Hurricane shutters and panels are an effective way to protect your windows and doors during severe weather. 

There are many types available, but all require advance planning so they’re ready to go when a storm is heading your way.

No matter which type you choose, plan your project out well in advance of hurricane season and consider professional installation.

In This Article:

Types of Hurricane Shutters


Man prepares for hurricane by covering his windows with plywood panels
Plywood is the least expensive option and can be quickly installed by the homeowner. (DepositPhotos)

The old standby and least expensive option, plywood is not approved for hurricane protection by many state building codes. While 1/2-inch plywood used to be considered adequate, it’s now recommended that sheets be at least 5/8-inch thick to provide protection from flying projectiles. 

Since plywood is heavy and awkward to handle, hanging it can be labor-intensive and may require two people.

Buy plywood before hurricane season, since it can be in short supply when a storm is approaching. 

Cut them to size before hurricane season arrives to reduce last-minute preparations. Or have the panels cut at your local hardware store or home center.

Adding a handle on the front makes installation that much easier — especially for a two-story home.

Attach plywood every 12-inch using bolts, screws, barrel bolts or special clips. label each panel for quick and easy installation.

Watch: How to Build Reusable Hurricane Panels

Metal Storm Panels

Metal Storm Panel for a hurricane shutter
Metal storm panels are lighter than plywood, so they’re easier to install. (ditimiraos/Getty Images Signature)

Corrugated aluminum or steel panels are lightweight, inexpensive and easy to handle. Individual panels overlap each other for added strength. 

They can be installed on permanently mounted tracks or bolted in place over the window trim. 

Plastic Storm Panels

corrugated plastic hurricane shutters
Plastic storm panels have the strength of metal, but they let the light shine through. (Baloncic, Getty Images)

Plastic storm panels can be made from polycarbonate plastic (Lexan) or polypropylene plastic. These smooth or corrugated panels are installed in permanently mounted tracks or bolted in place. 

Plastic storm panels are about 75 percent lighter than plywood, and they’re rated for the highest impact standards. Because they’re made of plastic, they won’t rot and will likely last the lifetime of your home. 

Plastic storm panels come in clear, translucent, and opaque styles. Polycarbonate plastic is much clearer than polypropylene plastic storm panels weigh much less and allow light into the home.

While the most expensive form of protection, unlike plywood or metal, they allow light in your home during a storm.

Fabric Storm Panels

Fabric storm panels can be put up and taken down quickly by just one person. (3 Echoes Content Studio)

Fabric storm panels, also known as wind abatement screens, are touted as an effective alternative to traditional plywood or shutters. They consist of a strong, lightweight layer of woven fabric that is coated with a geo-synthetic PVC material or Kevlar. This reinforced material covers windows and doors, providing a barrier from flying projectiles and wind-blown rain.

You might find it hard to believe that fabric can provide sufficient protection against storm debris hurtling at over 100 miles per hour, but coverings are available that meet or exceed state building codes in Florida and Texas as well as the standards set by ASTM International for hurricane protection.

They’re attached around windows and doors using grommets and bolts or straps and buckles. While keeping wind, rain, and flying debris out, the mesh fabric allows light and some air to come through.

While most fabric storm panels are installed by the dealer, homeowners may be able to buy the material and install it themselves for around $5 per square foot for PVC fabric.

These panels are easy to install, but they must be ordered to size, so lead time is required. If you’re planning on selling your house, you probably can’t use them for the next house since each panel exactly fits your windows.

However, having pre-installed, aesthetically pleasing fabric panels that are easy to add and remove could be a selling point!

There are several fabric storm panel systems available, such as:

  • Grommet – The easiest to install for the do-it-yourselfer. The material is fastened to your windows or doors with grommets. Panels are easy to put up and take down and roll up for storage.
  • Rolling Screen – Permanently attached device located above your windows or doors that can be lowered at a moment’s notice either manually or by an electric motor.
  • Slide Screen – Panels slide into mounting brackets.
  • Strap and Buckle – Straps and buckles are sewn into the screen and fit around eyehooks or are strapped to columns. Allow easy exit in case of emergency.

Fabric storm panels are available from:

Hurricane Shutters Pros and Cons

There are advantages and disadvantages to each of the different types of storm shutters.

Very easy to put up once mounted
Lets light in
Fold for easy storage
PlywoodLeast expensive
Readily available
DIY installation
Heavy, may need help putting up
Requires storage space
May not meet building codes
Blocks light
Plastic (Lexan)Fairly easy to put up once mounted
Lets light in
May need help putting up
Requires storage space
MetalFairly easy to put up once mounted
Corrugated design adds strength
May need help putting up
Blocks light
Requires storage space

Permanent Hurricane Shutters

bahama hurricane shutters
Bahama shutters are aesthetically pleasing as well as functional. (pfb1, Getty Images Signature)

If you don’t want to install and take down shutters for every storm, there are permanent hurricane shutter options. 

Bahama, or colonial, shutters not only protect during intense storms, but they can also help shade your home from intense heat and temperatures. Plus, they are quite nice to look at and can add that added curb appeal some many of us desire.

Another style to consider is accordion hurricane shutters. These stack beside the window or door opening when not in use and unfold accordion-style to cover and protect during a storm.

Metal roll shutters are another example of hurricane-type shutters. These can either roll down from the top of the window or slide from one side to the other to protect the window and your home. Granted, they may not be the most attractive, but if your town or community location is on the coast or just inland, these types of shutters far outweigh their looks with security and protection.

Safety During Installation

Installing shutters is a great DIY project and require basic tools and construction know-how. Just remember some safety rules when installation calls for a ladder:

  • Never place the ladder where it may cause you to overextend your reach while working.
  • Make sure the ladder is stable and sturdy before climbing it.
  • Have someone assist you by supporting the shutter (working from inside the house through the open window) while you attach the shutters to the house.
  • If you are working from the open window yourself, be sure not to overextend your reach.

Further Reading

Editorial Contributors
Danny Lipford

Danny Lipford


Danny Lipford is a home improvement expert and television personality who started his remodeling business, Lipford Construction, at the age of 21 in Mobile, Alabama. He gained national recognition as the host of the nationally syndicated television show, Today's Homeowner with Danny Lipford, which started as a small cable show in Mobile. Danny's expertise in home improvement has also led him to be a contributor to popular magazines and websites and the go-to source for advice on everything related to the home. He has made over 200 national television appearances and served as the home improvement expert for CBS's The Early Show and The Weather Channel for over a decade. Danny is also the founder of 3 Echoes Content Studio,, and Checking In With Chelsea, a décor and lifestyle blog.

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