Shutter Slats: Rolldown Hurricane Shutters Explained

Rolldown hurricane shutters, also known as rolling shutters, are a type of window protection commonly used in areas prone to hurricanes and severe storms. These shutters are designed to protect windows from high winds, flying debris, and water infiltration. One of the key components of these shutters is the shutter slats, which are the individual pieces that make up the overall shutter. In this article, we will delve into the intricacies of shutter slats, their role in rolldown hurricane shutters, and the various factors that influence their design and functionality.

Understanding the role and importance of shutter slats in the overall functionality of rolldown hurricane shutters is crucial for anyone living in hurricane-prone areas. Not only do these components provide the first line of defense against the destructive forces of a hurricane, but they also contribute to the aesthetic appeal of the shutters. As such, a comprehensive understanding of shutter slats can help homeowners make informed decisions when purchasing or maintaining their rolldown hurricane shutters.

The Anatomy of Shutter Slats

Shutter slats, often referred to as laths, are the horizontal pieces that make up the face of the shutter. They are typically made from durable materials such as aluminum or steel to withstand the harsh conditions of a hurricane. The slats are interconnected in a way that allows them to roll up and down along vertical tracks installed on the sides of the window.

Each slat is designed with a specific curvature, known as the profile, which contributes to the overall strength and rigidity of the shutter. The profile can vary depending on the manufacturer and the specific model of the shutter. Some slats may have a flat profile, while others may have a curved or ribbed profile. The profile not only influences the aesthetic appeal of the shutter but also its ability to resist wind pressure and impact from flying debris.

Materials Used in Shutter Slats

Aluminum is a popular material for shutter slats due to its strength, durability, and resistance to corrosion. Aluminum slats are lightweight, making them easy to operate, and they can be coated with a variety of finishes to enhance their aesthetic appeal and further improve their resistance to weathering.

Steel, on the other hand, is known for its exceptional strength and rigidity, making it an excellent choice for areas with extreme weather conditions. However, steel slats are heavier than aluminum slats, which can make the shutters more difficult to operate. Moreover, steel is susceptible to rust, so it must be properly treated and maintained to prevent corrosion.

Interconnection of Shutter Slats

The shutter slats are interconnected using a variety of methods, depending on the design of the shutter. Some shutters use hinges or pivots to connect the slats, allowing them to rotate individually. This design provides flexibility, enabling the shutter to conform to the shape of the window and ensuring a tight seal when the shutter is closed.

Other shutters use a fixed interconnection, where the slats are permanently attached to each other. This design provides increased rigidity, making the shutter more resistant to wind pressure. However, it may not provide as tight a seal as a hinged design, especially on irregularly shaped windows.

Role of Shutter Slats in Rolldown Hurricane Shutters

The primary role of shutter slats in rolldown hurricane shutters is to provide a physical barrier against the forces of a hurricane. When the shutter is rolled down, the slats interlock to form a solid shield that protects the window from high winds, flying debris, and water infiltration.

Additionally, shutter slats play a significant role in the operation of the shutter. The ability of the slats to roll up and down along the tracks allows for easy operation of the shutter, whether manually or through a motorized system. Furthermore, the slats can be partially rolled down to control the amount of light entering the room, providing additional functionality beyond storm protection.

Protection Against Wind Pressure

Shutter slats are designed to resist the high wind pressures associated with hurricanes. The profile of the slats, along with the material used, determines the shutter’s wind load capacity. Slats with a curved or ribbed profile are typically more resistant to wind pressure than flat slats due to the increased rigidity provided by the curvature.

Moreover, the interconnection of the slats plays a crucial role in wind resistance. Hinged slats can flex under wind pressure, allowing the shutter to absorb the force without failing. On the other hand, shutters with fixed interconnections are more rigid, providing greater resistance to wind pressure but at the risk of failure under extreme conditions.

Protection Against Flying Debris

During a hurricane, flying debris poses a significant threat to windows. Shutter slats are designed to withstand impact from debris, preventing it from penetrating the shutter and breaking the window. The impact resistance of the slats is largely determined by the material used and the thickness of the slats.

Aluminum slats, despite their lightweight, can provide excellent impact resistance when designed with a suitable profile and thickness. Steel slats, with their inherent strength, offer superior impact resistance, but their weight and susceptibility to rust can be drawbacks. Therefore, the choice of material for the slats should take into account both the impact resistance and the overall performance and maintenance requirements of the shutter.

Design Considerations for Shutter Slats

When designing shutter slats, several factors need to be considered to ensure optimal performance and longevity. These factors include the material, profile, thickness, interconnection method, and finish of the slats.

The material should be chosen based on the expected weather conditions, with aluminum being suitable for most applications and steel being reserved for extreme conditions. The profile should be designed to provide the necessary rigidity and wind resistance, with a curved or ribbed profile being generally more effective than a flat profile. The thickness of the slats should be sufficient to withstand impact from flying debris, but not so great as to make the shutter heavy and difficult to operate.

Material Selection

As mentioned earlier, the choice of material for the slats is a crucial decision that impacts the performance and maintenance requirements of the shutter. Aluminum is a versatile material that offers a good balance of strength, durability, and weight, making it suitable for most applications. However, for extreme weather conditions or for larger shutters, steel may be a better choice due to its superior strength and rigidity.

Regardless of the material chosen, it should be properly treated to resist corrosion. Aluminum can be anodized or coated with a protective finish to enhance its corrosion resistance. Steel, on the other hand, should be galvanized or coated with a rust-resistant paint to prevent rusting.

Profile Design

The profile of the slats is another important design consideration. A flat profile may be simpler to manufacture and more aesthetically pleasing, but it may not provide the same level of wind resistance and impact protection as a curved or ribbed profile. Therefore, the profile should be designed based on the expected wind loads and impact threats, with aesthetics being a secondary consideration.

Furthermore, the profile should be designed to facilitate the rolling action of the shutter. A profile that is too complex or irregular may interfere with the rolling action, making the shutter difficult to operate. Therefore, the profile should be as simple as possible while still providing the necessary strength and rigidity.

Maintenance of Shutter Slats

Maintenance of shutter slats is essential to ensure their longevity and performance. Regular cleaning, inspection, and repair of the slats can prevent damage and prolong the life of the shutter. Additionally, proper maintenance can enhance the aesthetic appeal of the shutter, preserving the look and value of the property.

However, maintenance requirements can vary depending on the material and finish of the slats. Aluminum slats, for example, may require less maintenance than steel slats due to their superior corrosion resistance. Similarly, slats with a high-quality finish may require less frequent cleaning and repainting than those with a poor-quality finish.

Cleaning and Inspection

Regular cleaning of the slats can prevent the buildup of dirt and debris, which can interfere with the operation of the shutter and cause wear and tear. Cleaning should be done with a soft brush and mild detergent, and the slats should be rinsed thoroughly to remove any residue. Abrasive cleaners and hard brushes should be avoided as they can scratch the finish and expose the underlying material to corrosion.

Inspection of the slats should be done at least once a year, or after a major storm. The slats should be checked for signs of damage, such as dents, cracks, or corrosion. Any damaged slats should be repaired or replaced as soon as possible to prevent further damage and ensure the integrity of the shutter.

Repairs and Replacements

If a slat is damaged, it may be possible to repair it depending on the extent and nature of the damage. Minor dents and scratches can often be repaired by gently hammering out the dent or sanding and repainting the scratch. However, major damage or corrosion may require the slat to be replaced.

Replacement of slats should be done by a professional to ensure proper installation and alignment. The replacement slat should be of the same material, profile, and finish as the original slats to ensure consistent performance and appearance. After replacement, the shutter should be tested to ensure smooth operation and proper fit.


Shutter slats are a critical component of rolldown hurricane shutters, providing protection against the destructive forces of a hurricane and contributing to the operation and aesthetic appeal of the shutter. Understanding the role, design, and maintenance of shutter slats can help homeowners make informed decisions about their hurricane protection solutions.

Whether you are considering installing new rolldown hurricane shutters or maintaining existing ones, it is important to pay attention to the shutter slats. Choosing the right material, profile, and finish for the slats can enhance the performance and longevity of the shutter, while regular maintenance can prevent damage and preserve the appearance of the shutter. With proper care and attention, shutter slats can provide reliable and effective protection against hurricanes for many years.

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