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Many people have been hitting my blog from Google for instructions installing metal storm panels.  I cannot do that for everyone, since every house is different.  Here are a few tips that I have learned based on my personal experience installing my storm panels.

Since you are ready to install your metal storm shutters, I assume the following is true.

  • You will be installing on a stucco concrete-block house.
  • You have accurately measured your windows.
  • You have ordered and received your storm panels and tracks.
  • You have carefully inspected and measured your new panels and tracks.
  • Everything will fit.
  • You have all the necessary fasteners.
  • You have all the necessary tools.
  • You have pre-drilled all the 1/4-inch track mounting holes.

 Since the above process can take months, you obviously started back in April.  With that as an introduction, here are some things I did/learned about as a single-person hurricane panel installer.  Pictures of most of the tools and fasteners can be seen here at the Hurricane Depot site.

  • Allow yourself plenty of time to install the tracks.  I had to spread the effort over several days to allow for interruptions from family, weather, work, dinner, darkness, etc.
  • My first efforts were on our master bedroom bay windows since they were inside our screen porch.  This eliminated the bugs I had to contend with as I figured out the best technique.
  • Do your first install on windows with easy access to your tools.  You will forget something.
  • I planned to have my headers match up with the top edge line of the stucco trim around my windows.  This guaranteed that the top fasteners satisfied edge distance requirements.  It also made the headers, which would be left up permanently, look better.
  • I sized the panel length to ensure the lower tracks met the fastener edge distance requirements.  I also made panels for similar-size windows all the same length in whole inches.  This reduced the number of different lengths I had to have to cover the entire house.
  • I hung the headers first.  The intent is to make the easiest installation the one at the top of the ladder.  I measured the stucco trim width and the track width, then subtracted and halved the result.  This gave me the distance from the edge of the stucco trim to the header (for example, 2-inches).
  • With the edge distance known, I measured the distance from the end of the track to the hole.  I also measured the distance from the top edge to the hole.  With these three numbers, I was able to measure, mark and drill the first hole in the wall.
  • With the first end hole drilled, I inserted a Tapcon through the header hole and hung the header from the hole.  After shifting the ladder and tools, I pivoted the header up so I could position it horizontally, check it level, and drill the hole for the other end with the header in position.  I then drove both Tapcons fully in.
  • With the header in position, I then drilled and inserted the Tapcons for the remaining holes.
  • This technique was much better than my first effort of marking all the holes on the stucco and then going back and drilling them.  Slight variations made driving the Tapcons very difficult.  I had to use a regular hex head driver bit rather than the Tapcon Condrive.
  • Short headers can just be held up and drilled.  The technique above is for longer headers.
  • With the header in position, insert a panel into the header and hold it tightly in position.  Mark the sill about 1/4-inch below the bottom of the panel.  The extra space will allow for the thickness of the footer (about 1/16th-inch) and some insertion jiggle room.
  • If you are drilling into pre-cast concrete window headers and sills, be ready to drill another hole if you hit their reinforcing rods.  Drilling through the reinforcing will weaken the piece.  Give up and drill a new hole nearby.
  • Adjust the 1/4-inch by 1/2-inch combination bit such that the pilot drill bit extends out far enough to account for the full length of your chosen length of sidewalk bolts.  I am using 1-1/2-inch sidewalk bolts.  You will need to drill in almost the full depth of the larger portion of the combination drill bit.
  • Remove the panel, hold the footer track up, align it horizontally to be identical to the header, and drill a shallow marker hole using the combination bit.  This is why you pre-drilled your footer holes using a 1/4-inch bit.  Using the combination bit, drill the hole for the anchor.
  • Blow out all the powdered concrete.  Insert the anchor zinc-end first.  Set the anchor by tapping the lead down firmly over the zinc.  Do not hit it too hard or you will damage the threads in the zinc.  If you do (like I did at first), use a 1/4-20 tap to chase the threads and clean them up.
  • Use a battery-powered drill with a Phillips bit to install and remove the sidewalk bolts.  This makes the work go faster and minimizes bit changes in your corded drill.  The battery drill can also be set up for a low torque installation.  Drive them in slowly the first several times to prevent damage.
  • Loosely fasten the footer track with a sidewalk bolt to the sill.  Swing it up until it is horizontal, check it level, and drill another marker hole through the footer track hole.  Drill and set that anchor.  Fasten the track to the sill with another sidewalk bolt.  Tighten both sidewalk bolts firmly.  Drill marker holes through the rest of the footer holes.
  • Remove the footer track.  Drill and set the remaining anchors.
  • Test install the sidewalk bolts.  Chase the threads of the anchors as required until you get smooth operation.
  • Install the footer track using all sidewalk bolts to ensure alignment.  Widen the holes in the track if any bolt is a tight fit.
  • Test fit all storm panels and then remove them.
  • Remove the footer track, reinstall the sidewalk bolts tightly in the anchors to protect them, and store the panels and the footer track for storm use.
  • Install the sidewalk bolts tightly to ensure curious neighborhood children cannot easily remove them.
  • I will be painting the sidewalk bolts to match the stucco window trim.  This will make them almost invisible from a distance.
  • Use caution and wash your hands after handling the lead anchors.
  • If you do not use a tool belt, take extra fasteners up the ladder with you.  If you need to install two Tapcons, take four.  You will drop two.
  • Wear gloves throughout the installation to prevent cuts.  I used a pair of Craftsman mechanic's gloves.
  • Ensure you have enough washered wing nuts to install all panels at the same time when a storm approaches.
  • Some washered wing nuts have a higher or squared central hub that makes it impossible to fully seat them in the driver bit. This is not a significant issue since the wing nut bit still fully engages and drives the wing nut.
  • You may need to chase the threads of the wingnuts with thr 1/4-20 tap to clean them up for use.
  • You will need to modify the header process if your soffit is low.  Have fun -- I did.
  • Do not underestimate the curiosity of a two-year-old for your tools, concrete dust, metal shavings, etc.

Update 1:

  • Remember to not do your track installations with thunderstorms nearby.
  • When installing a long track (I have one over 12-feet), you can make an installation aid with a 2x2 and a washcloth.  After measuring, marking and drilling your first end hole, prop one end of the long track on you ladder.  Wrap the end of the 2x2 with a folded washcloth and stick it into the header track.  Lift the track up and prop it nearly in position.  The washcloth provides a friction fit to keep the 2x2 from sliding out.  With the header track elevated, partially drive the first Tapcon.  Move your ladder to the other end.  Use the 2x2 like a third hand to hold the header elevated while you drill the other end hole.  (Since I was working about 14-feet up for this big header, I used a very long 2x2 that I happened to have on-hand.)
  • I used the same 2x2 as a ladder cross-brace.  Since my ladder did not reach the top of our picture window, I did not want to rest it against the glass while working.  I used packing tape to secure it crosswise to the top of the ladder.  The 2x2 rested against the window uprights and kept the top of the ladder away from the glass.
  • Do all your header installations then all your footer installations to minimize drill bit changes.
  • Do the header installations when you have more time available since the ladder work will take longer.  You can do the footer installations while standing on the ground at any time.

Update 2:

  • When you are drilling lots of holes in concrete, like when you are using one of those special Tapcon bits, the drilling will lose effectiveness.  This happens when the bit gets very hot and the concrete inside the hole reacts and gets very slick.  To restore the bite, spit on the top of your ladder, and cool the drill bit in the saliva.  It will likely sizzle.  Wipe off any concrete residue.  Your drilling should be better.  (Don't laugh -- it works.)
  • Do not drill in concrete at the full drill speed.  This will only heat the bit up quickly.  Use a slow speed with firm pressure.
  • Mark your panels top and bottom to identify which windows they can be installed on.  I used a simple indelible black marker.

Update 3:

  • Detailed instructions on how to install machine screw anchors, ¼-20 brass wood bushings, and brass machine screw anchors using a ½ x ¼ combination drill bit in both English and Spanish can be found here.
  • Need to see pictures of hurricane hardware?  All Points Screw, Bolt, & Specialty Co. has an online catalog (PDF) here.

There is more!  Read my posts on installation tools, aluminum panelspanel costs, or scan all hurricane posts.

Posted on Sunday, June 12, 2005 2:04 PM Hurricane | Back to top

Comments on this post: Hurricane Preparations: Storm Panel Installation Tips

# re: Hurricane Preparations: Storm Panel Installation Tips
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I am going to install my storm panels using an H header at the top and a studded angle iron a the bottom. From what I am reading on the subject I should install the header first and then install the bottom studded angle iron. It seems to me that if I installed the studded angle iron FIRST and attached a panel to it and then the H header it would be hard to make a measuring mistake. I would value your input. Thanks.
Left by Ray Triano on Jul 04, 2005 12:56 PM

# re: Hurricane Preparations: Storm Panel Installation Tips
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Your plan will work, but you need to consider the logistics of your plan. I think it is always preferable to work on the ground rather than a ladder. The less work I can do atop a ladder the better. I aligned my headers along my window trim edge for asthetics. That was easy to do. I then positioned the studded angle to fit. (Remember to allow extra vertical space. Not every panel is an exact identical length.) I have changed the text above to mark the panel length with an extra 1/4-inch due to this.

If you install the footer first, you will need to add a strip on top of your header across the full window to get the extra clearance. I may be wrong, but I thought my technique was a little safer and easier.
Left by Mark on Jul 04, 2005 3:41 PM

# re: Hurricane Preparations: Storm Panel Installation Tips
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My two-story house has 2 skylights installed on a flat roof. Any thoughts on the best way to protect those?

Left by Mac Serda on Oct 22, 2005 11:46 PM

# re: Hurricane Preparations: Storm Panel Installation Tips
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What's the best length for Tapcons on your headers and studded angle bar into concrete block through stucco... ?? I have a pile of 1 1/2" ones, but am not sure they are long enough.
Left by Bill on Jun 09, 2006 12:56 PM

# re: Hurricane Preparations: Storm Panel Installation Tips
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@Bill: I used 1/4 x 2-1/4-inch Maxi-Set Tapcons. They are stronger than the average ones sold at home supply stores. I assumed I was going through about 1/4-inch of stucco until I got to the structural masonry.
Left by Mark on Jun 10, 2006 8:03 AM

# re: Hurricane Preparations: Storm Panel Installation Tips
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Finally got all the materials (H-headers and F-tracks) A friend told me I would need buildouts since I have sills. What are buildouts? Are they neccessary?
Left by Brian on Jun 13, 2006 12:53 PM

# re: Hurricane Preparations: Storm Panel Installation Tips
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@Brian: For your purposes, a buildout will be a 1x2-inch or 2x2-inch aluminum tube that moves the header and footer track away from the wall so the paels will clear the protruding sill. This will leave a gap along each side. You seal this with 2x2-inch aluminum angle bolted along the sides.
Left by Mark on Jun 13, 2006 5:03 PM

# re: Hurricane Preparations: Storm Panel Installation Tips
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My headers and sills are not pre-drilled. Is 12" spacing about right?

Left by Vaughn on Jul 06, 2006 10:21 AM

# re: Hurricane Preparations: Storm Panel Installation Tips
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We are installing shutters and several windows are flush with the outer walls. We had to use tracks taht left a gap of 2-3" and failed inspection because there can be no more than 1/4" gap. We installed 2x4 and now have no gaps, but because it is wood, we failed again. Are there plans that show that wood is acceptable to fill the gap? Do we have to use metal, none are big enough? What do we do?

Thanks, Sharon
Left by sharon reed on Jul 19, 2007 6:29 PM

# re: Hurricane Preparations: Storm Panel Installation Tips
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Do you have any advice / directions on installing panels on a brick veneer home?
Left by Stan Mayhew on Aug 23, 2007 7:03 PM

# re: Hurricane Preparations: Storm Panel Installation Tips
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Aluminum storm panels, installed prior to a hurricane by a homeowner who evacutates, could be a dream for a scrap metal thief. What suggestions do you have to secure the panels to the window fittings so only the homeowner can remove them?
Left by Marilyn on Aug 09, 2008 10:33 AM

# re: Hurricane Preparations: Storm Panel Installation Tips
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@Marilyn: Nothing will prevent a determined thief with the proper tools from removing the shutters. Police, neighbors, or a roving patrol might dissuade them. For the casual thief, I would recommend installing another angle piece across the bottom of the outside of the studded angle bracket which you could lock or by some means mechanically capture from inside the house.
Left by Mark on Aug 09, 2008 3:49 PM

# re: Hurricane Preparations: Storm Panel Installation Tips
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I live in Dade County, Fl. I am going to install storm panels horizontally using panelmate construction fasteners. I will drill holes 3 inches from each side of the window's edge. My question is with reference to the other two window's edges the ones that are parallel to the ground where I will not drill any holes. How many inches must the panel overlap the window's edge? Is it sufficient that the panels just cover the window or do they have to extend some inches from the edge?

Thank you for your response.
Left by Jorge M. Diez de Onate on Oct 03, 2008 11:50 AM

# re: Hurricane Preparations: Storm Panel Installation Tips
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I would like to know "What does the code require for the distance between the (Hurricane storm panels) shutter and the glazing"

Thank you

Left by shah on Nov 16, 2008 1:48 PM

# re: Hurricane Preparations: Storm Panel Installation Tips
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What is the average edge distance requirement for the fasteners around a window
Left by Mark on Mar 07, 2009 10:36 AM

# re: Hurricane Preparations: Storm Panel Installation Tips
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@Mark: The "average edge distance requirement for the fasteners around a window" depends on the material the wall is made of. You should read the technical data for your shutters. The data sheet will give you standoff distances. Remember that these shutters are functional rather than decorative. They need to be anchored into the structure of the house. All my holes were drilled into precast concrete beams, so it was pretty easy. The shutter data sheet will also specify the standoff distance you need between the shutter and the window glass based on wind speed.
Left by Mark on Mar 07, 2009 11:05 AM

# re: Hurricane Preparations: Storm Panel Installation Tips
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is there a limitation on how long a panel can be installed horizontly and can first sheet lay on window sill
Left by brian on Nov 17, 2011 2:13 PM

# re: Hurricane Preparations: Storm Panel Installation Tips
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@brian: The length depends on the amount of flex allowed during simulated storm impacts per local building code and the distance between the panels and the glass. The window sill position is OK, but you can expect paint damage from any wind movement.
Left by Mark on Nov 17, 2011 7:59 PM

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