Hurricane “High Impact” Window Films


Numerous companies are representing window films as being hurricane rated, impact rated and insurance approved.  Are these claims fact, or fiction?


We’ve all heard the radio ads and seen the signs of the side of trucks and the newsprint ads.  These ads often outright state, or strongly imply that the 3M and other brands of “high impact” window films eliminate the need for shutters, are impact rated and provide a level of protection equal to approved devices such as shutters or impact rated glass.  Claims such as these are misleading and, in the opinion of this author, border on outright fraud.


Misleading High Impact Window Film sign implies window films are impact rated.


(Above sign is sample of a misleading claim.  Note "High Impact" is in quotation marks.  This implies that the film is impact rated, but does not outright state it.  This is very misleading and many consumers are not getting what they thought they were paying for.)


The strength of these films is that while they do not prevent the glass from breaking, they do help hold it together when it breaks.  The problem here is two-fold.  First, while the films do strengthen the glass, they do not strengthen the ability of the frame to hold the glass in place, unless the film is lapped over the frame which is rarely seen.   There was one reported case in SW Florida where a man was killed by a large piece of glass that was held together by window film.  Some have stated the opinion that the man may not have been fatally wounded had the glass broken into smaller pieces, but of course we will never know for sure. 


The second issue is the window structure itself.  The vast majority of instances, frame and window components are not strong enough to withstand a high velocity impact.  In this case the glass may hold together, but the frame may fail.


My biggest issue with these window films is not so much the product itself, but the deceptive manner in which it is often advertised.  In fact, it’s become pretty rare in SWFLA to find an ad that is not deceptive.


These products cannot claim to be “Impact Rated” as shutters and impact rated windows can, so they simply twist the wording around and say they are “High Impact” window films.  This obviously implies, but does not outright state that they are impact rated.  I have personally seen ads that claim they are “Miami-Dade Tested”.  While this is true, they leave out the minor fact that they FAILED the test.  Other misleading claims are made that they are “insurance approved”.  This implies they qualify for the insurance discounts that impact rated shutters and windows do.  This is simply not true and is very misleading.  I have also heard a number of radio ads that claim the films “eliminate the need for shutters”.  This is simply an outright falsehood.  Another popular misleading claim is “tested to 130 mph (or more)”.


I should also add that there are a number of shutter products being sold out there that are not impact rated so be careful.  One such product is simply “plastic cardboard” held in place by Velcro pieces.  Believe it or not, people have been duped by this junk.  Probably because of the misleading ads and literature that accompanies it. 


So how does one avoid the rip offs?  First, ask if the product you are interested in is “Florida Building Code approved” or “Miami-Dade approved”.  If they answer yes, then ask if it is impact rated and ask for documentation proving it.  DO NOT accept a salesman’s word.  Such proof should include an approval number from an accepted testing institution such as ASTM.  Please note that just because a window or door is FBC or Miami-Dade approved does NOT necessarily mean it’s impact rated.  It’s still perfectly legal to buy a wind rated window or door then install an impact rated shutter over it..


Approved products will usually claim to be “Impact Rated” or “Miami-Dade Approved” or “FBC Approved”.  Avoid any misleading claims like “Miami-Dade Tested” or “High Impact” or “tested to 130 mph or 150 mph”.


Lastly, remember that to get the insurance discounts, every opening in the home has to be impact rated, either by shutter or by being an impact rated device.  Older shutters often do not qualify.  People often forget doors or small windows.  Garage overhead doors, front doors, whether glazed or not all have to be impact rated to receive insurance discounts.

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