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How to Board Up Windows: A Step-by-Step Guide

How to board up a broken window is one of the random emergency skills everyone should know (but hopefully will never need!).

If your windows break during a natural disaster such as an earthquake, for example, you’d need to board them. Otherwise, intruders or looters could easily get into your home – especially if you need to evacuate and aren’t sure when you will be back.

Important: Have Disaster Cleanup Supplies On Hand

When talking about disaster preparedness, supplies like emergency food and water usually get the most attention. But don’t forget to have cleanup supplies with your emergency supplies too.

To board up a broken window, you will need:

  • Plywood and 2×4 boards
  • Carriage bolts and washers
  • Heavy-duty gloves
  • Duct tape

Also read: Emergency stockpile list

How to Board Up Broken Windows

1. Remove Broken Glass

While wearing gloves, wiggle out the pieces of broken glass. If it doesn’t come out easily, you can put duct tape on the glass in a grid pattern.

Then use a scraper to remove the putty or molding holding the glass pane in place. The duct tape grid lets you pull the entire pane out in one piece.

With sliding windows, you don’t have to remove the broken glass. Instead, create a grid of duct tape to hold the broken glass in place. Slide the window open. You’ll be able to board up the window through the open side.

2. Cut Plywood and 2×4 Board

Ideally, you should do this ahead of time so it is ready in case a disaster occurs.

  • Measure the window or door opening.
  • Cut plywood so it is larger than the window opening.
  • Cut a 2×4 board that is 12 inches longer than the window opening. For doors or large windows, you will need two 2×4 boards.

3. Drill Holes in the Plywood and 2×4

  • Line up the plywood and 2×4. The 2×4 should extend over both sides of the plywood board.
  • Drill 3/8” holes (at least two) in the plywood and ½” holes in the 2×4.

4. Install Carriage Bolts

  • Put a large washer onto 3/8” carriage bolts.
  • Put the bolts through the holes in the plywood. 

*Only use carriage bolts because they have round heads and cannot be unscrewed from the outside.

5. Hang Plywood

  • While inside the building, grasp the end of the carriage bolt sticking out of the plywood board. Maneuver the plywood out of the window.   
  • Still grasping the carriage bolts, hold the plywood against the exterior of the window or door. 

This method allows you to board upper-floor windows even without a ladder. If you are boarding up a first-floor window and have a partner to help, the partner can hold the plywood against the window from the outside.

6. Attach 2×4

  • From the interior of the building, attach the 2×4 to the plywood. Do this by sliding the holes in the 2×4 over the carriage bolts.
  • Put a nut on the bolts and make sure it is very tight.
A window boarded with two pieces of plywood.
In this image the carriage bolts are on the bottom half of the window. This allows you to board up a window without removing glass in the top half or by pushing up a sliding window.

INCORRECT Ways to Board a Window

The window is boarded from the inside. This makes it easy for someone to kick in the plywood to gain access.
This window is also boarded incorrectly. It would be very easy for someone to pull off the boards with a pry bar.

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