Storm panels are used to protect the inside of buildings from damage caused by storms. Closeable shutters, mounted at the edge of building openings, have been used for centuries as protection against storms. Today's storm panels are demountable or movable, and rated for hurricane protection and flying debris. They are constructed of a variety of materials, such as plywood, aluminum, steel, plastic and fabric. They are affixed, when needed, to the outside of the building with screws or bolts and clips, or they can be installed as part of a track or motorized system. When not in use, storm panels should be properly stored. Storm panels are effective at minimizing damage; however, their use requires advanced planning prior to a storm.
Plywood is the most common and least expensive type of storm panel. Plywood, when used as a storm panel, should be a minimum of 5/8" thick to provide adequate protection against flying debris. Plywood should to be cut to fit slightly larger than the opening size, and can be attached with screws, bolts or hurricane clips. Plywood is a heavy material, so depending on the overall size, large openings may require two people for installation. It's best to check with local building officials for approved storm panel materials and attachment methods prior to purchasing.
Prefabricated aluminium and steel metal storm panels are ribbed or corrugated, providing significant strength. Metal storm panels can be installed horizontally or vertically in permanently mounted tracks, and they consist of either a single panel or individual slates that overlap each other. Some storm panel designs have vertically installed slates that interlock and fold like an accordion on each side. This type of storm panel is latched in place on the building exterior until it is needed. Metal storm panels are more expensive than plywood, but they are lighter and stronger.
Plastic storm panels are manufactured from polycarbonate and polypropylene materials. Similar to metal, plastic storm panels are corrugated. Plastic panels are translucent, so they allow light into a building. Similar to plywood, plastic panels should be prefabricated to fit opening sizes and can be fastened with screws, bolts, hurricane clips, or other types of fasteners. Plastic storm panels are more expensive than those made from plywood and some metal designs, but plastic panels offer many advantages. They are rated to the highest impact standards, are 75% lighter than 3/4" plywood, and they will not rot, warp, or rust. Plastic panels may last for the lifetime of a building.
A relatively new product, fabric storm panels offer an effective alternative to rigid materials. Fabric panels are made from a variety of materials, such as PVC coated fabric, geo-synthetic materials, and Kevlar. They are cut to size, hemmed, and fitted with attachment devices to secure them to the perimeter of the opening. Grommets, bolts and washers, or strap devices are commonly used to secure them to the building. While fabric panels may not appear to be as substantial or as strong as rigid materials, they meet ASTM standards for hurricane protection from wind, rain and flying debris. They offer a high strength, lightweight material that is easy to install and easy to fold, which means they require less storage space. Fabric storm panels are the most expensive type of demountable storm panels
Movable storm panels are the most expensive type. However, they don't require storage; they are a self contained roll-up shutter. Similar to metal storm panels, roll-up shutters consist of a series of interlocking metal slats which form a curtain. The slats are installed horizontally across the opening and held in place by vertical tracks on each side. The curtain is attached to an axle, which allows it to be rolled up. The rolled curtain is mounted to the building, and is covered and protected by a sheet metal assembly. The curtain can be lowered by hand or by a chain, or it can be mechanically operated. Once closed, it is locked into place at the bottom. The tracks and rolling apparatus require periodic maintenance.
Storm panels, when properly placed prior to a storm, offer an effective way to prevent wind, rain and flying debris from damaging the inside of a building.