The average American home is not really built to be secure. More than anything, security is based on the tongue-in-cheek saying that “Locks only keep the honest people honest.” We readily accept that our homes aren’t really all that secure, and typically don’t do a whole lot about it.
Those that do decide to make their home more secure generally follow the “conventional wisdom,” putting deadbolts on their doors, locks on their windows and a stick in their sliding glass door track. But all they’ve accomplished by doing that is to help keep the honest people honest. Neither a deadbolt or a window lock is going to do a thing to even slow down someone determined to get into your home.
Deadbolts are a great invention, but they are typically installed into wood doors with wood frames. All it takes to break through that door is one swift kick with a booted foot. The impact of that kick will make the deadbolt break through the flimsy wood door frame, allowing criminals access to your home. That’s not the fault of the deadbolt itself, but the door frame is only ½” x ¾” of pine after installing the deadbolt. You can break that over your knee, even without the booted foot.
Window security is no better. I don’t care how expensive a lock you put on a glass window or sliding glass door, it won’t make the glass itself any stronger. If someone wants to get in, all they’ve got to do is to break the glass and reach through to open the lock.
I realize that I’m painting a rather bleak picture here, but if you are expecting your home to keep the bad guys out in a time of social unrest, you’re going to have to go further than the conventional wisdom. The only reason that those measures actually work is that criminals don’t want to draw attention to themselves, so they rarely kick a door open or break a window. But in a time of social unrest, all bets are off.
The thing is, at such a time, you want your home to be secure; not so much to protect you, but to give you a chance to defend yourself. If you can keep the bad guys outside and fight from inside, you have a much better chance of defeating them, without getting wounded yourself.
So what we need to do is to “harden” the home, making it more difficult to break into. That gives you time to gather your guns and react if your home comes under attack. (See also: Home Defense Strategy)
The Front Door
More criminals try to come through the front door (34%), than any other entryway into your home. In about 1/5 of the cases, they are able to just turn the knob and walk right in, as the owners of that home have forgotten to lock it. But as I already mentioned, the lock isn’t much of a deterrent either.
We can easily make that lock and the deadbolt much more effective by adding a security striker plate. The normal striker plate for a door lockset or deadbolt is only about 2-1/2” long and is held in place by two ¾” screws. But if we make or buy a longer striker plate, which has holes for both the lockset and the deadbolt, as well as using more screws to hold it in, we give a lot more support to that thin wood door frame.
Commercially manufactured security striker plates are about 12 inches long. I prefer to make my own, which is made out of 1/8” x 1-1/2” steel strap. This is considerably stronger than the commercial ones. But the real difference is that they are 3 feet long. That allows me to put in a lot more screws, spreading the force of any blow across a larger area and making it harder to break through the door frame.
When installing the security striker plate, you need to use 3” or 3-1/2” screws. Those are long enough to go through the doorframe, the space behind it and into the structural studs in the wall. Along with the security striker plate, that pretty much guarantees that the bad guys aren’t going to get through.
You should also put long screws like that into the hinges, as they use the same ¾” screws that are normally used for the striker plate. There are also security hinges you can install, which have a tab in one leaf, which goes into a hole in the other leaf when the door is closed. So, not only are the longer hinges keeping the hinge attached to the door and frame, but the hinge itself is less likely to become deformed.
There are two other things you should consider for a front door. One is called a “door club.” Manufactured by the same people who make the club security device for cars, it attaches to the floor and acts like a secondary deadbolt. The only problem is, you can’t use it if a family member is not home, as it doesn’t open with a key.
The other is a door prop. If you think about the old idea of propping a chair under the doorknob, you’ll have the concept. But modern props are made out of metal and have a rubber foot so that they can’t be pushed across the floor easily.
Windows on the front door should be treated in the same manner as the windows in the home are.
Windows are notoriously weak since they are made of glass. Anyone with a rock, baseball bat, or hammer can break through them in a moment. But there are things that can be done to make windows much harder to break through.
The first is to add security window film to the inside of the window. This film is like tinting film, but much thicker. While different manufacturer’s specifications vary, I’ve seen security window film as thick as 12 mils thick. That won’t break easily. Better yet, it makes it so that the window itself won’t break out easily, even if the glass is shattered.
This security film works much like the windshield on a car. Those are made of three layers of material; an outer layer of glass, an inner layer of glass and a rubberized material that is stuck to both, in between. If the windshield shatters, the inner layer holds everything in place, even though the glass is totally destroyed.
In the case of security window film, the film makes it considerably harder to break the glass. But the real value in it is that it stays stuck to the glass, even when the glass is shattered. So if a criminal wants to gain access to the home, they literally have to break the glass out, all the way around the window.
The other thing that can be done with windows is to install burglar bars. These are metal bars, which cover the windows, either on the inside or the outside, making it impossible to enter, even if the windows are broken. Most burglar bars are custom made to fit the home, although there are some standard sized burglar bars on the market. However, they are made of a thinner material, making them weaker than the custom-made ones.
There are two other types of doors a home may have, standard exterior doors, made of metal or wood and sliding glass doors. Standard exterior doors can be secured in the same way that the front door is, providing a similar level of security. If anything, it is easier to do this with the front door, as there is less concern with aesthetics on a garage door than there is for the home’s front door.
Sliding glass doors are probably the easiest place for a determined criminal to gain access to a home. The standard wisdom of putting screws in the upper track and a stick in the lower one only work for those cases where a criminal might try to take the door off the track. They do nothing to hinder a criminal who is willing to make the noise of breaking the glass.
The best thing to do with one of these doors is replaced it with a standard door and then secure it in the ways we’ve already mentioned. However, many people want these doors, because they allow a good view of the backyard, which helps with keeping track of the kids. If that’s the case, then you want to reinforce the door in the same way that the windows of the home are reinforced, either with security window film or with burglar bars.