What is an impact window?

Impact windows have become prevalent over the past 25 years, especially in the Fort Lauderdale area. After hurricane Andrew, municipalities in the Miami-Dade County in South Florida started to look for stronger window systems. Keeping the exterior envelope of the window during a storm there are greater chances of keeping the roof in place. 

They figured out a way to maintain the integrity of the windows. Using laminated glass, which is a type of safety glass used in the automobile industry. It holds together when impacted, thanks to an interlayer, typically made of polyvinyl butyral (PVB). This interlayer keeps the layers of glass together when broken. The window industry is trying to reduce the shards of glass from flying and causing any more damage.

It is very common to find houses with impact windows in the Fort Lauderdale area. The state of Florida has been developing and implementing building codes regarding hurricanes. All of these standards and codes are designed to test and grade impact windows for safety and reliability. 

Benefits of having impact windows

Impact windows have a real structural advantage. It’s been proved by studies that total home destruction is mostly caused by sudden pressure changes. They tend to happen when windows and doors blow out entirely due to the winds. The increased air pressure entering the home can blow off roofs and cause walls to collapse. Having these windows can save a home from suffering a devastating collapse.

They also help reduce damage from severe thunderstorms that come with strong winds. Storms can hit anywhere at any time being prepared and safe is fundamental when they do. To ensure the safety of your home and family, you must have impact windows in your house.

In addition to preventing the glass from breaking, laminated glass also has other benefits. It acts as a barrier, protecting the interior from the exterior’s sounds. As well as protecting from burglary and from UV fading. While the construction cost may increase thanks to their installment, insurance rates can be reduced by as much as 45 percent. 

Common materials used

There are three options when it comes to the framing of impact windows; aluminum, vinyl, and wood. Among the pros and cons of each material, we can find that aluminum is stronger and lightweight. It is also aesthetically pleasing, low maintenance and recyclable, but on the downside, it needs to be painted eventually.

Vinyl is an excellent insulator, with low maintenance, cost, and high energy performance, however, its recyclability is still being researched. Lastly, wood is recyclable with high energy performance, but unfortunately, it rots and warps, which means it will have to be replaced eventually to preserve the window’s integrity.

Common materials used for impact windows glass

When it comes to the glass itself, there are several options:

  1. Laminated glass consists of two sheets of glass bonded together with a plastic film. It is used in colder climates, where temperatures can differ 50 degrees between the inside and outside in winter.
  2. Insulated laminated, an additional pane of glass is added to a laminated unit, with hermetically sealed air space in between.
  3. Another option is SentryGlas Plus, an interlayer of proprietary inoplast material that sits between panes of glass. It’s lighter in weight, stronger and less susceptible to yellowing over time than other storm-proof options. 
  4. Liquid glass resins can be permanently applied to glass. UV light is used as a catalyst to cure and harden it. Sometimes a PET film is also added to make the glass even stronger.
  5. There are glass/plastic hybrid windows, between two panes of glass there is a thin sheet of polycarbonate Lexan. Thus, making the materials bond together. Making the glass stronger. However, in warm climates, polycarbonate tends to expand.

Maintenance

Once you’ve opted for installing impact windows, you must know how to properly take care of them. The frame should be cleaned regularly with a proper cleaning solution for the material they’re made of. It’s important to test any product in a small section of the frame to look out for any negative reactions to it. 

The seals or weather stripping should be checked, as well as the locks and sills. The design of the frames should not be modified without consulting an expert beforehand since it may affect the integrity of it. The screen should be cleaned separately from the glass, and nothing sharp should be used.

The glass should be cleaned regularly with a soft cleaner and mop. With care not to scratch the surface of the glass or cause any damage to it. Single pane windows tend to be victims of condensation, especially in areas where interior and exterior temperatures have a significant difference. Condensation can debilitate the glass and damage the framing as well. Slightly opening the window can help reduce condensation.

Importance

No glass is entirely break-proof, but impact windows break in a manner that cracks. This is an advantage because it doesn’t send shards of glass flying. Some other benefits include surviving winds up to 200 mph without blowing out. They’re also available in different styles and sizes.

When standard windows blow out during a storm or hurricane, the integrity of the entire structure is compromised. The pressure caused by the winds can lead to the roof blowing out. Another danger is having shards of glass flying around, as well as broken branches, and various objects coming from the streets.

In the Fort Lauderdale area, hurricanes hit more often than not. Which is why it’s so necessary to be protected at all times. Windows must meet the standards and building codes. Though they increase construction costs, the safety that they provide makes every last penny spent completely worth it. Having impact windows will allow you to sleep at night, and rest easy, knowing your family will be safe and sound in case of a storm or hurricane.

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