Economical Polycarbonate Storm Panels for the DIY'er
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Special Caution for Florida residents
The process of installing anchors around the perimeter of each window in the home, while not difficult, can be time-consuming. Accordingly, I am always on the lookout for a quicker (but still effective) method of mounting panels to the house. Some time ago I ran across a web site for a Florida company promoting the use of 3M Dual Lock VHB recloseable plastic fasteners for securing hurricane panels to the home. The 3M Dual Lock fastener is a really nifty product (it's like Velcro on steroids) with surprising holding power. Each half of the Dual Lock fastener is attached with adhesive and they are great for hanging light pictures and other light household tasks. When I learned about them I thought they might be a perfect alternative to having to screw permanent anchors into the home. At the time I inquired as to whether or not the fasteners had been tested to any ASTM or Florida standard and was told "there was no such test". I was so hopeful that these fasteners would be an alternative to mounting permanent anchors into a home that I built a test "buck" out of 2x12's and took it and a 4'x8' sheet of polycarbonate to National Certified Testing Laboratories in Orland, Florida in mid-April of 2006 to have the fasteners tested. I put 2" strips of the Dual Lock fasteners 4" from the corners and every 12" on center all the way around the perimeter. It was extremely difficult to remove the panel from the test buck by pulling on it (by hand) and I really thought the devices would pass the testing. BUT, when NCTL's big blower motor was turned on (to simulate the pressures encountered in a hurricane-strength storm), the fasteners let go long before the blower got up to its operating pressure of 60 pounds per square foot. I'd have to say the motor was running no more than 20-25% of speed. These glued-on plastic fasteners can't begin to hold a panel on a house when subjected to the negative (pulling) forces generated during a hurricane. According to the tests designed by ASTM, a 140MPH wind generates a pushing and pulling force (as it swirls around a house) of almost 2000 pounds on a 4'x8' panel and there's just no way these plastic recloseable fasteners are going to be able to withstand that kind of force, especially ones attached to the home by GLUE. To promote their use as an adequate method of mounting storm panels to a home about to endure hurricane-force winds, is, in my opinion, quite irresponsible. If you are considering attaching your hurricane panels with these fasteners, instead of the bolts suggested, recommended and tested by the manufacturer, ask the "inventor" of this method if he ever had these items subjected to any kind of laboratory testing.
Before you consider purchasing panels held on by 3M Dual Locks, Velcro or any other type of recloseable fastener, ask to know the Florida Product Approval number for the material being installed and visit the the State of Florida's DCA web site and read the engineering details describing how the material was attached during the certification testing. There are TWO types of ASTM certification tests for storm panels. One is the missile impact test where a 2x4 is fired out of an air cannon at the panel being tested. The other is the pressure cycling test. In the pressure cycling test the panel is subjected to alternating pressures of 60 pounds per square foot pushing on the panel and 60 pounds per square foot pulling on the panel. To pass this test the panel (and its attachment devices) must go through 4,500 cycles of positive and negative pressure. (It wouldn't matter if you used 1/2" plate steel for hurricane panels if you put them up with chewing gum.) Worse yet, if your hurricane panels come off, they become part of the problem (as wind-borne debris) instead of part of the solution.