The world is getting more dangerous all the time. According to the latest FBI statistics, a burglary happens somewhere in the United States every 15 seconds. Even more startling than that, more and more of these burglaries are actual home invasions, where the criminals are forcibly entering the home while people are there. When that happens, the possibility for violence is extremely high.
Conventional wisdom says that putting a deadbolt on your door and locking your windows is enough to keep those criminals out. But that same conventional wisdom believes that locks only keep honest people honest. If all you’re worried about is honest people, then by all means follow that conventional wisdom. But if you’re worried about hardened criminals, you need to harden your home.
The truth is that any average-sized man can kick his way through a dead-bolted door fairly easily. The weak point isn’t the deadbolt itself or even the door; it’s the door frame. Most entry doors have wood frames, which are ¾-inch thick pine. The deadbolt is mounted with only half an inch of material between it and the edge of the door frame. So that nice, solid deadbolt breaks right through the door frame when a boot is applied to the door, giving the criminals access to your home.
Windows are even worse. Anyone who thinks locking a glass window will keep people out has never broken a drinking glass by dropping it on the floor. Glass is extremely fragile, so locking the glass window really doesn’t accomplish a whole lot.
Criminals gain access to homes through the doors and windows, particularly ones on the front of the house:
- 34 percent enter through the front door.
- 23 percent enter through first floor windows.
- 22 percent enter through a back door.
- 9 percent enter through the garage.
- 6 percent enter through unlocked storage areas.
- 4 percent enter through a basement window or door.
- 2 percent enter through a second floor window.
With that in mind, hardening your home means making it hard for the criminals to get through those most-common entry areas. That’s actually not all that hard.
Hardening Your Front Door
The front entry door is the most common entrance used by thieves. You can make it almost impossible for them to kick their way in by just adding a few security items to your door.
To start with, install security hinges. These are normal door hinges with a small deadbolt-like feature. The “bolt” is stamped out of one side of the hinge and fits into a hole in the other side. While not as strong as an actual deadbolt, you have to remember that there are three of them. Mount the hinges with 3-1/2 inch case-hardened screws, so that the screws go through the frame and well into the 2″x 4″ structural stud behind it. That way, the stud is what’s absorbing the force, not just the door frame.
For the lock side of your door, you can replace the standard striker plate with a security striker plate. This is a longer plate, which combines both the door lock and deadbolt into one. Screw mounting is provided for above, below and between the two locks. By using the same 3-1/2 inch case-hardened screws, you get a fairly secure locking plate.
If your door lock and deadbolt are mounted at a non-standard distance from one another, you can make your own security striker plate. This is actually better, as you can make it longer. I like mine about three feet long. That allows for more mounting screws, spreading the force of any kick farther.
One more valuable security addition to your door is the door club. This device mounts to the bottom of your door and goes into a striker that is mounted into your floor. That way, any force is dissipated through the floor, which is much stronger than the wall. While a bit inconvenient to use, the door club makes any door much more secure.
Hardening Your Windows
Glass windows don’t provide much security — except against those honest people who don’t want to break them. However, there are two different ways that you can secure them, eliminating them as an access point for criminals.
The first way to burglar proof your windows is to install burglar bars. These are metal bars which are mounted over the window and attached to the wall. Even if an intruder breaks the glass, they can’t get through the metal bars. About the only thing they can do is to attach a chain or cable to the window bars and pull them off the side of your home with a truck. Most criminals aren’t willing to be quite that obvious.
These window bars can be mounted on the outside or inside of your windows. That makes for a nice option for those who don’t like how they look on the outside of the home. While there are commercially available window bars available from most home-improvement centers, you’re much better off having them custom made, as they will be stronger.
Another option for securing windows is window security film. This plastic film adheres to the inside of the window pane. Like the front windshield on a car, the window film prevents the window from breaking out of the frame, even if it shatters. To break out a window with security film on it requires breaking the glass all the way around the window, a time consuming operation.
These window films come in various thicknesses, ranging from two milliliters thick up to 12 milliliters thick. The thicker the film, the stronger it is. Don’t mistake tinting film for security film; while they look similar, the tinting film adds almost no strength to the glass for security.
Any glass in the front entry door needs to be treated in the same way as the windows to make them secure.
Other Entrance Points
While the front door and windows are the prime entrance points, it is necessary to secure all entry points, especially those on the ground floor of the home. Many homes’ back doors are sliding glass patio doors. These are the most insecure entry you can have on a home. All that anyone needs to do is throw a rock through them or hit them with an axe from your shed — and they can get into the home.
The best thing to do with these doors, from a security point of view, is to replace them with a standard door. That way, it can be secured in the same manner that the front door is secured. Another alternate way of securing these doors is to treat them like the windows in the home — putting burglar bars over them or security film on the inside of them. Either one will make a lot of difference.
Garage doors and outside basement doors aren’t as common an entry point, but are often overlooked when making a home more secure. This leaves them as an easy way into the home. Each exterior door should be treated the same way, including putting a peep hole in the door so you can look outside before opening it. As an added measure of security, the door between the garage and the house should be treated like an exterior door.
How About the Walls?
Hardening walls is difficult. Fortunately, most criminals won’t try to gain access through a wall. However, it is possible that a criminal with murderous intent might try to shoot through a wall. A brick wall will stop almost all handgun rounds (with the exception of magnum rounds), but not rifle rounds. A wood wall won’t stop anything more than a small caliber pistol round.
Finally, Don’t Forget About Backup
The measures mentioned here will stop almost everyone, but if you are being attacked by a determined attacker who is out for blood, they can make their way through any passive defenses you can create. You should always be ready to defend yourself and your family should this happen. If they actually succeed in breaking into your home through these defenses then the time for talking is over. It’s time to take action with firearms to protect your family.
What would you add to this story? Are there better ways to make a home secure? Leave your reply in the section below.