Home security is one of those things that concerns everyone, that’s why we put locks on our homes. But while we give lip service to making our homes secure, we all know that what we’re doing isn’t enough. Hence the oft-quoted saying, “Locks only keep the honest people honest.”
I don’t know about you, but I’m not really concerned about keeping the honest people honest; they seem to do a fairly good job of doing that, without my help. What I am concerned about is keeping the dishonest people honest. When a time of disaster or crisis comes, that concern will multiply tenfold, if not more. Honest people might ask me for food, dishonest ones will likely try to take it by trickery or by force.
In such a situation, your locks that are designed to “keep the honest people honest” aren’t going to do a bit of good. Putting a deadbolt on a door, when the door frame is made of thin wood doesn’t make your home more secure. That door can still be kicked open with a booted foot. Nor does putting locks on windows help you much, when the window glass can be easily broken.
Granted, criminals today try to avoid attention, so they don’t want to kick open doors or break glass windows. The noise of doing those things attracts attention, which might lead to them getting caught. But their circumspection will take a nose dive when there isn’t any food and they are hungry.
In such a scenario, we will need to be ready to take up arms in the defense of our homes and families. But it would help if our homes could help us in that endeavor, offering a little more to keep the barbarians outside of our walls, rather than offering only token resistance if they decide they want to break in.
The most common point of entry for criminals is through the front door of the home; the same door that I said could be busted open with a booted foot. The problem isn’t the lock or deadbolt you’re using, it’s that most entry doors on homes are mounted into a wood frame. The deadbolt is kept from moving by a piece of soft pine, which is only ¾” thick and with less than that between the hole and the edge. No wonder it’s so easy to kick a door open.
You can add additional deadbolts, but that won’t really accomplish a whole lot, unless you can make the door frame stronger. One way of making it stronger is to replace it with a metal frame, but that’s not all that attractive, unless you buy the fancy metal doors made in Mexico (yours for only about $1,500).
So we’ll have to go with the next best thing. That’s to add a metal plate to the inside of the frame, replacing the small striker plate. This larger plate, called a “security striker plate” allows more screws, which effectively transfer the force of the kick into the 2”x 4” studs in the wall. To do this, longer screws need to be used, in place of the ¾” long screws that are normal. Three inch or 3-1/2” screws are recommended.
The commercial security striker plates are only about 12 inches long, which is better than the one that comes with the lockset, but not good enough in my opinion. I make my own out of 1-1/2” wide X 1/8” thick strap steel, which allows me to make them three feet long. All you have to do to make these is make the holes for the lockset and deadbolt, which I do with a hole saw and add countersunk holes for the screws. Making it so long allows the force of any kick to be spread over a larger area, adding a considerable amount of strength.
While you’re replacing the screws on the striker plate, go ahead and replace the screws on the hinges too, as those are also short. The same longer screws will make it much harder to break the door out of its hinges on that side as well.
For that matter, you may want to consider replacing the standard door hinges with security hinges. These have a tab coming out of one leaf, which fits into a hole in the other leaf, when the door is closed. As such, it acts like a mini-deadbolt, adding more strength to the door.
Just those two items will make a huge amount of difference; but you can do more. Adding a “door club” to the bottom of your door, which insets into the floor, gives you added security, just like adding an additional deadbolt. You can also use a door prop, wedged under the doorknob to the floor or bar the gate, placing a bar across the door and holding it with brackets. That will give you the most security you can get on a front door.
The second most common point of entry for criminals is through the first-floor windows. Breaking a window and getting in is extremely easy, especially if you’re not worried about making a mess or making a little noise. Other than nailing plywood over your windows, which severely limits their utility, there are two ways that windows can be secured.
The first is to use window security film. This is much like the film used for tinting windows, except that it is clear and much thicker. I’ve seen window security film as thick as 12 mils. This film attaches to the inside of the windows and does not affect light transmission or clarity. So it’s basically invisible to anyone trying to break into your home.
The film works much like the inner layer of a car windshield. First, it helps the window to flex and absorb the blow, without breaking. But when the breaking point is reached, it holds the broken glass in place. The only way that a criminal can get through the window is to break the glass out, all the way around.
While not a perfect solution, window security film does give you time to react. Hearing the glass break, you could grab a weapon and confront the criminal, before they can get the glass out all the way around.
The second way of securing windows is to install burglar bars. This is common in Mexico and the American Southwest. Burglar bars, or security bars can be installed either to the outside or the inside of the home, with equal effectiveness. With them in place, even if a criminal manages to break the glass out of your windows, they can’t get through.
You can buy “universal” burglar bars at the major home improvement centers. These are usually made of thin metal tubing, allowing their size to be adjusted. As such, they can be broken, although not easily. But the best burglar bars are custom made one, fabricated by a welding shop. Rather than thin tubing, these are usually made of square steel rod. About the only way a criminal could get though them is to attach a chain to one and pull it off with a truck.
Glass Patio Doors
The most vulnerable point of entry on the average home is the sliding glass patio door. The idea of putting a stick or screws in the track, to keep someone from popping the door out, is a clear manifestation of trying to “keep honest people honest.” Being made of glass, breaking one to gain entry is easy.
The best thing to do with these is to replace them with a standard entry door and secure that door as mentioned above. However, many people don’t want to do that, because they like to be able to look out in the backyard and see what the kids are doing. I understand that.
In that case, the sliding door and its sidelight need to be treated like windows. They can be secured either with security window film or with burglar bars. Welding shops that produce burglar bars can also produce a “gate” to go over these doors, allowing it to be as secure as any other part of your home.
Garages can have two types of doors, personnel doors and vehicle doors. If your garage has a personnel door, then secure it like you would any other entry door. I would also recommend adding a peep hole, of the type used on entry doors, so that you can see if anyone is in the garage, without having to open the door.
The problem with garages is the vehicle door. That’s hard to secure. If you have a garage door opener, it’s extremely easy to gain access to your garage. All a criminal needs to do is put a wire hook through the crack in the top of the door and snag the release cord, popping the release. Then they can open the door. This security problem can easily be solved by removing the handle and just leaving the cord in place.
The doors themselves are difficult to secure, especially, if you have metal (aluminum) ones. They just aren’t all that strong. While they will withstand a person hitting or kicking them, all it takes is a little nudge from the front bumper of a vehicle to buckle that door and make it come off its tracks.
In a crisis situation, you can make this door much more secure by barring it. But that’s almost impossible to do on a daily basis, simply because you can’t get your cars in and out, while the door is barred. The only possibility to make this door truly secure is to replace it with a more secure door, such as the old-style doors used on carriage houses. While less convenient, those are actually much more secure. If you’re a do-it-yourselfer, you could even make these yourself.