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What is the Difference Between Laminated and Impact Windows?

Updated: Oct 17, 2022

The start of the Atlantic hurricane season is right around the corner. While the predictions of how many named storms will occur slightly vary amongst experts, one point they all agree on is that there will be an active hurricane season in 2021.

The time to prepare for a potential hurricane is now. Don’t wait until an imminent storm is announced because it adds stress and expense. One important step you can take is to perform “home hardening” to prepare it to better withstand hurricane-force winds. This proactive step can go a long way towards ensuring your home – and your family – are protected as best they can be during a hurricane event.

Many Central Florida and Tampa Bay area residents invest in specialized windows as a part of their home hardening process. These windows, specifically engineered to provide better protection from a storm, can prevent significant damage and injury. Choices include impact windows and laminated windows. The terms for these window types are sometimes used interchangeably, but they aren’t exactly the same. The difference lies with their design and the level of resistance they provide during a storm.

What are Laminated Hurricane Windows?

Laminated Hurricane windows provide good protection and are made of similar materials as impact windows, without steel reinforcements in the game but they aren’t as strong. They will, however, generally provide good protection from a storm hurricane. They are designed to withstand wind damage and are made of several layers that include a combination of glass and Polyvinyl butyral (PVB) plastic. The PVB is layered between the glass layers and acts as an adhesive to keep the glass from shattering.

If the window is struck by debris during a heavy storm, the other layer of glass may develop spider cracks, but the hurricane window won’t move. These windows also offer less in terms of insulation than impact windows do because their primary function is to resist the damage that hurricane-force winds often cause, and they don’t offer the other non-storm benefits impact windows do. They are, however, still a very good addition to the home hardening process.

What are Impact Windows?

Impact windows are engineered to prevent flying glass shards from occurring if debris flung by high-speed winds crashes into them. They are often constructed with tempered and Polyvinyl butyral (PVB) glass. As a part of the design, a shatter-resistant film is built-in, much like the type used in car windshields. This enables the window to withstand blunt force trauma and prevent total breakage. Before impact windows are put to market, impact windows are rigorously tested to ensure they won’t compromise a home’s integrity during a hurricane. The glass may crack under pressure, but it won’t break or blow out.

Reinforced glass on your windows and doors is highly effective in withstanding hurricane-strength winds and not shattering any debris that strikes the window which is very common during a storm event. Not only that, these specially designed windows are attractive and can add good curb appeal to your house. In addition, other advantages they add to the home include providing a sound barrier, adding UV protection, improving energy efficiency, and serving as a deterrent to intruders.

Why Impact and Laminated Windows are Better than Other Preventatives

While there are some key differences between impact and laminated windows, they are the best option to protect your property and everyone inside. It’s common for people in Florida to spend hours and days reacting to an imminent storm by hanging plywood shutters and sealing windows and doorways shut, but there are several disadvantages to this practice.

  1. It’s stressful and puts undue pressure on residents as a storm is arriving.

  2. The wood may not uphold when the worst of the storm arrives.

  3. If a fire, gas leak, or other emergency occurs, this home hardening technique can create difficultly when trying to escape.

  4. Shutters or plywood must be stored when not in use.

  5. Installing impact or laminated windows avoids scrambling to purchase plywood before a storm (which continues to significantly rise in price due to lumber shortages).

When deciding if you should get laminated or impact windows, impact windows have the edge because they are designed to uphold against both wind and debris. That being said, laminated windows are far better than other reactive protective measures, such as flimsy shutters, plywood, or cardboard that is taped over windows, to protect people and property from the dangerous elements associated with hurricane-force winds that toss dangerous debris.

Impact and laminated windows come in attractive varieties, most people can’t tell the difference between either of these specially engineered windows and regular glass-paned ones. Both window designs are made with strong, reinforced frames to hold the glass in place, even under significant pressure.

To learn more about the different types of storm window options we offer, contact FAS Windows and Doors today. We’re happy to answer any questions or provide additional information.


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