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Added Update 4 below. See more hurricane entries here.

When you have two hurricanes in three weeks, you are bound to come across new challenges.  We are preparing for Hurricane Ivan at the moment.  While Charley and Frances made it “X makes the spot,” Ivan will make it an “asterisk.”  (Update 3: I was wrong about the location, since Ivan whacked Pensacola instead.)  My post on Hurricane Charley Survival Lessons is a good place to start your reading.  Here are some additional items that became obvious before, during and after Hurricane Frances.

Plywood Shutters - This was my major area of preparation for Frances. We had lots of storm debris left over from Charley. When Frances was six days away, I made the decision to make plywood storm shutters for the windows on the north and east sides of our house. With the storm coming in from the southeast, we would get lots of wind from the northeast for a very long time. Our house has inset windows with beveled, painted concrete exterior facings (most everything built in Florida these days is stucco).

How the window is built into the house is important.  Ours are inset, but our neighbor’s (built by a different builder) are flush with the exterior walls.  Inset is better because there is less chance of the plywood being ripped off by the wind.  Also, the flush windows may have portions of the frame that protrude and interfere with a simple shutter installation.  In this case, you need to frame the window with wood and then attach the shutter.  This takes longer, is more complex, needs more fasteners, and requires more wood.

Because of our construction and the time constraints I was facing, I went with Plylox clips to hold the plywood in place. This removes the requirement to install Tapcon fasteners on every window. It also allows me to transition to another securing method using barrel bolts that is described here.  While the Plylox clips worked, I will be switching to barrel bolts if not getting true hurricane shutters.  During installation, the clips proved to be difficult to keep aligned while hefting nearly 16 square feet of plywood.  They also are designed for only 1/2-inch plywood.  Also, the clips will scratch your painted window casings, so be ready to repaint them.  Update 1: There is a fourth strike against Plylox clips - they rust.  Now I have to remove the rust stains from my window casings before I repaint them.  With difficult installation, a 1/2-inch plywood limitation, scratches/gouges and now rust, based on my experience, I cannot recommend you use Plylox clips unless you have no other option.

I would have preferred 3/4-inch exterior plywood, but none was available.  Since no exterior grade plywood was available, the interior grade plywood warped after getting wet.  The clips popped free from the window frame because of its angle and the warping.  I was not alone in this regard.  I will be painting the plywood and reinforcing it with some 2x4-inch boards to reduce warping while preparing for Hurricane Ivan.

Update 4:  I have posted some Plylox Clip Installation Tips based on my preparations for Hurricane Jeanne.  I'll post anything else that comes up from Jeanne as soon as we get power back.  We assume we will lose it some time during the storm.

For the large shutters I constructed, I fastened rope handles along the bottom with fencing staples to make it easier and safer to install them.

If you cut shutters outside, vacuum up your sawdust after cutting to prevent a soggy mess later.  This prevented my tracking the stuff around the house.

Plan ahead and get a storage scheme together for where you will be storing these shutters when you do not need them.  I am going to construct a storage area over a garage door to take advantage of two concrete walls for support.  This will allow me to use only one support up to a roof truss.

Update 2: The reason for storm shutters is to prevent debris from breaking the windows.  The stronger the shutter, the heavier and faster the material it can defend against.  In this, there is an advantage to moving the protective shutter further away from the glass since some bending and deformation can be allowed before the window breaks.  A broken window can lead to roof tearoff and complete destruction.  No wood shutter meets South Florida code.

Simple shutters, that rely on the window frame for support, may be thinner since they do not need to be self supporting against hurricane wind forces, but they offer less protection against impact.  Also, they are close to the glass so even a minor impact deformation may still break the window.  It is a risk you take.  Some protection is better than nothing.

Picture Windows - My biggest job was protecting an 8x12-foot window that faces east.  I built three 4x8-foot frames out of 2x2-inch wood, added plywood sheets, and reinforced it with hardware cloth.  (Hardware cloth is wire fencing with 1/2-ince square openings.  It is very stiff and strong.)  1x6-inch boards covered the gaps between the panels.

These panels are heavy.  I installed them using deck brackets that I fastened to the concrete.  The weight of the frames sits on the window casement rather than the brackets.  I screwed the brackets to the frames as an added capture feature.

Sliding Glass Doors - There are various ways to do this.  I chose two long, narrow pieces of scrap plywood from my other shutter construction and bolted them to the concrete on either side of the slider.  I used Tapcon fasteners for this, and then used exterior grade deck screws to fasten two full sheets of plywood horizontally across the door.  This worked well and the two sheets were quickly removed after the storm passed.  I will be adding 2x4-inch wood bracing to the middle.  I also got some shims to use as wedges to prevent our sliding screens from banging back and forth.

Wood Screws - I used 1 3/4-inch exterior deck screws to fasten my pieces together.  These were easy to drive and to remove due to their coarse threads.  A screw installation guide tool on the drill greatly speeded the work.

Concrete Fasteners - Houses in Florida are generally concrete these days.  To get things secured to the concrete walls and window casings, I used Tapcon concrete fasteners (3/16-inch diameter, 1 1/4-inch long, hex head).  I fortunately bought these early since they sold out quickly.  (People bought plywood around here with no idea of how to fasten it onto their houses.  They used anything, including 3/16-inch pegboard, over their windows.)  Make sure you get fasteners that are long enough but not too long.  For a Tapcon to work correctly and fit tightly, the hole needs to be drilled 1/4-inch or so deeper than the length the fastener will be in the concrete to allow any concrete powder to be forced down, but still allow the fastener to be fully seated.  This amount of concrete drilling requires an electric drill since no battery will last long enough to get the full job done.  Since I was shopping early, I was able to get one of the Tapcon Condrive 500 installation tools.  This made the job much, much easier and is highly recommended.  (The tool consists of a chuck that holds their special concrete bit and a torsion sleeve that can fit over the drill to engage the fastener to prevent over-driving.  Since the sleeve just slips over the drill, no bit changes are necessary.  This greatly speeds the installation process.)

Tools and Safety - My old corded drill was required for the Tapcon installation, but a hammer drill would have been faster.  My battery drill was more convenient for installing the wood screws.  A tool belt was also very useful for holding the numerous screws and tools I used.  Because of the amount of plywood handling I did, good work gloves saved my hands.  Remember to use eye protection to keep the sawdust out of your eyes.

Roof Tarps - Many people needed to cover their roofs with tarps after Charley ripped off large areas of roofing tiles.  Many of these were lost early on during Frances due to being poorly secured.  Tarps that survived were generally tightly fitted and held down by vertical wood strips on the edges.  Large tarps also required some boards in the middle.

Drainage - I extended my downspout drains to prevent planting area washout.  I used the ribbed black plastic drainpipe, sealed the joints with duct tape and fastened the end of the pipe in place with a stake and some rope.

Track Plotting - I used Microsoft Streets and Trips to plot the detailed projected track of the storm as well as the position of the eye.  I got my coordinates from the National Hurricane Center’s discussion web pages.  Their public graphic is too large a scale to be useful; especially when you are trying to determine which side of the eye you fall on.  This will govern what winds you will see and how you will rig your defenses.  The Streets and Trips program has a Find dialog with three tabs.  The "Lat/Long" tab was where I plugged in the NHC’s data points to create the pushpins.  I then connected the pushpins with lines and thus had a track I could examine at the street level.  This was both reassuring and extremely informative data to have.

Psychological Peace - I bought a small 150-watt outdoor halogen light and mounted it to a stake in my back yard.  When plugged in, it gave enough light to be able to see what was happening.  This was psychologically reassuring while the wind was howling through the hours of darkness.

Fires - After the storm passed, many people forgot their stovetops or ovens were on when the electricity was knocked out.  Many others forgot to make sure they were turned off.  In some cases where electricity has been restored, the ovens and stovetops heated up and started fires.  The best bet is to check and make sure both the stove and oven are off.

Posted on Thursday, September 9, 2004 8:49 PM Home Ownership , & Etc. , Hurricane | Back to top


Comments on this post: Hurricane Frances Survival Lessons

# re: Hurricane Frances Survival Lessons
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Anyone willing to send Plylox clips 200 in quantity to deliver Tallahassee Mon. afternoon or Tues. am before 10 a.m.?

I will pay and appreciate it!
vsummers12@comcast.net

Left by Summers on Sep 11, 2004 10:37 PM

# re: Hurricane Frances Survival Lessons
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Great Info. Thanks for taking the time to post.
Left by CD on Sep 12, 2004 10:04 PM

# re: Hurricane Frances Survival Lessons
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I was looking at a reference page you mentioned (http://www.aoml.noaa.gov/hrd/shutters/index2.html) and wondered if there is any problem with the barrel bolts “coming undone”, not pulled out, just turned so that the bolt retracts.
Left by Steve Pearce on Sep 13, 2004 2:50 PM

# re: Hurricane Frances Survival Lessons
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Steve: While anything is possible, that can be prevented by securing the latches in position with some waterproof tape.
Left by Mark on Sep 13, 2004 6:18 PM

# re: Hurricane Frances Survival Lessons
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Re fires due to electric utilities coming back on line after the storm: best advice seems to be to shut off the power to the dwelling by throwing the main breaker on the box if you're not going to be there.
Left by capn jay on Sep 14, 2004 11:04 PM

# re: Hurricane Frances Survival Lessons
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Wonderful comments! I was looking at replacing our tapcon approach with the plylox when i came across your posting....not happening now. Of course, I'm leaving the plywood shutters on until hurrican season is over. Thanks!
Left by TPR in Orlando on Sep 15, 2004 9:54 AM

# re: Hurricane Frances Survival Lessons
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Thanks so much for taking the time to post. I was considering the Plylox w/3/4" vs spending 17K on shutters. Now, if they would make 3/4" kevlar....thanks again.
Left by Adrian on Sep 15, 2004 1:24 PM

# re: Hurricane Frances Survival Lessons
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Excellent info with a nice dollop of humor! Found you in a search on Plylox - like the barrel bolt idea better, but might get Plylox to help neighbors in a pinch. Thanks from New Orleans (with kin in Central FL) for the effort.
Left by HCJ on Sep 16, 2004 10:03 PM

# re: Hurricane Frances Survival Lessons
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Any advice? My house has vinyl siding and the windows are trimmed out with wood that has been skinnned with aluminum coil stock material. If I mount plywood outside the windows (they are inset), how do I fasten the plywood without leaving holes in either the vinyl or the aluminum? We just went thru 2 days of Hurr Ivan which spawned a great many tornadoes in our area. Thanks!
Left by Grady on Sep 16, 2004 10:22 PM

# re: Hurricane Frances Survival Lessons
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Grady: You are going to have to put some kind of hole somewhere. Without seeing the exact construction you have, I would first try attching to the window frame through the aluminum. When the shutter is later removed, you can redrive the screw with a daub of silicone caulk as a sealant. When dry, some touch-up paint will make the screws tough to spot from a distance. They are then ready at hand for the next shutter installation. I would not recommend fastening over/through vinul siding. It would likely be very damaged, although you could add more framing around the window by trimming the siding and giving you a place to access the studs on either side of the window.
Left by Mark on Sep 16, 2004 11:47 PM

# re: Hurricane Frances Survival Lessons
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Hi,

In preparation for Charlie I boarded up using 1/2" OSB (that's all they had left at the lumber yard) and 1 1/4" tapcons into my concrete block/stucco home. I fastened them to the outside of the house with the wood extending about 6" beyond the window opening on every side except the sill. The wood actually sat right on the sill at the bottom. The tapcons were about halfway between the opening and the edge of the wood.

I took them down just in time for Frances, and put them right back up again. I found out that many of the holes were unusable a second time.

#1) Is there any salvaging I can do for those holes so they can be reused for the next one?

#2) What should I use to fill the holes so that I can easily reuse the holes again if possible?

#3) I am planning on constructing the barrel bolt solution on all windows one at a time this winter. After the holes are drilled into the block on the inside of the window openings, what should I use to fill them with for easy future access?

Thank you!
DH - Odessa, Florida
Left by Don Hyde on Sep 24, 2004 3:25 PM

# re: Hurricane Frances Survival Lessons
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Being wary of Francis, I used panelmates. Don't know much about this sort of thing so may use wrong terms but someone recommended them. It's like a tapcon, 2" into the cement wall, but then instead of a head there's 1" of threads like a bolt. I used 1/2" plywood cut to about 6" larger than the window, one person held it up to the wall, resting on the sill, then another drilled through the wood and into the block wall to start a hole. Then he used a rented hammer drill to complete the hole, then drilled in the panelmate with the included adapter. I used 4-6 per window. You then put the board over the bolts that stick out and tighten them down with the included washers and wing nuts. When the storm passes, take off the wing nuts and washers, store the boards, and cover the bolts with the included white plastic sleeves. Yes, it means I have a whole lot of 1" white caps, but I figure since my house is practically white, who will notice, except maybe the 2 front windows if they're really looking. Worth the trouble (and peace of mind) to me that next time I can just take off the rubber caps and put the boards back up and tighten them down with the wing nuts. Cost me $37 per kit which is 50 panelmates, washers, wing nuts, caps, a drill bit, and an adapter to install them.
Left by BW on Sep 24, 2004 9:50 PM

# re: Hurricane Frances Survival Lessons
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Don: My answer on the holes is in my Hurricane Jeanne entry here: http://geekswithblogs.net/mtreadwell/archive/2004/09/29/11916.aspx. Possible fillers for your barrel bolt holes: nothing, aluminum or plastic rod cut to fit, or plastic plugs. Look in the specialty fastener area for the plastic plugs.
Left by Mark on Sep 30, 2004 12:23 AM

# re: Hurricane Frances Survival Lessons
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How do you store all of this plywood? What is the over-the-garage idea?
Left by Jamy on Sep 30, 2004 9:15 AM

# re: Hurricane Frances Survival Lessons
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Jamy: When your garage door is open, look and see how much open space is above the open door. In my house it is almost three feet. I will build a platform that is supported by the concrete garage walls on two sides. The free corner will be supported through the ceiling to a roof truss.
Left by Mark on Sep 30, 2004 4:22 PM

# re: Hurricane Frances Survival Lessons
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Jamy: Also, I will make this platform strong by using the galvanized steel brackets intended for decks.
Left by Mark on Sep 30, 2004 4:25 PM

# re: Hurricane Frances Survival Lessons
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Where do you come by the Panelmates for $37?? I have heard lots about them but have yet to find them anywhere....
Left by JC on Feb 16, 2005 8:02 PM

# re: Hurricane Frances Survival Lessons
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John: Actually I have moved away from the barrel bolt/wood solution and will be installing aluminum panels.
Left by Mark on Apr 20, 2005 10:39 PM

# re: Hurricane Frances Survival Lessons
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Concerning a wood framed house with vinyl siding and windows that are flush mounted, I had come to the conclusion that I was indeed going to have to rig up something to attach plywood, 2x4's attached with bolts on both sides and with a double window a 2x4 down the middle; then attach plywood to 2x4's with washers & screws.
Then I thought if I could come up with a way to install or attached a u-shaped trough at bottom of window the width of 5/8-3/4 plywood then slide in plywood, buy a bunch of the heavy duty bungee cords and stretch them across the plywood and let the ends attach to the lips of edge of windows, and the end hooks also be pinched closed a bit so they won't be sloppy. The only drilling will be for the bottom trough.
What about that way of installing plywood on flush mounted windows?
Left by Eddie W on May 13, 2005 8:27 AM

# re: Hurricane Frances Survival Lessons
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Thanks for the tips on the plylox & barrel bolts. A couple tips to contribute: They make more than one diameter Tapcon, use the thinner size first. When the holes become unusable redo with the next larger dia. When I lived in the Cape Fear area of NC, I had vinyl siding and double hung vinyl windows. I cut plywood the exact size of my screens, replaced the sceen with the plywood, and from the inside used small stainless wood screws throught the inside screen support lip to hold the plywood in. They were flush with the outside edge, the wind had nothing to catch or get under. They can also be installed and removed from the inside (important for houses on stilts) Worked great in two direct hits Bonnie & Floyd, and several more near misses. For the sliders I used outside 2x4 braces across the plywood panels. Note, since the sliders openings are larger and you want them to fit tightly, watch out for water causing the plywood to swell. Which is another reason to paint the plywood. 20"s of rain in 24 hrs makes everything soggy. Now in Florida and have bought 20 gauge steel shutters from home despot, thicker and they don't require rails. Uses Tapcon's w/ 1/4" 20 threaded studs on the end, shutters now mount to flush wall.
PEP boys currently has a deal on a Chinese Honda knockoff generator, $299 for 3KW. The RV'ers have been praising these on their forums since March. Harbor frieght sometimes gets them in stock too. Best of luck, and let's hope they miss us all.
Cheers,
Bobby
Left by Bobby on Jun 04, 2005 4:00 PM

# re: Hurricane Frances Survival Lessons
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Mark, don't leave me hanging here. Why are you switching to aluminum panels and how do you cut them to size and hang them?
Left by Diana on Jun 15, 2005 8:13 PM

# re: Hurricane Frances Survival Lessons
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Diana: Click the red link on the top right of this page that says "Read all my hurricane entries". It will show you the MANY later blog posts I have made concerning my aluminum hurricane panels, including the reasons why I changed my mind.

*I* do not cut the metal panels. The company that makes them does.
Left by Mark on Jun 15, 2005 9:30 PM

# re: Hurricane Frances Survival Lessons
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I bought a bunch of material, including alum. panels, headers and bottom trackers. My problem is, most of my windows have sills that stick out a good 3-4 inches. So I can't put the bottom track under the sill, obviously. If I put the bottom track over the sill, I can fasten each end to the concrete block, but the sill is angle downward and is made of wood. I don't feel that I properly mount that bottom sill.
Would I be better off mounting this system sideways, say the header would be to the left of the window and the sill would be mounted to the right o the window?? Should I mount just the shutters with sidewalk bolts, not using the header or sill. I'm really scratching my head on this. Thanks!
Left by Trevor on Jun 29, 2005 3:12 PM

# re: Hurricane Frances Survival Lessons
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Horizontal may be the best for you, but I cannot say without seeing your house. Whatever you do, make sure that you fasten the shutter tracks to the structure of the house and not something flimsy.
Left by Mark on Jul 04, 2005 3:46 PM

# re: Hurricane Frances Survival Lessons
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I have a patent pending design called "light portals" for installing large (1 to 2 inch diamter) see-through plugs into metal and wood to permit light to pass without impacting safety aspects for hurricane protection. I would appreciate hearing opinions if this is an attractive feature.
Left by Harold on Jul 17, 2005 7:48 AM

# re: Hurricane Frances Survival Lessons
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Harold: As with any modification, the answer has to be "it depends".

The size tells me that some but not alot of light would come through, even for a hemisperical protrusion outside.

My concern would be weakening the panel. New testing to maintain Miami-Dade certification is not cheap and I doubt a manufacturer would do it.

Unmodified panels stack nicely. A panel with your device would be unique and require special handling and storage. Damage to the device would be another concern.

While the device would likely work, I see the market as small, and its infrequent use would probably not justify its cost, installation and handling.

Deck prisms have been a feature of sailing ships for hundreds of years to get light belowdecks. boatdeckprism.com has some contempory examples.
Left by Mark on Jul 17, 2005 11:24 AM

# re: Hurricane Frances Survival Lessons
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Having a vinyl sided home with some windows that are flush with the exterior, we are finding it difficult to protect these windows when we have nowhere to drive screws without damaging the siding. I have seen many homes with plywood in the windows and 2x4s attached to the plywood. the 2x4s are then run into the ground in front of the windows. What is the proper way to do this and how effective is it?
Left by Anne on Aug 27, 2005 6:00 AM

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Left by Window Man on Jan 08, 2015 11:28 AM

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