Security window film is an excellent tool: it’s a cost-effective, quick way to improve physical security, reducing the risk posed by vandalism, break-ins, extreme weather, and accidents. But it doesn’t solve every security challenge. While window security film has improved greatly over the past several years, become easier to install and more durable, it still does not stop bullets.
Businesses, schools, and other organizations–especially those eager to find low-cost ways to boost their security–need to understand some important product distinctions. When applied properly, security window film can boost your facility’s forced entry and blast defenses. Meaningful protection against gunfire only comes from UL-rated bullet-resistant glass enclosures.
Safe Uses for Security Window Film
As you examine your threat profile, whether it involves potential robberies, vandalism, or weather events, consider the following acceptable uses for window security film:
Smash and Grab Burglaries
Windows protected with security film can buy you precious time to call for help and even deter intruders during a break-in attempt. The film absorbs the energy of the blow, making it more difficult for a criminal to break glass doors or windows with a crowbar or hammer.
Are you located in an area where natural disasters, such as hurricanes, tornados, or earthquakes, are common? Is your location prone to vandalism? Any of these events can cause fragile glass to shatter into dangerous shards and projectiles, posing serious safety concerns. Security film holds glass fragments in place to minimize damage and injury. Some films, when properly attached to the window frame, can achieve blast-resistance ratings because the film stretches and pulls against the frame, leaving the window fragments intact.
Businesses and residences have used window film to reduce the effects of the sun since the early 1960s. The film moderates interior exposure to harmful ultraviolet rays, protecting people and furnishings, and helping to regulate heating and cooling within a facility.
Installation Costs for Security Window Film
If you are looking at window security film as part of your strategy for hardening your building, you’ll want to choose the right level of film, and understand the costs. Similar to bulletproof glass, there are many factors that can impact the pricing of a security window film project. Some of those factors include:
- French pane charges
- Difficult working conditions
- Removal of existing film
- Moving of furnishings
- High ladder work/swing stage/scaffolding/lifts
- Travel and accommodations, etc.
We spoke once again to Brad Campbell, industry expert, to get a rough idea of what the materials might cost:
“We generally use the 3M Ultra 8 product which is 8 mil thick but stronger than standard 8mil due to 3M’s unique cross lamination of multiple micro-thin layers. It’s like rip-stop nylon compared to regular nylon. That said, Ultra S800 8mil Clear unattached will run $8 to $18 per square foot for materials and the labor to install it.“
Where Bulletproof Glass Makes Sense
If your security concerns go beyond moderate break-in and shatter protection, and you’re worried about armed robberies or active shooter situations, UL-rated bullet-resistant glass offers the ballistic protection that other materials simply can’t provide.
UL assigns the material a specific rating from Level 1 to 8, indicating how many of what caliber bullets it can stop, based on certified lab testing. While Levels 4 to 8 are typically reserved for government and military facilities, Levels 1 to 3 satisfy the needs of most customers. Bullet-resistant enclosures commonly protect financial institutions, schools, convenience stores, law enforcement offices, and healthcare facilities.
Typical Bulletproof Barrier Costs
Although costs for bullet-resistant glass run higher than security film, it’s an apples-to-oranges comparison. The two products meet different security needs, although bullet-resistant glass often serves multiple purposes, holding certified ratings for forced entry, explosive blasts, and hurricane winds.
Costs depend on square footage, as well as additional features and accessories you may need, such as doors, currency trays, or package passers. Level 1 to 3 glass costs around $70 per square foot, depending on the material (this is material cost only and does not include ballistic framing or installation).
A basic barrier system—something suitable for a stand-alone ticket window or after-hours transaction window—typically costs less than $10,000, not including installation costs. A more comprehensive barrier system for a gas station/convenience store or small bank branch runs about $15,000 to $25,000. Again, this will depend on what material you chose, how many stations are needed, and does not include installation costs. Larger, more complex, and higher-security systems (like those needed in major corporate facilities or government buildings) being in the $30,000 range and move into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.