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Securing plywood to protect windows

If you're going to use it, the panels should be measured, drilled and labeled in advance.

Published April 15, 2007


Plywood is the covering of first or last resort for many homeowners, but it's heavy and hard to store and attach when a storm nears. If it gets soaked repeatedly, the layers can peel apart. It's a fire and termite hazard.

If you're going to use it, the panels should be measured, drilled and labeled in advance.

If you choose plywood to protect your windows, here's how to attach it properly.

The Florida Building Code recommends a minimum thickness of seven-sixteenths of an inch for exterior-grade plywood.

The Federal Alliance for Safe Homes, which likes even heavier five-eighths-inch plywood, recommends double-headed nails, wood screws, bolts, wood or masonry anchors, nuts and large washers. The type of fastener required will depend on the type of construction (wood, masonry or concrete) and the type of exterior veneer (siding, brick or stucco).

A 4- by 8-foot sheet of five-eights-inch plywood costs about $15 these days.

If your home is masonry, "We recommend you use at least 2-inch masonry screws," said Leslie Chapman-Henderson, president of the alliance. "We do not recommend masonry nails."

Some of those masonry screws come with sleeves; some don't. Use them if you've got them. The alliance also recommends using washers with the screws.

If your home is wood, the alliance recommends using 10-penny common nails, 12-penny box nails or half-inch wood screws.

You can leave wood screws in place in a wood home. If you used nails or you don't want to leave screws in place, a two-part epoxylike putty filler is available in the paint sections of home improvement and hardware stores. Knead the two parts together and plug the holes. The plug will harden, and next time around you can redrill your hole.

When you take down plywood, remove the fasteners and patch the holes with stucco, grout patching or wood putty, depending on the exterior of your home, the alliance recommends. Then touch up the paint.

Some people install their plywood on masonry homes with a permanent anchor, epoxying a sleeve in place and then attaching the plywood with a permanent bolt or screw. If that's what you did, just leave it in place. (Your fasteners should be rated for 490 pounds pullout strength. The label will tell you this.)

If you used masonry screws (one popular brand is Tapcons), you can back them out, remove the plywood and reinstall the screws. If you don't like the blue color of Tapcons, paint them to match your house.

Tapcons can be reused as long as they get a good bite into the concrete, said Jeff Burton, building codes manager for the Institute for Business and Home Safety in Tampa. If they spin, replace them or drill a new hole.

Keep plywood shutters in a dry area. Painting or staining the plywood will protect it from moisture.

Applying plywood

How many fasteners do you need, and how should they be spaced? The Federal Alliance for Safe Homes offers this guideline:

- If the shortest dimension of the window or door is 4 feet or less, space fasteners at 6 inches on center.

- If the shortest dimension of the window or door is more than 4 feet and less than or equal to 6 feet, space fasteners at 4 inches on center.

- Plywood should not be used where the shortest dimension of the window or door exceeds 8 feet.

How to board up

Visit for an animated explanation of how to board up your windows. Click on "Hurricanes." Then under "Learn About Hurricanes," scroll down to "Strengthen Your Home." Select "Animated How-To: Emergency Board-Up."

Other information is available there about protecting doors, windows and roofs.


[Last modified April 10, 2007, 17:33:29]

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