Find out how to put plywood over your windows to ensure more storm protection. Learn what kind of wood and screws to use and get tips on marking the panels with numbers and arrows so you know where they go.
LESLIE: Well, unless your home is equipped with hurricane shutters , an approaching storm means you had better get busy putting up some plywood.
TOM: Well, that’s right. And that does take some work. There are some ways to make the project go easier, though. And with us to talk about that is Kevin O’Connor , the host of TV’s This Old House .
KEVIN: Hi, guys.
TOM: We have had an awful lot of storms this past year and I think more and more folks are looking for a way to make this project a little less stressful. What do you think?
KEVIN: Well, I think it is very important and actually keep this in mind, because the damage to your house can actually be significant. And one of the biggest problems is when the house has a penetration in it. If you lose a window or you lose a door, it’s not just the glass or the door that’s at risk: it’s the entire house, because it can pressurize and it can literally blow the roof off the house and cause the whole house catastrophic damage. So you really do need to pay attention to this.
TOM: So now is the right time to actually fit hurricane shutters before we have a hurricane or any other type of storm, right? You don’t have the stress, there’s no lines at the home centers buying plywood. It’s a project that you could tackle at your own leisure and be ready for the next one.
KEVIN: Do it now when it is sunny and dry so that you’re prepared for the next storm . And start with a good, thick piece of plywood; 5/8-inch thick is the way to go. And keep in mind that you’re going to be reusing these, so put a little thought into it.
Measure beyond the window about an inch on either side. Try to find out where the studs are, because that’s what you’re going to be screwing into. Cut the plywood so it covers the entire window and screw it into those studs, preferably every 16 inches. Don’t nail it, because you’re going to be taking these screws out, taking this plywood off and reusing it over time.
TOM: And that attachment is definitely something you want to think about.
What about hanger bolts, the kind that have sort of a lag on one side and a machine thread on the other?
KEVIN: Well, what’s great about this is if you’re actually putting these on and off, on and off, screwing in and out even into the studs, that can loosen up over time. And so the hanger bolts allow you with a permanent fixture, a permanent sleeve in the house. And the bolt goes into that, secures the plywood and it comes off very easily. And you don’t have to worry about that connection deteriorating over time.
LESLIE: Now, it’s probably a good idea, with your – I want to call them “homemade hurricane shutters” with the plywood – to label which way is up, which window is what.
KEVIN: Sure. Right.
LESLIE: Otherwise, a storm’s coming, you’re going to be standing there with the biggest puzzle you’ve ever seen.
KEVIN: You’ve probably got 20, 30 maybe 40 windows on the house. There’s a whole bunch of different sizes. You do not want to be thinking about this when the skies are starting to get dark and the rain is starting to fall.
Exactly right, Leslie. Label them, number them, you’re good to go.
TOM: Now, if you have a masonry house, there’s another way that you can install these and you’re suggesting using barrel bolts for that.
KEVIN: Yeah. You don’t want to be drilling into the masonry, into the brick and having to secure in and out of that all the time. So now you cut the plywood so that it’s the size of the opening, so it fits within the opening. And then these barrel bolts, you can imagine them being a deadbolt on a door where you actually slide it into the hole. Put those around the perimeter of the plywood and then slide them into the masonry so it holds it nice and secure.
LESLIE: Can I ask you guys this silly question? You know, we were faced with Irene in the Northeast and I can’t tell you how many times I saw people taping up windows. Does that do anything?
KEVIN: Well, it doesn’t …
TOM: It depends. I saw a lot of people taping it up with the blue masking tape. I don’t think that does so much.
LESLIE: Right. I saw clear packing tape and I saw blue tape for painter’s tape. And I was like, “I don’t think either are going to do anything.”
KEVIN: So, wait, I think here’s what the homeowner is imagining: that they’re going to have a tree limb, for example, come flying through the window and the glass is going to shatter. The tape may cut down on some of the shatter but as I said before, that’s not the real risk.
KEVIN: Broken glass is easy to clean up. The risk is that that house gets pressurized and you have something much more major going on with the home.
TOM: Good point.
Now, Kevin, to completely avoid the potential of storm damage, it seems that it makes more sense to consider, these days, the storm resistance  when you buy anything in terms of building material, whether it’s siding or doors or windows, don’t you agree?
KEVIN: Yeah, I do. If you’re going to replace anything, if you’re going to fix anything, if you’re going to renovate anything, this is the time to upgrade. And code helps us with that but all codes are not created equal.
And if you recall Hurricane Andrew, which hit South Florida back in 1992, that really forced the Miami-Dade County to step up their building code. And they probably have the strongest, tightest code out there right now. So if you want to know what to get, look to that building code. And if you build to that, you’ve built to the best code that we’ve got in this country.
TOM: And that’s a good point. And that’s a bragging point for a lot of manufacturers. They will actually brag on their labeling and identify that their particular product meets that Miami-Dade building code. And as you say, if it does, you know that you’re good to go.
TOM: Kevin O’Connor, the host of TV’s This Old House, great advice, as always. Thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.
KEVIN: Pleasure to be here.
LESLIE: Alright. You can catch the current season of This Old House and Ask This Old House on PBS. For local listings and step-by-step videos on this project and others that you can do for your home, visit ThisOldHouse.com.
TOM: And This Old House is brought to you by Lumber Liquidators. Lumber Liquidators, hardwood floors for less.