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Shutter Alternatives
Home Builder’s Guide to Coastal Construction

FEMA 499/June 2005
Technical Fact Sheet No. 26

Purpose: To provide general information about the installation and use of storm
shutters in coastal areas.

Why Are Storm Shutters Needed?
Shutters are an important part of a hurricane-resistant or storm-resistant home.
They provide protection for glass doors and windows against windborne debris,
which is often present in coastal storms. Keeping the building envelope intact
(i.e., no window or door breakage) during a major windstorm is vital to the
structural integrity of a home. If the envelope is breached, sudden
pressurization of the interior can cause major structural damage (e.g., roof
loss) and will lead to significant interior and contents damage from wind-driven

Graphic: plywood panels are a cost-effective means of protection.

Where Are Storm Shutters Required and Recommended?
Model building codes, which incorporate wind provisions from ASCE 7 (1998
edition and later), require that buildings within the most hazardous portion of
the hurricane-prone region, called the windborne debris region (see page 4 of
this fact sheet), either (1) be equipped with shutters or impact-resistant
glazing and designed as enclosed structures, or (2) be designed as partially
enclosed structures (as if the windows and doors are broken out). Designing a
partially enclosed structure typically requires upgrading structural components
and connections, but will not provide protection to the interior of the
building. Designers and owners should assume that a total loss of the building
interior and contents will occur in partially enclosed structures.

Using opening protection (e.g., shutters or laminated glass) is recommended in
windborne debris regions, as opposed to designing a partially enclosed
structure. The Home Builder’s Guide to Coastal Construction also recommends
giving strong consideration to the use of opening protection in all hurricane-
prone areas where the basic wind speed is 100 mph (3-second peak gust) or
greater, even though the model building codes do not require it. Designers
should check with the jurisdiction to determine whether state or local
requirements for opening protection exceed those of the model code.

Note: Many coastal homes have large and unusually shaped windows, which will
require expensive, custom shutters. Alternatively, such windows can be
fabricated with laminated (impact-resistant) glass.

Graphic: Temporary, manufactured metal panel shutter. The shutter is installed
in a track permanently mounted above and below the window frame. The shutter is
placed in the track and secured with wing nuts to studs mounted on the track.
This type of shutter is effective and quickly installed, and the wing nut and
stud system provides a secure anchoring method.

What Types of Shutters Are Available?
A wide variety of shutter types are available, from the very expensive motor-
driven, roll-up type, to the less expensive temporary plywood panels (see
photograph on page 1 of this fact sheet). Designers can refer to Miami-Dade
County, Florida, which has established a product approval mechanism for shutters
and other building materials to ensure they are rated for particular wind and
windborne debris loads (see Additional Resources on page 5 of this fact sheet).

Shutter Type: Temporary plywood panels
Cost: Low
Advantages: Inexpensive
Disadvantages: Must be installed and taken down every time they are needed; must
be adequately anchored to prevent blow-off; difficult to install on upper levels

Shutter Type: Temporary manufactured panels
Cost: Low/Medium
Advantages: Easily installed on lower levels
Disadvantages: Must be installed and taken down every time they are needed;
difficult to install on upper levels

Shutter Type: Permanent, manual-closing
Cost: Medium/High
Advantages: Always in place. Ready to be closed
Disadvantages: Must be closed manually from the outside; difficult to access on
upper levels

Shutter Type: Permanent, motor-driven
Cost: High
Advantages: Easily opened and closed from the inside
Disadvantages: Expensive

Shutter Styles
Shutter styles include colonial, Bahama, roll-up, and accordion.

Are There Special Requirements for Shutters in Coastal Areas?
ASCE 7 and the International Building Code (IBC) state that shutters (or
laminated glazing) shall be tested in accordance with the American Society for
Testing and Materials (ASTM) standards ASTM E 1886 and ASTM E 1996 (or other
approved test methods). E 1886 specifies the test procedure; E 1996 specifies
missile loads. The IBC allows the use of wood panels (Table 1609.1.4) and
prescribes the type and number of fasteners to be used to attach the panels. A
shutter may look like it is capable of withstanding windborne missiles; unless
it is tested, however, its missile resistance is unknown.

When installing any type of shutter, carefully follow manufacturer’s
instructions and guidelines. Be sure to attach shutters to structurally adequate
framing members (see shutter details on page 3 of this fact sheet). Avoid
attaching shutters to the window frame or brick veneer face. Always use hardware
not prone to corrosion when installing shutters.

What Are “Hurricane-Prone Regions” “Windborne Debris Regions”?
ASCE 7, the IBC, and the International Residential Code (IRC) define hurricane-
prone regions as:
--the U.S. Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico coasts where the basic wind speed
is greater than 90 mph (3-second peak gust), and
--Hawaii, Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and American Samoa.
ASCE 7, the IBC, and the IRC define windborne debris regions as areas within
hurricane-prone regions located:
--within 1 mile of the coast where the basic wind speed is equal to or greater
than 110 mph (3-second peak gust) and in Hawaii, or
--in all areas where the basic wind speed is equal to or greater than 120 mph
(3-second peak gust), including Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and
American Samoa.

Additional Resources
American Society of Civil Engineers. Minimum Design Loads for Buildings and
Other Structures, ASCE 7. (

International Code Council. International Building Code. 2003.

International Code Council. International Residential Code. 2003.

The Engineered Wood Association. Hurricane Shutter Designs Set 5 of 5. Hurricane
shutter designs for wood-frame and masonry buildings. (

Miami-Dade County, Florida, product testing and approval process – information
available at