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Hurricanes and Windows: How to Prevent a Broken Window

  1. Aug 28, 2011 #1
    Hi, Everyone:

    I hope this is not off-topic; I apologize otherwise. Just went through hurricane Irene;

    luckily nothing major happened. Just curious, tho, about the issue of windows, and how

    to prevent them from breaking; I guess this has to see with the pressure difference

    between the inside and the outside of the appartment. But, what is the deal with taping

    the windows? And, would having a very small crack of the window open help? ANy other

    advice re this issue?
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 28, 2011 #2


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    This is always a good idea to prevent flying glass, once it brakes. I'm not sure how much stability duck tape can provide. It should be as stiff as possible (not elongate much under strain). It should be taped on the glass pre-strained.

    Fixating the windows wide open during a hurricane is even better for the glass. But do you want that?

    In Florida many have these:

    [PLAIN]http://images.hurricaneshuttersplus.info/imagelibrary/168_page_pic_2.jpg [Broken]

    You could emulate this with plywood panels. The problem is cheap an removable fixation.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2017
  4. Aug 28, 2011 #3
    I don't have the numbers for this, but it would probably be the case that leaving windows open a little bit could cause more damage from the strong winds, than it would from a difference of air pressure, if you were to leave it closed (which is the reason why people consider leaving it open in the first place).
  5. Aug 28, 2011 #4

    D H

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    Pressure has little if anything to do with breaking your glass. It mostly has to do with flying debris.

    That said, the pressure difference can suck your entire window out, frame and all, glass intact (until the window hits something, and then we're back to the flying debris problem). The solution to this nasty problem is to ensure that the frame is securely anchored to the structure of the house. Building codes in hurricane-prone areas are now very keen on requiring that window frames be very securely attached to structure.

    Taping the windows is an old wives tale that is completely ineffective. It is a waste of time. It will not keep your windows from breaking, it will not keep your windows from shattering into little shards, and it does not count as securing your home as far as insurance companies are concerned. NOAA and insurance companies are united in recommending against taping windows. They are united in recommending that hurricane shutters are by far the best bet. Plywood, properly installed, is a better bet than taping but is poor man's replacement to hurricane shutters. Plywood, improperly installed, is about as effective as tape.

    Surprisingly, it hurts. The US government and insurance companies used to recommend that people crack their windows open during a hurricane. Then they did some tests in labs with mock houses. Cracking the windows open increases the odds that your roof will be torn off. NOAA and insurance companies are now united in recommending against cracking your windows open during a hurricane.
    Last edited: Aug 28, 2011
  6. Aug 28, 2011 #5
    Isn't this about choosing a weak point, so that a failure is directed to the glass first, rather than to the wall. If the glass fails first, you then have a vented space. If the broken window is a dominant opening, then wall or roof failure could occur.
  7. Aug 28, 2011 #6

    D H

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    Nope. You don't want any failures, any gaps. Any opening, whether accidental or intentional, increases the likelihood of catastrophic failure. The typical cause of catastrophic failure is wind blowing through the structure rather than pressure differential between outside and inside.

    Besides, you do not want any failures, period. You do not want to lose your roof, and losing a window is a good start toward losing your roof.
  8. Aug 28, 2011 #7
    Thanks, All; I wonder if the fact that I live in a 19th floor in NYC ($850/month for a

    small studio!) makes a difference;

    not likely to find that much debris flying this high (tho the idiot neighbor below left

    some potted plants in his/her balcony), and, not much of a chance to have the roof

    fly off. Sorry, I should have included this in my OP. I wonder to what degree this

    information changes things.
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