Impact Doors – How Do They Hold Up Against Hurricanes?

South Florida’s geographic location makes it a frequent target for hurricanes, with these violent storms causing extensive damage almost every year. Understanding this reality is crucial for homeowners, as the structural integrity of homes can be significantly compromised by hurricane-force winds and debris.

Among the multiple elements that constitute a home, doorways hold a pivotal role in ensuring safety during such storms. They are not just entry and exit points but can also be potential weak links when it comes to holding up against the raw power of a hurricane when guarded by only a traditional door. 

Because of their size, doors can become a vulnerable entry point for strong winds, horizontal rain and flying debris during a hurricane event. Without the means to protect these openings effectively, such as relying on traditional doors, regardless whether they are made of wood or metal, you could potentially leave your home’s interior exposed to damage as well as any valuable belongings inside. 

impact doors

How They Contribute to a Home’s Structural Integrity

Every part of your house works together to resist the forces applied to it, including gravity, wind, and in this case, the destructive arrival of a hurricane. Doors are crucial to this resistance. When a traditional wooden door fails under the pressure of a hurricane, it allows damaging wind to enter the home, creating a sudden and potentially destructive change in pressure.

Additionally, a vital aspect that homeowners in hurricane-prone regions should be aware of is windborne debris impact. Hurricanes carry with them a maelstrom of debris, turning innocent objects into dangerous projectiles. Both wooden doors and impact doors are susceptible to this hazard, though an impact door will not break or fall when struck in the overwhelming majority of cases. 

What Makes Impact Doors a Strong Contender?

impact doors
Vinyl Impact Doors with Insulated Impact Glass

Impact doors, as the name suggests, are specifically engineered to resist the impact of such windborne debris. Typically crafted from durable materials like heavy-duty aluminum, reinforced vinyl, or reinforced fiberglass as well as the same glass used in impact windows. These doors are designed to stay intact, even when subjected to extreme hurricane conditions.

The resilience of these doors is due to their impact resistance feature. This does not merely indicate resistance to force but refers to a specific set of conditions that these doors are designed and tested to withstand. 

This includes large missile impacts, such as those that would result from flying debris in a hurricane. It is this rigorous testing that ensures the door’s capability to withstand the real-world conditions of a hurricane.

Moreover, impact doors are not just about withstanding hurricanes; they offer additional benefits that are worth noting. These include effective deterrence against burglaries due to their sturdy construction, significant noise reduction due to their sound-dampening properties, and even potential reductions in insurance premiums, as some insurance companies provide discounts for homes fortified against hurricanes.

Beyond the door surface itself, impact door systems are also outfitted with new doorframes that are designed to further boost hurricane resistance. All aspects of the door system can be custom-styled, colored, and sized to your home’s existing openings and aesthetics; making it an attractive option for homeowners that need to work within the appearance guidelines of a homeowner’s association (HOA).

The Battle Against the Elements: Traditional Doors in the Fray

While traditional doors might not match the brute resistance provided by impact doors, they are not entirely defenseless. A well-crafted, windowless solid wood or heavy-duty steel door can withstand some wind pressure, although high-velocity winds and wind-borne debris can still prove challenging.

The major problem in a hurricane is that a traditional residential door frame, and the installation methods used for regular doors, is totally insufficient to stand up to a hurricane. A weak door frame, secured by an inadequate number of small untested and possibly corroded screws, will almost surely fail during a hurricane. Another weakness can be an in-swing door or one with untested latches and hinges. If traditional door has glass, then it is even more vulnerable.

On an impact-rated door, everything is upgraded. Not just the door itself. This means a stronger frame, installed with larger specially approved screws, that will not rust, and are attached on all four sides directly to either beams or the concrete blocks the house is constructed from. Even the bucking around an impact door is checked and replaced/installed as needed using upgraded installation methods.

In addition to using upgraded screws, that have their own testing and approval process in Florida, the overall number of screws is greater on an impact door. The upgraded door frame has multiple screws on all four sides, usually in pre-drilled locations, so they are installed specifically.

Impact doors are rigorously tested by the State of Florida for approval. This testing includes both high speed wind simulations and firing a long wooden 2×4 directly at the door from an air cannon to simulate the impact of wind-born debris. Plus, the actual door installed in your home will be inspected by a local government inspector, to ensure proper installation as an impact door.

Another Issue With Wooden Doors in Florida

One of the key factors that weaken the viability of standard wooden doors in hurricane-prone areas is their susceptibility to moisture. When exposed to the high humidity typical of a hurricane, wooden doors can swell, warp, and, over time, potentially rot. This can significantly diminish their resistance to hurricane forces and further impact their lifespan.

In terms of cost implications, an average wooden door may have a lower upfront cost compared to impact doors, but homeowners must account for the regular maintenance that these doors demand. Regular sealing and occasional repairs are often necessary to protect the wood from the elements, potentially leading to higher long-term costs.

The surface of a typical wood door is also usually not as robustly constructed for hurricane resistance. If a large piece of debris makes contact with the door, it could splinter, crack, or breach the wood and create a point of entry for water and wind. 

impact doors
Stainable Fiberglass Impact Door

The Hurricane Resistance Showdown: Impact Doors vs Wooden Doors

When faced with the harsh, unyielding conditions of a hurricane, not all doors are created equal. Aluminum, vinyl, and fiberglass door systems have a clear edge over traditional wooden doors in this particular context. What sets them apart is their unique construction using materials specifically chosen for their strength and resilience, as well as features designed for impact resistance.

One major aspect of an impact door’s strength is the frame – often composed of heavy-duty materials like those mentioned above. They can withstand high wind pressures without compromising its structural integrity. 

The glass used in these doors is also unique. Unlike the glass in standard doors, it consists of several layers, including a laminate layer that holds the glass together even when shattered, preventing a breach.

In contrast, wooden doors, while suitable in normal circumstances with calm or mild weather conditions, lack these specialized features and materials. Although they offer a certain level of resistance to wind pressure, they will not withstand the impact from large windborne debris, especially at high velocities typical during a hurricane. This vulnerability can lead to a door failure, compromising the home’s safety.

Examining the cost dynamics, impact doors might appear more expensive at first glance. However, it’s essential to consider the long-term picture. Impact doors are typically more durable and require almost no maintenance, which means less expenditure over time on upkeep and potential replacement. They are also designed to resist corrosion, even in the face of salty, humid coastal air, thereby extending their lifespan and improving their cost-effectiveness.

Making Your Choice: Factors to Evaluate

Impact Doors
Reinforced Fiberglass Impact Door

When you’re deciding between wooden and impact doors, there’s a lot to think about. Sure, wooden doors might be cheaper at first, but remember to factor in the maintenance and possible replacement costs down the line. Impact doors might cost a bit more upfront, but they’re designed to last longer and require less maintenance, which could save you money over time.

In South Florida, hurricanes are a regular visitor. That’s why it makes sense to get a door that’s built to handle these storms. Impact doors are made specifically for this purpose.

There’s also the extra perks you get with impact doors. They’re not just about weathering storms. They can also help keep out unwanted guests, cut down on outside noise, and maybe even lower your insurance rates. Plus, these doors come in different styles and finishes to match your home, so you don’t have to sacrifice looks for strength.

But no matter which type of door you go with, make sure to have it installed by a professional. Even the best impact door won’t do its job if it’s not installed right. So, choose wisely and make sure to have a professional to put it in place. That way, you can be confident that your door is ready to do its job when the next storm hits.

Get Impact Doors for Your South Florida Home 

The critical role doors play in safeguarding a home during a hurricane is undeniable. While wooden doors have their own charm and can provide a degree of resistance, impact doors clearly lead in terms of engineered resilience to hurricane conditions. They offer tangible benefits, including potentially lower insurance premiums and improved home security.

At Paradise Exteriors, we are proud installers of impact doors for residential properties all throughout South Florida. Our wide range of customizable impact doors, impact windows, and hurricane-rated roofing systems are manufactured by the leading brands in the home improvement space, and we offer some of the most generous financing and warranty options in the industry. 

To learn more, request your Free Quote today!


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