by ASP Windows & Doors
As hurricane season looms, the fear of an exceptionally strong storm always holds tight in the back of the minds of South Floridians. It’s been over a quarter of a century since Hurricane Andrew decimated our communities, but the memories of that storm underscores the dangers of mother nature. And what about impact windows: can they truly survive the force of a Category 5?
Impact windows are highly sophisticated and rigorously tested weapons in the defense of your home. In fact, the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) has strict guidelines for hurricane windows before they can even be certified as impact resistant. As impact windows are highly regulated, the installation of them requires a qualified professional and a permit from your local municipality. While obtaining a building permit before installing impact windows may seem like a nuisance, they serve a vital role as the applicant is required to provide information about what is to be installed, who manufactured it, product approval numbers and other relevant materials, the local building department can confirm that the windows meet the diligent safety standards enforced. So what are they?
Large-Missile Debris Test
If your windows are 30 feet or less above ground level, Broward and Miami-Dade counties require that impact windows can pass a large-missile debris test. To pass the test, a window must be able to withstand a nine-pound, 2×4 lumber missile traveling at 34 mph, followed by passing wind testing for 9,000 cycles, all while leaving only a small hole in the glass.
Small-Missile Debris Test
If your windows are 30 feet or more above ground level, they are required to complete small-missile debris testing. To pass this testing, the windows must be able to withstand impacts from 10 ball bearings traveling at 50 mph. The product is then subjected to wind loads for 9,000 cycles.
What does all this mean in the real world? Put simply, it’s difficult to say. According to Peter Dyga, president of the East Coast chapter of the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC), “Windows are impact-resistant, not impact-proof. The strongest building code in the world is not going to totally protect us from a natural power. The idea is to minimize hurricane damage as much as possible.”
While impact windows are designed to handle an incredible amount of damage – up to winds of 140 mph – the exact conditions outside during a Category 5 hurricane are impossible to predict. What is possible to forecast, however, is that impact-resistant windows are your home’s best chance for protection from the onslaught of a Category 5 storm.