6 Steps for Making Homemade Plywood Storm Shutters

Windows are a key area to attend to for hurricane preparedness. Sliding glass patio doors and large picture windows need to be protected from both pressure and debris.  An easy way to do that is by making homemade storm shutters.  Here’s how:

Step 1: If you’re making your own shutters, your best choice is 5/8-inch exterior-grade plywood. Measure the size of the window or door and add 8 inches to both dimensions. This will provide an ideal 4-inch overlap on all sides.

Step 2: Depending on the size of the piece, drill between four and six half-inch holes across the center of the plywood panel. These will equalize the pressure in the cavity between the window and the shutter.

Step 3: Now it’s time for the fasteners. If you have a wood-frame house, it’s fairly easy. For windows that measure 4′ by 4′ or smaller, use 1/4-inch lag screws, 2 inches long. These will penetrate the wood window frame at least 1-1/4 inches. For larger windows, use 3/8-inch lag screws that are 3-1/2 inches long. You want these to penetrate the frame at least 2-1/2 inches.  For installation into masonry walls, it’s a bit more difficult. You’ll need expansion bolts and galvanized permanent expansion anchors. Use the same data listed above in terms of fastener size, but 1-1/2 inches of penetration is adequate for all window sizes.

hurricane shutter

Step 4: Install fasteners around the perimeter of the plywood, between 2- and 2-1/2 inches from the edge, at intervals of no more than 12 inches.  In the case of wood-frame construction, use a stud finder or other method to make sure you are drilling into the window frame.

Step 5: In the case of picture windows and glass doors, install plywood as described above, but you’ll need to reinforce the plywood with 2×4 horizontal studs. Cut the studs so they extend at least 2 inches past the plywood on each side. Add extra screws to hold the studs in place and make sure the fasteners are penetrating a suitable substrate.  If you have double-entry front doors, you may wish to add extra support in the center, where the two doors meet. This can range from adding extra deadbolts or barrel latches at the top and bottom of each door, or the much easier alternative of pushing a heavy piece of furniture against the doors when the storm approaches. For added insurance, tie the two doorknobs together.

Step 6: Before you put away your shutters, be sure to mark top and bottom as well as the specific window that matches each panel. That way, all the holes will match up when the next hurricane threatens.

There is usually a lot of stress and anxiety associated with an oncoming storm. Start the hurricane-preparedness project early and allow enough time to do it right. You don’t want to have flimsy shutters or none at all because the home-improvement center ran out of the right materials.

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