Installing aluminum shutters

Figure out what's right for you. Homeowners have a number of choices to protect their windows in a storm. The prices are as varied as the products.

Recent hurricane seasons proved something to a lot of Floridians: we live in a dangerous place, and nowhere (not even deep inland), escapes the wrath of a determined hurricane.

Here are some considerations as you review your choices in window protection:

It's a lot easier to pull an accordion shutter across sliding glass doors or to push a button and watch motorized shutters roll down (you can even get these with a wind vane that rolls them down automatically when the winds reach a certain speed).

Advocates of impact-resistant glass and window films say their products are always in place, need no last-minute installation, and provide sun and burglary protection.

Window film however does not pass the Miami-Dade certification test because the film doesn't strengthen the frame. It won't stop your glass from shattering; it will hold the pieces in place. A film-covered window will withstand only whatever wind load it can handle without the film. Therefore, consult with the manufacturer to learn more on how this product is designed and tested.

* Can you install the protection yourself, or do you know someone who will do it for you? Screwing plywood panels in place is a heavy, awkward task that typically takes more than one person. Many plywood users who emerged from the 2004 season of back to back storms vowed "never again."

* If you already have window protection, are you ready to roll? Do you know where the tapcons or wing nuts or other fasteners are? Do you know how to install or operate your protection?

* Plywood is the covering of first or last resort for many homeowners, but it's heavy and hard to store and attach when a storm nears. If it gets soaked repeatedly, the layers can peel apart. It's a fire and termite hazard. If you choose to use it, the panels should be measured, drilled and labeled in advance. A 4 X 8-foot sheet of 5/8-inch plywood costs about $16.99 these days.

* Storage space can be a problem for plywood and for heavy stacks of aluminum or steel panels. Those metal panels can tear up your hands or cause serious injury if a stack of them drops on your foot.