Of all the methods of armoring a the walls of a room, ballistic fiberglass is the combination of most inexpensive and convenient.
Unlike steel it can be cut on site with proper tools. It can be placed inside of newly built walls or placed on top of existing walls. It can be painted or covered over. It comes in convenient sizes.
Bullet resistant panels are quite easy to work with, and almost any contractor who is familiar with installing drywall can install a fiberglass bullet resistant panel.
Mostly commonly ballistic drywall is installed into walls through use of screws driven into wall studs, whether metal or wood. Self tapping drywall screws are sufficient. The panels can be installed this way directly on the studs. Here a small number of screws can be installed to keep the ballistic panel up before drywall. Once applying the drywall, the full pattern of screws can be placed drilling through the drywall, through the ballistic panel and into the wall studs.
When dealing with the thicker ballistic fiberglass panels it is recommended to first drill pilot holes with a carbide tip drill. This will allow for easier drilling of screws into the panel. If you plan to place material over the panels for aesthetic purposes, to provide a perfectly flat surface using countersink holes is one option.
Another option for bullet resistant fiberglass installation is to use adhesives. One product available is PL Premium Polyurethane Construction Adhesive. For stronger adhesion to non-porous substrates, such as aluminum, steel and stainless steel, or bonding one panel to another, a 2-part Methyl Methacrylate (MMA) adhesive may be utilized, such as Plexus MA 320. Adhesives may be particularly useful in applications where wall studs aren’t available, such as with furniture.
Installing Ballistic Fiberglass In Existing Walls (Retrofitting)
Even if new wills are not to be built, existing walls can be easily armored by placing fiberglass panels over them. This is often the case for clients ranging from homeowners to police stations to government buildings.
Attachment to existing walls can be done in mostly the same way as to a new wall. The ballistic sheets simply are placed over existing drywall sheets. Self tapping drywall screws are then drilled in to the fiberglass and all the way through the drywall all the way into the stud behind them. In other cases, construction adhesives (as described above) can be used.
Since these ballistic panels would be exposed, it recommended to at least paint over them simply because like all fiberglass touching its fibers can lead to minor skin irritation. One can also easily clad them with any facade of their choosing – such as an engineered wood grain – to provide an attractive look.
Installation onto an existing wall allows to keep an attractive appearance, require limited adjustment, and provide the same high level security, though resulting in a slightly thicker wall.
A circular saw with a diamond grit blade is the typical way to make large cuts in a ballistic fiberglass panel. If making many cuts in thicker level material, more than one blade may be needed. When cutting panels ensure to follow proper safety protection, as summarized above.
Small Cuts (e.g. elctrical cut outs)
For smaller cuts, such as for electrical outlets or pass-through drawers, a diamond grit saw blade on a reciprocating saw is a good method.
Seams And Corners
It is considered ideal to protect all butt joint seams. Technically, the seam formed by where two panels meet could be a vulnerability in protection. Therefore, a batten strip is recommended. A batten strip is merely a 4″ wide post of the same material that overlaps each panel by 2″. This placement can be implemented without thickening your walls by simply notching out the bottom plate and top plate stud where these batten strip will be. Then the strip can fit within this notch. Avoid placing seams where studs will be to avoid thickening the wall.
Where panel meet at a 90 degree angle, no extra protection is needed so long that the panels overlap, as shown in the diagram to the right.
For larger cut outs, such as electrical boxes, it is recommended to ideally cover them with a small square that spans the length between two studs.
Bullet resistant fiberglass can be cut to size, but like all fiberglass, the material can irritate skin, so proper protective methods should be worn while cutting.
When product is sawed, drilled or cut in any manner that creates dust, skin irritation can occur. Dust can irritate eyes and cause skin irritation and itching.
When creating dust from this product wear a respirator mask, safety glasses or goggles and protective clothing to avoid skin or respiratory irritation.
For general handling, such as moving panels, it is recommend to wear leather gloves or the like to avoid irritation of fibers on hands.
To Make Your Walls Bullet Resistant, Follow These Steps:
Measure how much wall space you need to protect
Determine which protection level you need, based on potential threats
Select which ballistic paneling to use, such as fiberglass or Kevlar
Determine the optimal sheet sizes to order, as well as quantity of batten strips for seams
Prepare tools you will need and review safety information for cutting and handling
Cut (if needed), Install and anchor paneling inside of new wall builds or place on top of existing wall
Cover seams with batten strips for complete protection
If desired, paint over or clad ballistic paneling with aesthetic design
Walls can be conveniently made to be bullet resistant through adding a layer of ballistic paneling such as fiberglass, Kevlar or steel on inside or on top of the wall.
If during the construction phase, some will opt to utilize non specialized materials such as simple cement with rebar. This can provide highly fortified walls. On the other hand, because it is not a precise method there is no definitive bullet resistance rating that a wall like this could be depended to achieve.
A wall with without specific ballistic reinforcement may offer next to no bullet resistance. A standard interior wall composed of wood or steel studs and drywall will offer no protection. An exterior wall may or may not provide some amount of benefit compared to nothing, but it still is often very limited. Most homes with masonry exteriors, simply use brickwork for an aesthetic façade, meaning bricks are only single layered, providing only some protection from bullets.
A true wood frame home or building (which uses at least two layers of bricks) will likely provide a fair amount of protection from numerous bullets. This can be utilized to limit the amount of exposure, such as in a safe room. However, to truly have confidence that a wall will provide bullet resistance to the specific firearm of threat, such as an AR-15, a certified and tested ballistic panel is highly recommended.
Ballistic drywall or “bulletproof sheet rock” is not a precise term and can refer to a few different bullet resistant materials. Some may refer to an actual formula that is applied on top of drywall, such as Ballista-crete. However, ballistic panels in the same size as drywall such as ballistic fiberglass or Kevlar is much more popular and easy to work with.
The cost of bullet proof drywall depends on which material is used. Actual surface applied liquids will require expert installation that can be the largest cost factor. Various panels range from hundreds to thousands of dollars per sheet.
Through the decades of military advancement and chemical innovation various materials are available to crate armored wall panels. A brief summary of them is below:
Fiberglass Wall Panels
Bullet resistant fiberglass is the most common material used for securing walls. This is because it is tightly rated for ballistic resistance. It is fire resistant and forced entry resistant. It can be easily cut on site for proper installation. It does not interfere with cell signals and captures bullets without causing shrapnel productions.
Kevlar Wall Panels
Kevlar is a well known brand name of DuPont for para-aramids. Commonly called “soft steel” the fibers are incredibly strong. The benefit of Kevlar is that it is ultra-light and highly flexible. This is why it is commonly found in body armor. It is much less common as ballistic wall panels though, because it is much more expensive than ballistic fiberglass, typically over 2-300% more. It also cannot stop rifle rounds at practical thicknesses.
However, there are cases where Kevlar panels make sense. One situation is where curvature is needed, for example on a round wall or a round desk, such as a city council dais. Another situation is where weight is important. There are times where too much weight on a structure could lead to it being unsafe and collapse.
Fortified Estate is one of the only sellers of para-aramid ballistic Kevlar wall panels and more information can be found here. We also use Kevlar in many of our ballistic blankets.
Steel Wall Panels
Ballistic steel wall panels, such as AR500, are sometimes thought of as a main way to armor the walls of a room but they present several problems. While steel can protect from all levels of firearm attacks it is generally extremely heavy. Some steel materials, such as AR 500, have greatly reduced their weight compared to other steels. However, a bigger problem with steel to fortify a room is that it is very problematic to install. Unlike other methods, ballistic steel panels can not properly be cut on site. This means that installation either is often impractical or results in in vulnerability due to non precise fit.
Unlike fiberglass and Kevlar which absorb impact, steel may also produce shrapnel from impact that could cause other risks and damage. Aside from protection concerns, if a safe room will be frequently used (such as one that doubles as a bedroom), one that is reinforced with steel will likely have the ongoing aggravation of terrible cell and internet reception.
Poured concrete into masonry blocks with rebar support can provide very high level protection to a safe room. It provides very good forced entry resistance and solid ballistic protection. However, there are a couple downsides. The main issue is that this can only be accomplished during a new build. It’s certainly impractical to have a concrete truck delivering concrete to the right spot in an existing building.
In addition, because concrete walls are not standardized products, there’s no definitive way to know what specific firearm threats your walls will protect from. Will they stop handguns but not rifles? How many bullets will they stop?
If someone does have a concrete reinforced room we generally recommend adding at least a low level certified ballistic panel.
Polyethelene panels are another option that are not as popularly known about but have good uses. They are similar to the benefits of Kevlar (lightweight and flexible) but much less expensive since they don’t rely on a branded material and don’t have sizing restrictions. On the downside, they don’t have fire resistance like other options and can melt quite easily. Lower ballistic levels are also more at risk of not withstanding simple forced entry attacks, such as from knives, etc.
There are popular derivatives of this material with brand names such as Dyneema and Spectra.
Ballistic rubber is another option but rarely is used in homes or walls. It is much more typical of use in firearm ranges as a backing behind other ballistic resistant material. If vulcanized rubber is thick enough it can capture bullets. There are no good ballistic rubbers on the market that are certified to match specific ballistic standards so it is a bit of a guessing game.
A 4’ x 8’ bullet resistant fiberglass sheet starts as low as $320 and can range as high as $1,500, or $10 – $47 per square foot.
The price within that range depends on the UL protection level of the panel, ranging from protection from a few rounds of a 9mm handgun to multiple rounds of an M-14 assault rifle. Shipping is cost effective compared to other heavy ballistic materials such as steel.
Other factors may affect pricing such as bulk orders or special sizes and cut-outs. Standard panel sizes are: 3’ x 8’, 3’ x 9’, 3’ x 10’; 4’ x 8’, 4’ x 9’, 4’ x 10’; 5’ x 8’, 5’ x 9’, and 5’ x 10’.
Fiberglass sheets are so strong because they use the advantages of glass while avoiding its downsides. Fiberglass benefits from the strong tensile strength of glass, but it avoids its propensity to shatter. It does this by using glass as fibers (hence its name) and then keeps all these minute fibers in place with a proprietary resin solution. This keeps all the glass fibers individually secured. This complex interlocking glass particles allows for extreme absorption of high impact force.
Multiple woven roven layers combined through specialized heat press allow for the creation of multiple weight and thickness of panels to reach all eight UL 752 ballistic levels, protecting from everything from 9mm handguns to AK-47s, and from axe strikes to large explosions.
Despite it’s strength, ballistic fiberglass is easier to work with than other ballistic materials because it can be cut to size on site with diamond grit saw blades and fastened to walls with convenient materials. This is starkly in contrast to the complexity of installing steel ballistic options of all types.
While determining how much protection needed is a personal choice, there are some rules of thumbs we can provide. In an ideal world one would purchase the highest level of protection available, at Level 8. But for most people looking at their potential threat level is more realistic.
The primary question is whether one feels protection from handguns is sufficient or they require protection from rifles as well. Handgun protection is much less expensive. The most common ballistic Level here is level 3. This protects from nearly all types of handguns, including the incredibly powerful .44 magnum. Beginning at Level 3 is also testing against multiple forms of forced entry attack (axes, etc).
If looking at rifle protection, typical selections are Levels 7 or 8. Level 7 stops multiple rounds from common assault rifles such as the AR-15. This is the least expensive rifle level. For the ultimate protection, Level 8 provides resistance to even stronger assault rifles, such as the M-14.
Whether you need rifle or handgun protection depends on your perceived threats. Is your home one that may be targeted in a planned attack due to being of a grand appearance? Are you or someone who lives at your home well-known and may be a personal target? Then protection from rifle rounds may be wise. On the other hand, clients primarily focused on safety from an opportunistic burglar will likely be well protected with a Level 3 handgun resistant panel.
Our ballistic fiberglass sheets are shipped directly from the factory to your shipping destination. Shipments can be sent to commercial or residential locations, though residential delivery adds some additional cost.
The panels are shipped LTL via shipping carrier on one or more pallets depending on quantity. Liftgate service can be added to allow the removal of panels from the truck. If the client has a loading dock or forklift this service can be skipped.
If very large panels are being ordered (such as 5′ x 10′) then the liftgate on the truck may be insufficient and a forklift on site is needed.
One out of the truck, a pallet jack can be very convenient in moving the pallets closer to where they are needed.