Bob Vila – Fabric Storm Shutters
A New Generation of Fabric Storm Shutters
Lightweight, strong, and easy-to-install, today’s fabric storm “shutters” are manufactured to withstand the force of a Category 5 hurricane.
A few weeks back, during a trip to New Orleans, I had the opportunity to tour Brad Pitt’s Make It Right building project in the Lower Ninth Ward. Cesar Rodriguez, the nonprofit’s Construction Service Manager, served as my very informative guide. It was exciting to finally get a firsthand look at the 75 colorful LEED-certified dwellings that make up the first phase of the rebuilding initiative. Of the houses’ many forward-thinking features, I was especially curious to learn more about the new generation of fabric hurricane “shutters” that come standard in all of the Foundation’s “green” homes.
Made of a super-strong ballistic nylon—similar to what automakers use to fashion airbags—the fabric panels are a far cry from the cumbersome metal shutters I grew up helping to install whenever bad weather threatened my South Florida home. Besides being easier to set up, the fabric guards get high marks for sustainability, especially when compared to the plywood many homeowners use to board up their windows, then send straight to the landfill once the storm clears.
“Given what happened to the Lower Ninth Ward in the wake of Katrina, it was really important to Make It Right to offer homeowners a safe approach to preventing future hurricane damage,” says Cesar Rodriguez. “All of our houses are elevated five to eight feet from the ground, and many of the residents are elderly,” notes Rodriquez, a combination that makes installing heavy metal shutters or nailing plywood planks to doors and windows a laborious, costly, and potentially dangerous endeavor.
AstroGuard, the company that manufactured the lightweight hurricane panels for Make It Right’s first 75 homes, numbers among a growing number of firms now offering this simple-to-install alternative to traditional storm shutters. Based in Florida, home to the country’s most stringent hurricane building codes, AstroGuard guarantees that their super-strong panels will protect against wind, water, and flying debris generated by a Category 5 hurricane (Katrina was a Category 3).
Although price estimates depend on the square footage of a home as well as who installs the panels—DIYers can now buy the hurricane fabric and anchoring system at Home Depot—Make It Right spent roughly $1,000 to $1,200 per house to have 15 to 16 door and window panels custom-made and installed, notes Rodriguez. Made to withstand decades of wear and tear, the fabric panels feature a convenient label where homeowners can indicate the dimensions and location of the unit’s corresponding window or door, a helpful tool when a storm’s coming and timeliness counts. And best of all, once the bad weather passes, you simply fold the panels, put them in a storage bag, and store in a closest—where they’ll be waiting, good as new, the next time Mother Nature comes calling.