Photo of hurricane Fran - 1999

Lowcountry Storm Panels

Economical Polycarbonate Storm Panels for the DIY'er

Photo of hurricane Fran - 1999
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Panel and Anchor Installation Notes
As the homeowner, nobody can dictate to you (at least not yet) how to install your storm panels. If you believe that the methods described here are adequate, you are entitled to follow them. However, if you believe that your exposure (or some other reason) compels you to replicate the methods used during certification testing then you must follow the procedures outlined in the testing documentation (available on our Products/Pricing page) precisely.. I chose not to do so for my own installation based on my knowledge of the wind zone I am in, the surrounding structures near my home, my distance from the open ocean and asthetic considerations. I chose to use larger, stainless steel anchors because their pull-out rating is higher and I believe they are more attractive than the zinc-coated  PanelMate brand anchors used during the testing. In addition, the bolts I used have a larger head than the wingnuts used during the testing and will have less of a tendency to be pulled through the panel under extreme conditions. Such is the nature of the "Do-it-Yourselfer". But, let me finish this thought by saying that I do not profess to be an expert on the mounting of hurricane panels, nor do I know if there is such a thing. The information provided here is to assist you in making an informed decision on what installation technique might work well for your situation. I accept no responsibility or liability for any aspect of your storm panel installation or future consequences that may arise out of your use of the products or information provided here. The discussion that follows describes my experience attaching Gallina storm panels to my own home..

With that out of the way, there are several ways of effectively attaching storm panels to your home. The method you choose depends on your own evaluation of the difficulty of performing the tasks combined with your economic and asthetic concerns. In any case, in my opinion, the "best" method, with all things considered, involves the installation of permanent anchors around the openings to be protected. My reasoning for this is that they can be covered so as to not detract from the appearance of the home when the panels are not mounted and they make the installation of the panel a breeze when you need them. Put another way, the time you invest (when you are not pressed) installing the anchors is repaid by making it easy to mount the panels when you may be sorely pressed for time.

For my own home, I chose to install 2-1/2" stainless steel female flush-mounted anchors. There are cheaper anchors out there, but these won't rust, they look decent when the panel isn't mounted and even include a nylon decorative screw to cover the hole. They are also suitable for use in masonry. The 2-1/2" length will suffice for almost all types of exterior trim - the exception being stucco applied over wood. In that case a 3-1/2" anchor would be needed. The other type of anchor is a "male" anchor that has a threaded rod that protrudes about 1-1/2" from the trim and can be covered by a white rubber cap when the panels are not mounted. I don't particularly like the look of these so I went with what I perceived to be the more elegant solution.

The process of installing the anchors is a simple enough exercise and involves only the use of an electric drill and other standard handyman tools. In deciding just where to place the anchors I tried to strike a balance between the spacing that the manufacturer used during their official testing (14") and a "reasonable" amount for the particular panel involved. I first considered the longest panel edge and placed my corner anchors no more that 5" from the panel corners. Then I divided the remaining space between the corner anchors into whatever equal spacing was roughly 14" apart. Sometimes it worked out that the spacing needed to be 12" and other times it worked out that 15" worked well. For the short edge, I often ended up going 10" in from the corner and then splitting the remainder. It just seemed to me that having two anchors installed real close to each other at the corners was "overkill". After deciding on the spacing for the anchors, my technique was to mark the anchor locations on the panel (on the protective peel-off film applied at the factory) with a magic marker. Then, I put the panel up temporarily using a couple of long screws at the upper corners. Once the panel was held in place I drilled small (1/8") "locator" holes through the panel and into the house through each of the magic marker marks. Then I'd take the panel down, drill the anchor holes with the combo drill bit, squirt a little caulk in the hole, screw the anchor in and wipe off the excess caulk that squeezed out of the hole. When it comes to placing the final holes in the panel I've always found that trying to drill a large hole in thin material in an exact location was difficult because the drill bit tends to "grab" and "walk" suddenly. In order to ensure that the holes in the panels lined up properly with the anchor locations, I enlarged the "locator" holes with a rotary tool (i.e. Dremel or RotoZip) with a tapered grinding bit and made them a little bigger than the 1/4" anchor bolt threads.

When it comes to these anchors - it is not a test. Just as there is no "perfectly right" answer, there is no "wrong" answer, but the closer you keep to the 14" standard, the more assurance you'll have that you're doing it the way the manufacturer would have. At first glance that spacing may seem excessively close, but it is important to understand that a hurricane isn't just a straight-line wind. It includes swirling and gusting winds that push and pull on the panels. (Consider what holds up a 200 ton airplane to understand the force of these pressure gradients). It is absolutely essential that proper thought be given to this pulling force and, that whatever anchors you choose, they are anchored solidly into the framing studs of your home. Ultimately, it's up to you to decide what is "reasonable" for each of your windows.

At any rate, my approach was to install these anchors on two windows a day (which typically took 2-3 hours) and I finished the project in an unhurried fashion in under 2 weeks. Once the anchors are installed, the task of actually mounting the panel(s) in anticipation of a storm is very easy. My largest panel has 20 anchors (I may have overdone this one a little - it was the second window I attacked) and I timed myself actually mounting the panel - it took 4 minutes. A battery-powered electric drill (set to its lowest torque setting) with a phillips bit makes this a breeze.

I suppose it would also be possible to mount these panels the same way someone waiting until the last minute would install plywood storm panels. This technique would involve the use of long wood screws (again hopefully screwed into the framing studs that surround every window). If I were going to do it this way, I'd strongly recommend the use of at least a 1" washer on the exterior of the panel to prevent the pulling forces from tearing the panel off of the screw. Ultimately, this may the best way to handle protecting windows on a home with vinyl siding. Installing permanent anchors on a home with vinyl siding involves considering two other issues. One, vinyl siding is just hung on the home with nails that are loosely hammered in so that the siding can expand and contract as the sun hits it. If permanent anchors were installed on opposite ends of the same piece of siding it could cause the siding to buckle unattractively when heated by the sun, so caution would have to be exercised when deciding where to place the anchors on windows that are close together. Secondly, drilling a hole through the vinyl siding might create an opportunity for rain water to get behind the siding, potentially eventually saturating the sheathing behind the siding. Serious consideration would have to be given as to how to seal the holes in the siding. This could be made easier by utilizing "male" anchors (because of the smaller diameter hole needed).. Whether it be polycarbonate or plywood, these same issues exist for homeowners with vinyl siding - perhaps the better way would be to utilize aluminum "h" channels on the edges as a method of minimizing the number of holes that would need to be drilled into the home. Again, I don't claim to be an expert and there may be other solutions to these problems. In the final analysis, it is probably a good idea to contact a siding manufacturer to get their thoughts on this issue. (Siding installers might have some ideas as well, but I'd still consult with a manufacturer, like Norandex).

If you have any questions on installation issues please either e-mail me at mailto:sales@lowcountrystormpanels.com or call 843-227-8887 and I'll be happy to give you my thoughts.