cut a piece of plywood that is eight inches higher and wider than your window measurement using a circular saw. This will extend four inches on each side of the window.
Plywood is used because it is usually inexpensive and is strong enough to withstand impact. Use plywood that is exterior grade (CDX) for the strongest protection. If plywood is not available, OSB (oriented strand board) can be a secondary option but will not offer the same strength as plywood.
If you have any windows larger than 4x8 (standard plywood size), you can join multiple pieces together by cutting a 12” brace piece. First, use wood glue to securely join the two pieces of plywood together down the length of the seam. Further secure the brace to the plywood using screws. When you’re ready to mount the plywood over the window, make sure you fasten the brace with the screw head facing the window for the strongest hold.
From the notes you took when measuring, label the plywood as you go. You can also add an arrow to indicate which side should face up to correspond with the top of the window.
3. Drill pilot holes in your plywood using a drill bit.
These pilot holes are where you’ll screw the plywood to your home’s exterior. Ensure these holes are at least every 12 inches, starting with the corners, and make sure the holes will align with studs in the wall.
Make sure you take the time to measure this correctly to match with studs and not just the trim. If the plywood is secured only to the trim as you’re boarding up windows, it may not be stable enough to withstand strong winds in the storm. You can find studs in the wall by either using a stud finder or by looking for nail heads in the siding to indicate where the stud might be.
4. Screw in your piece of plywood over the window frame through the pilot holes using a drill. Get someone else to hold the plywood in place as you drill.
Use corrosion-resistant screws like lag screws that can go at least two inches into the framing. If lag bolts are not available, or you want to save time by not pre-drilling, you can use a wood screw with a self-tapping or self-starting head as a substitute. Self-starting wood screws can drill directly into a stud or other sub-structure material with no need for pilot holes.
These steps are specifically for homes with a masonry exterior. The easiest and fastest method is to use hurricane clips or Plylox®. They don’t require drilling holes and can be reused year after year as needed. The Plylox website offers additional information on how the clips work.
Plylox come in three sizes - 1/2”, 5/8”, and 3/4”. Make sure you match the size Plylox to the same size thickness of the plywood you’ll be using.
1. Measure the height and width of all your windows.
For this method, do not measure beyond the window. The plywood will be going inside of the window casing. You want a snug fit, so measure carefully. You will also want to measure in three locations in the window close to the top, middle, and bottom since masonry may vary slightly. Make sure the inset between the edge of the home exterior and the window glass is at least 2½ inches deep for the plywood and the hurricane clip to fit correctly.
2. Cut a piece of plywood that’s 1/4” smaller than your measured opening, leaving a small 1/8” clearance all the way around.
3. Secure the Plylox onto the plywood on opposing vertical edges.
Make sure the teeth are facing toward you – you’ll see the Plylox logo. There should be no more than 24” between each clip. For example, a 4x4 foot window will need two clips on each vertical side, not the bottom and top. For every additional 2 feet in height, you will need another clip.
4. Push the plywood sheet into the window casing with the Plylox against the masonry.
Reminder - Plylox clips don’t work with vinyl siding home exteriors. Most siding products do not leave a proper inset in the window for the clips to work.
Even if you are in a situation where you need to quickly board up windows, there are storm panel screw kits you can use to get the job done fast and help long-term. These pre-assembled kits have a drill bit, driver, and panel screws to drill into the plywood, wing nuts to secure the plywood to the panel screws, and protector caps that can go over the panel screws so they can be left in the home exterior long-term.
You can also use the holes drilled from your lag screws or self-tapping wood screws as pilot holes for later installation of permanent hanger bolts.
If you have extra time before a storm, you can prime and paint the plywood so you can reuse it. Priming and painting will prevent deterioration from the rains and allow you to store the plywood in your garage for future hurricane seasons. If a hurricane isn’t imminent, designing and installing hurricane shutters is a more attractive, long-term solution as a project in the off season.
The McCoy’s team has been serving the coastal region since 1927. We’ve weathered storms together with our coastal communities and developed a crisis management strategy that allows us to take a companywide approach to leveraging both products and people. It’s always our goal to serve our communities as safely and quickly as possible. Whether you’re preparing for a distant possibility or an approaching storm, our stores are well-equipped with employees to help with whatever you need.