Windows ready for impact

Impact-resistant windows offer 24/7 hurricane protection for coastal residents and added benefits for those in any region.

September 05, 2013
New offerings in impact-resistant windows allow coastal homeowners to embrace th

New offerings in impact-resistant windows allow coastal homeowners to embrace thier views with larger walls of windows.

Windows provide numerous benefits for homeowners, but when faced with severe weather, nothing is more important than impact resistance.

Along coastal regions where hurricanes are strong possibilities, windows must be able to withstand high wind speeds as well as flying debris.

One hot spot for inclement weather is Miami-Dade County, Fla., where many of the building codes for hurricane-protection windows originated. Now, however, these codes are expanding.

?Some of the codes are migrating a little bit inland, so where it used to be really only two miles from the shore, we?re seeing impact-requirements migrate farther inland,? says Chris Pickering, vice president of marketing for Ply Gem.

Along with the move inland, Pickering says he has seen state and local municipalities require impact-resistant products farther north along the East Coast, out of traditional hurricane areas.

As the codes continue to change, window manufacturers? impact-resistant product offerings are also evolving.

Impact-resistant windows are coming in more varieties, with taller and wider options, featuring 24/7 protection and added benefits.

Adding variety

?You want your hurricane window to be as beautiful as possible. You don?t want it to necessarily look different than a standard window,? says Christine Marvin, director of marketing for Marvin Windows and Doors. ?Aesthetics are important. That doesn?t change if it?s on the coast or if it?s not on the coast.?

Manufacturers are not limiting coastal clients? style and material options. Instead, they are making impact-resistant glass available across many different product lines.

This technology largely consists of two laminated glass layers with an interlayer that helps stop flying debris.

?What?s going to happen is that your glass is going to shatter in place, but the laminated layers preserve the overall structural integrity of the product,? Marvin says. ?The idea is that your window isn?t blowing out of the opening.?

The availability of this glass on different products gives remodelers and their clients more options.

?We?ll have the right performance. Go choose your colors. Go choose your finish, size, and operating type,? says Elizabeth Souders, director of product management for Jeld-Wen. ?Then we?ll back it up with the right build.?

Souders says she finds that decisions are based largely on aesthetics followed by price in areas where impact-resistant windows are required by code.

?Anytime we bring something to market, we always contemplate variation that would suit the coastal market,? Marvin says. ?It?s just become an extension of everything we do that?s non-hurricane.?

Marvin Windows and Doors offers their StormPlus product in numerous styles like round tops, double-hung, direct lays, swinging doors, and sliding doors. It?s all about a healthy portfolio of products with hurricane variations, according to Marvin.

Impact-resistant products not only vary in style but also in material. Manufacturers are seeing variations in wood, aluminum or vinyl windows based on region, but one trend does stand out.

?Impact products kind of mirror what?s happening with the rest of the industry, which is that vinyl is becoming more and more prevalent as the base material used,? Pickering says. ?Typically with an impact product, the vinyl needs to be reinforced with some kind of fiberglass or aluminum or structural seal reinforcement.?

Material choice offers the possibility of a low-maintenance product as well. Aluminum-clad products in a coastal environment have some limitations, according to Stacy Einck, public relations manager for Andersen Corp.

?Aluminum-clad product is going to require washing and waxing,? she says. ?Aluminum corrodes in a salt-water environment, so vinyl and our Fibrex composite material do not.?

Andersen blends wood fiber and thermoplastic polymer to create its Fibrex material.

Reaching new heights

Manufacturers say that impact-resistant technology has led to new possibilities for coastal homes. They are continually pushing the envelope toward taller, wider windows.

?We?re seeing more and more people adding walls of windows to bring the view inside and kind of perpetuate that outdoor living kind of feel where you can bring the outside in,? Einck says.

This desire to show off the outside view comes with challenges. Manufacturers, however, continue to embrace this trend.

Jeld-Wen now manufacturers a double-hung window that approaches 10 feet tall and has passed the tests for a Zone 4 as well as the large missile impact resistance test, according to Souders. This test shoots 2-by-4 wood pieces out of an air cannon at 50 feet per second to determine if the window will be able to handle flying debris.

The entire window system (not just the glass itself) is crucial as impact-resistant windows reach new heights and walls of windows become more popular.

?The mulling systems?when two windows are put together side-by-side in order to create a large window construct?have to be rated the same as the individual windows,? Pickering says. ?Supposing that piece of debris happens to hit right at that mull joint, that?s equally as strong as if it were to hit anywhere else on the window.?

This window system also includes stronger hardware, stainless steel components, and, in double-hung windows, a more substantial checkrail, according to Marvin.

?The glass is part of the system, and that?s probably the one you focus in on the most, but every detail of that window is engineered to ensure that it withstands the hurricane-force winds,? she says.

Protecting 24/7

One advantage of impact-resistant windows is the 24/7 protection that hurricane shutters and traditional plywood do not provide.

?Interest in impact-resistant products is likely to grow because the products help protect a home or commercial structure year-round, whether the occupants are there or away,? says Kathy Krafka Harkema, spokesperson for Pella Windows and Doors.

If the occupants happen to be away or if it is a vacation home, they do not need to hire someone to go close their storm shutters or put up plywood. If the occupants are home, they still will not have to rush out as a storm approaches.

The impact-resistant windows can also be beneficial if homeowners did not have to leave during a storm.

?You still have a window that provides light in the event that the power goes out as opposed to having a shutter system that blocks that light,? Pickering says.

Providing other benefits

Hurricane protection and an added light source are not the only benefits of impact-resistant windows. Some clients choose impact-resistant windows even when they do not live along the coast.

?They?re also used in construction in densely populated areas where building owners want to help reduce outside noise, like that of city traffic, or in metro airport flight paths,? Krafka Harkema says. ?Thanks to their excellent sound-reduction properties, they add peace-of-mind in a variety of regions.?

Along with high performance in sound reduction, lessening the chance of theft is another benefit even if the customer is not in a hurricane region.

?We also do tend to see impact-resistant windows used where code does not dictate but where homeowners for one reason or another feel the need to have that extra layer of security and safety,? Pickering says. ?Having an impact-resistant glass can prevent intrusions into the home.?

Energy efficiency remains a key component when customers are looking to buy, whether they are in coastal areas or not. Impact-resistant windows can offer added efficiency.

?If you have two panes of glass, that air space between the two panes is where a lot of the insulation value comes in,? Souders says.

The U-factor, which measures heat transfer through a window, and the solar heat gain coefficient, which measures how well the window blocks heat caused by sunlight, are key consideration factors, according to Souders.

?Once they have the right look, colors, material type, now they want to make sure it?s going to meet their energy-efficiency needs,? Souders says. ?They want to know what that monthly energy bill is going to look like and how to incorporate energy efficiency into it.?

Just because a customer lives in an area that requires impact-resistant windows does not mean that he or she only has one glass option.

Many manufacturers offer different glass options with impact resistance such as low-emissive coatings to reflect heat but still allow light to pass through.

Changing requirements

The additional benefits of impact-resistant windows have led to new innovations, and manufacturers say this trend will only grow as codes continue to change.

Manufacturers have their eyes set on one area in particular, the Mid-Atlantic states, after Hurricane Sandy took its toll in 2012.

?With the storms that we?ve seen recently, there?s been more of a demand for the impact-resistant StormWatch product,? Einck says. ?With Hurricane Sandy, for instance, we?ve done a lot of work in that area to help people get their homes back together.?

The exact effect of Hurricane Sandy on the impact-resistant window market, however, is not yet known.

?We are anticipating code changes in that area and we?re watching them closely,? Marvin says. ?You can also anticipate that there will be a demand for these types of windows in those environments. There?s still just a lot to play out on what that direction is exactly.? PR

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