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The Complete Guide to Hurricane, Security, and Ballistic Windows

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Given the physical location of our headquarters — South Florida — we discuss hurricane certification on a daily basis. It’s a major concern for our clients in both residential and commercial settings. In fact, you can’t even sell windows or doors in this region if they’re not hurricane-certified — and of course, we only sell doors and windows, so this is an important distinction for us.

What we notice when talking to clients though is that many people don’t know the difference between hurricane windows versus security windows versus ballistic (or bulletproof) windows. Many have been told that their hurricane windows are also security windows, which is oftentimes not the case because there are different requirements to meet each certification.

To set the record straight, we wanted to outline the differences between the three types of windows: hurricane, security, and ballistic. Here’s what makes them different, how the tests for each certification differ, and why those distinctions matter.   

Hurricane Windows

All windows installed in South Florida must be hurricane-certified, and with good reason. It’s not a question of whether or not a hurricane will be a threat at some point — it’s a given. It will happen. And when it does, we all need to be prepared. 

A photo of the ocean through an elegant sliding glass door.

As a result, hurricane certification standards were created, ensuring that people have strong, sturdy, waterproof windows and doors to protect their homes and offices when a hurricane rolls through. Hurricane-certified windows must pass the following tests:

  1. The window must be able to withstand a certain amount of air pressure (up to 75 pounds per square foot for residential spaces).
  2. The window must withstand intense and prolonged water pressure without allowing water to pass through the glazing.
  3. The window must not break when hit by a two-by-four (2×4) flying at 50 feet per second (just one time).

According to FEMA, the glazing on windows is one of the most common failure points, so it’s important to remember that in this case, the hurricane certification assessment tests all components of the window, including materials used during installation. Be sure that your contractor is using proper installation methods and materials when inserting your hurricane windows.

If it hasn’t already, it’s likely that hurricane-certification will become a larger topic of conversation for those in Texas and Louisiana, as both states have been hit with devastating hurricanes in the past couple decades. As storms intensify, we can expect this to happen more frequently, and to cause more destruction, increasing the necessity of such protections for our structures. 

Consumers need to be aware that hurricane windows are often mislabeled as having other certifications. We like to think it’s not so much that salespeople are being intentionally misleading, as much as it’s probably ignorance on their part. They likely assume that any window or door that can stand up to a hurricane can stand up to an intruder trying to break into your home.

But we know better: hurricane windows are not security windows (and they’re not even close to ballistic windows). The main reason people believe hurricane windows can pass as security windows is because they have to pass the Forced Entry Test. Let’s get into why this doesn’t cover your bases.

Security Windows

Security windows are a few steps above hurricane windows in that they’re stronger and require more (and typically repeated) force to break through. 

Hurricanes are natural disasters, which are often unpredictable and indiscriminate. Whereas a hurricane might rip apart one part of a town and leave another, someone trying to break into your house is going to be persistent. They won’t hit the window once and give up. They might bring tools to assist them. Humans have the ability to re-strategize and adapt. 

Therefore, the tests for security window certification are different — they’re more rigorous in some ways, but leave out other criteria. 

Windows that are specifically made to protect against intruders are typically thicker and reinforced so they can withstand repeated blows from say, a hammer, or an axe, or a drill. In fact, when security windows are tested for certification, hand tools and power tools are used — certification requires that the glass can take brute force as well as mechanical force.  

Some are treated with a film on the outside, while others are reinforced by using multiple layers and/or hardening technology. If you’re looking for security windows, you’ll need to be mindful about the certification — some companies claim to sell security windows when they aren’t actually certified for a specific level (i.e. hand tools, power tools, etc). 

A photo of a hurricane window from the exterior of a house.

However, it’s important to note that not all security windows are hurricane-certified. Security windows may be physically stronger and could withstand the air pressure and two-by-four tests, but they aren’t necessarily sealed the way a hurricane window needs to be to protect against water. (Chances are, no one will be trying to break into your home using a pressure washer.)

Of course, there are different levels of security windows, and they’re not all created equal. 

Let’s go back to that Forced Entry Test for a moment. The name itself makes it sound like an extensive test. But truly, what it’s testing is someone’s ability to open the window. This is assuming that intruders would rather open a window than break it (which is true — criminals have said so).

This does not take into account what a person might do if truly determined. Without getting into too much technical detail, there are multiple levels of security windows and the tools required for measuring them start at simple tools (such as pliers and screwdrivers) and go all the way up to sledgehammers, impact hammers, and grinders.

Our windows can protect against all levels (as shown in our windows video), but that’s not where our baseline begins because not everyone feels the need to upgrade that far. Most of our clients stick to the level that includes axes, heavy hammers, and drills. 

Ballistic (Bulletproof) Windows

As with hurricane-certified windows and security windows, ballistic windows come with various levels of protection — which variety is best for you is determined by the type of threat you’re concerned about. For residential settings, there are three basic levels of protection through ballistic windows.

  1. Small Guns – For homeworkers looking to protect themselves against armed intruders, this first level of protection works well. The lowest level of ballistic protection possible covers small pistols and handguns, such as a 9mm or .40 caliber. These guns are popular among criminals because they’re small and easy to conceal. Generally speaking, this level is sufficient for most homeowners.
  2. Bigger Handguns – This next level of protection covers larger handguns, like the .357 Magnum and .44 Magnum, as well as shotguns. Most people don’t carry these types of guns because they’re loud and not as easy to conceal. However, the upgrade from Level 1 to Level 2 is easy and not very expensive, so (at least in our experience) many people end up going with this type of protection.
  3. Rifles – The highest level of residential ballistic protection is against rifles, such as the AR15 and AK47. The price for this level is significantly higher than the larger handgun level, so unless they’re specifically worried about people with high fire power coming to their home, our clients generally forego this one. But again, the level you need for your home is based on the level of protection you (and your security team) feel you need.

We can actually go above and beyond these typical requests, and because everything we make is custom, we can ensure that you have exactly what you need for your set of circumstances. 

A photo of a large hurricane window in sitting room of a luxury home.

Something else to consider with ballistic windows is that they’re often tinted green — it’s a result of the materials being used (like how some corrective lenses designed to protect against computer screens are tinted purple). If you’re looking at the cheapest ballistic window options, you’ll end up with a green tint. 

Furthermore, cheaper ballistic windows are likely to be very thick. Again, think of corrective lenses: the stronger the prescription, the thicker they are. You can get higher quality lenses that are thinner and accomplish the same goals, but you have to pay for it. 

It’s not that removing the green color or making the windows thinner is impossible, it’s just that it’s more expensive. This often makes customers choose a cheaper alternative, and manufacturers are happy to oblige.

Because our clients are designing brand new (or remodeling older) luxury homes, they expect better quality than this — and we don’t blame them at all. 

They’re not aren’t worried as much about the cost — it’s a worthwhile investment for them. They want it to look flawless and serve their purpose, whether it’s to protect them against hurricanes or intruders. And we can make that happen

Truth be told, many of our clients believe windows with ballistic properties are more protection than they actually need. However, they still prefer to play it on the safe side. Many of them are in the public eye and have legitimate safety concerns, even if those safety concerns are typically non-violent in nature. 

Since they’re already spending the money on gorgeous, custom windows, for many of them it makes sense to include the added protection. Even for those who truly feel they don’t need ballistic glass and select our baseline window, they’re still getting protection from small handguns.

A Window is Only as Strong as the Materials It’s Made Of

The other major consideration among all of these types of windows are the materials used to make the window — both the glass inside and the frame encasing it. Again, there are a few different options that vary in price and quality, but there’s no mistake which material is the best, the strongest, and can offer the most protection.

Aside from the glass in the actual window, the frames are typically made out of one of the following materials:

  • Plastic (vinyl)
  • Aluminum
  • Wood
  • Steel 

Plastic, of course, is among the cheapest and lightest of materials. Most window frames themselves aren’t made from plastic — instead, they’re made of aluminum (also very cheap and lightweight) and then covered with vinyl to make them look more polished and elegant when installed. If you’ve ever seen standard windows replaced in homes, you’ve probably seen this process happen. The vinyl is then caulked and sealed around the openings (both interior and exterior) to keep moisture out. 

The trouble with plastic and aluminum is that they’re not very strong. It doesn’t take much to bend or break either material (though both materials can be hurricane-certified). Of course, if you’re not looking for any kind of special window plastic and aluminum are probably sufficient. 

Windows can also be made with wood frames. In fact, this used to be the norm — in older homes (especially century homes), you’ll find wood frames in every window, complete with single-pane glass that will crack in temperature swings and doesn’t do anything to help your energy bills. 

A photo of sliding glass doors overlooking a luxurious patio.

Of course, wood frames are more expensive than plastic and aluminum, and are less likely to withstand the elements. Wood frames are also much more exhausting to maintain. As the weather beats them up, they need to be reglazed and resealed to keep water out, otherwise, they’ll rot and literally disintegrate. Additionally, critters can get inside the wood, and it cannot stand up to hand tools or bullets. 

If you’re looking for windows that will stand up to anything — hurricanes and intruders alike — the best material for the frame is steel. But of course, it’s also the most expensive option.

You’ve probably guessed by now that our window frames are made of top quality steel. It’s imperative to us that we’re providing the best security windows possible, and that requires the best materials. 

Creating Custom Windows for Luxury Homes

We’ve been designing and building custom security windows for luxury homes for many years. We’re very good at what we do, and we’re very proud of our work.

High quality steel combined with triple-paned glass and the skilled craftsmanship of our Italian artisans have allowed us to create an elegant, impenetrable product fit for actual Kings. Not only are our windows gorgeous, but we’ve tested and retested them to make sure that nothing is getting through them. 

For a demonstration of unmatched durability and strength, check out the video on our windows page. You’ll see a man use an axe to easily break through regular impact glass, then work harder to get through our lower grade glass, and finally, fail completely to break through our top of the line ballistic glass (with both an axe and a sledgehammer — still failing, even after getting some help). 

Our windows can offer all the protection you need — high winds and rain during hurricanes, security from intruders, and safety from bullets — all in one package. 

Every one of our windows is hurricane-certified and even the lowest model glass is ballistic to some degree. All of our windows are made of steel to ensure that they’re strong enough to withstand brute force and gale force alike. 

We make the best because you deserve the best.

If you’re interested in learning more about our high security, hurricane-certified windows, check out our common questions page, read through our articles, or give us a call to ask us questions specific to your luxury home. We love talking to prospective clients and hearing what they’re looking for in security doors and windows. 

Better yet, book an appointment at one of our showrooms (either Los Angeles or Boca Raton) to see examples of our work in person. In the meantime, you can check out image galleries on our windows and doors pages.

We look forward to hearing from you soon!

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