The most common entry point into a home for burglars or attackers is the front door. Regardless of how many other ways there are to enter a home, burglars follow the way that we are all accustomed to enter a home. Therefore, it behooves any homeowner who wants to protect their home from intruders to make sure that their front door is fortified against entry.
You may be sitting there saying, “No problem, I’ve got a deadbolt.” Well, let me and my boots pay your home a visit, and I’ll show you how one quick kick can eliminate that deadbolt and open your door. A single deadbolt isn’t enough to keep anyone out, except little children and obnoxious salesmen.
To ensure that nobody can get in your front door takes much more than a deadbolt. You need several points of attachment to ensure that your door can’t be broken into. So put that deadbolt in, but don’t stop there; add two more.
To get the most out of your deadbolts, you need to spread them out. If they are close together, the wood door frame can break out in one place. By separating them, putting one near the top of the door and one near the bottom, any attacker has to break three separate deadbolts out, not just one.
Since you’ll only use the other two deadbolts when you are home, you can install them in such a way as to not be visible from outside the door, adding to the surprise when they can’t just kick your door in. To do this, cut out the opening for the deadbolt, but don’t go all the way through. You’ll still have a 1/4 inch hole where the pilot bit goes through, but that can be plugged and sanded smooth.
Another important part of installing your deadbolts is to make sure that they go all the way through the doorframe, into the home’s framing. Typically, the door frame is only held in place with a few finishing nails, so it isn’t very strong. If the deadbolt only goes into the frame, and the frame doesn’t break, the door and frame can be kicked in together.
This diagram shows the cross section of a typical front door installation. As you can see, the deadbolt is only going into the door frame, which is only held in place by a few finishing nails. Six 15 gauge nails are normal on each side of the frame. The space between the frame and the studs is typical as well, as most rough door openings are made slightly oversize and then the door frame is installed with shims.
A longer deadbolt, which goes into the 2”x 4” stud is considerably stronger. You can also strengthen the door frame itself, by attaching it in more points. Instead of using finish nails, drywall screws could be used for added strength. These can then be puttied over and painted, making them invisible.
Front doors are typically installed with three 3-1/2” hinges. The hinges themselves are fairly strong, if they are installed with the hinge pin on the inside (door opening inwards). Older homes may have them installed with the hinge pin on the outside (door opening outwards).
The weakness in the door’s hinge comes in the way that it is installed. Typically, they are installed with 3/4” or 1” wood screws. That means that just like the deadbolt that only goes into the door frame, the hinge screws only go into the door frame as well. By removing these screws and replacing them with screws that are at least two inches long, a lot of strength can be added to the hinge side of the door.
Just as the door frame on the lock side of the door needs to be made stronger by adding screws that hold the door frame to the studs, this side too needs to be strengthened. This will help prevent the door and frame from being kicked out together. There is no reason for installing screws in the lintel side of the door frame, as that won’t add any strength.
In addition to strengthening the hinge side by changing out the screws, something akin to deadbolts can be added. Each hinge is typically held in place with four screws. Remove one pair of screws (the screw into the door and the matching one into the frame). Drill out the hole in the door and put in a three inch lag screw, leaving it sticking out of the door 1/2 inch. Then, cut the head off the screw. Take a grinder, and round off the cut-off end of the lag screw.
Now, drill out the hole in the door frame side of the hinge slightly larger than the diameter of the lag screw, so that there is enough room for it to enter. That means a 1/4” lag screw will need a 3/8” hole and a 3/8” lag screw will need a 1/2” hole.
A determined criminal, on finding that they can’t just kick the door in, might try and cut the door around the lock and deadbolt. This can easily be thwarted by putting steel rods into the door. These rods should be installed above, below and between the door lock and deadbolt. Then, if they try to cut through the door, their saw will hit the steel rod and stop, probably dulling the blade.
You can buy steel rod in pretty much any hardware store or building supply center. The harder part is to find the extra-long “aircraft” drill bits. You could do this with a six inch drill bit, but a 12 inch one would be better if you can find it.
Drill holes in the edge of the door in the desired locations. These holes need to be as deep as practical, but not hit the raised panel area of the door. Cut off sections of the steel rod that are just a touch shorter than the depth of the hole, and glue them in place. Once the glue is dry, cover the holes with a little bit of putty, sand, and paint. This will hide the work you’ve done.
Glass panels are the bane of many a modern door. You can do the best security job there is, but if there are glass panels, all anyone has to do is break the glass and they can reach through to open the door.
The ability to reach through these windows can be easily eliminated by putting wrought iron gratings over the windows. Then all they can do is break the glass. Even if they break it, they can’t reach through and open the door.
If the door has sidelights, the same thing should be done for them as well. The area near the door locks needs to have the bars of the grating close enough together to prevent anyone from getting their hand through. Farther away from the door locks, they only need to keep people from crawling through the window.
Bar the Door
Have you ever seen a movie where they had to bar the castle door to protect against the battering ram? There’s a reason why they did that. It’s because it’s really hard to get through a barred door. Well, you can bar your door, just as well as they can bar the castle door.
All you need is a 4”x 4” that’s long enough to cross your door and get to the studs and some brackets. You’ll probably have to make the brackets yourself out of 1-1/2” or 2” strap steel. Be sure to mount them into studs and not just into trim or drywall. I don’t care what type of mounting hardware you use, if you just mount them into drywall, they you may as well not bother. On the other hand, if the brackets are mounted into studs with two inch lag screws, then they won’t be able to break it loose.
A door that’s prepared in this way can still be broken, but instead of using a boot, or even an improvised battering ram, they’re going to have to drive a car through it. Most assailants won’t want to bother doing that, unless they are extremely desperate. Common criminals will definitely avoid it, as they don’t want to leave that much evidence behind.