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Home Security; What Part Do Your Doors Play?

By Gates Dearen

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Imagine coming home from work one evening only to discover that while you were away, your house has been burglarized and vandalized.  Many of your prized possessions are missing and your personal, private space has been ransacked and is now in disarray by the thieves who not only stole your valuables, but intentionally ransacked your house, ate some the food in the fridge, left it open so the rest of your food spoiled, sprayed obscene graffiti on your walls, upturned furniture and other items, and generally left your home uninhabitable. A frightening scenario, indeed.

In the first segment of this mini-series I’m first going to provide some security To Do’s that are predominately common sense, but are worth considering.  I’m then going to focus on front and back doors.  In a follow-up article, I’ll focus on windows and share more general home security tips.

Home Security Basics  

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If you’re planning on being away from home for a several days, take some necessary, common sense steps to make it less obvious you’re away.  For one thing, if you subscribe to any newspapers, ensure their delivery is temporarily stopped.  Similarly, you can also arrange to have the post office temporarily hold your mail.  Or you should make arrangements with a trusted friend, relative or neighbor to retrieve it daily.  Don’t make any purchases in advance of your leaving so that packages or attempted delivery notices by firms such as FedEx, UPS, DHL, etc., are hanging on your front door.  If you use a lawn service, have it trim your lawn just prior to your leaving (so yours isn’t the only home in the neighborhood with an unkempt lawn).  Bring in any trash/recycling containers.  If you’re planning on leaving your car at home, park it in the garage.

My colleagues at Working the Web to Win also advise being wise online.  While it’s tempting to do so, don’t tell the entire world via social media sites such as Facebook that you’re going on vacation.  You're just advertising your imminent absence to would-be thieves.  Don’t post photos of yourself while you’re on vacation either.  This also tells the world you’re not at home.  Wait until you return home to show off your vacation pictures.

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Invest in an alarm system.  There are many good firms out there, and with digital technology, you can have your house monitored 24/7. Consider installing security cameras. Even a couple of inexpensive cameras at the front and back doors can help deter would-be thieves. You can set them up to record/playback the video feed on your PC, smart phone, tablet, etc.  You can buy manual timing devices or, if you have a smarthome, program various lights and appliances (i.e., TV, radio) to turn on and off at varying times, emulating your physical presence at home. 

Front Doors

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Statistically, it’s been found that most burglars gain access to a house via the front or back door.  Some windows are also susceptible.  While no home is 100% burglar proof (depending upon a thief’s ability), by upgrading your home’s access ways ― doors and windows ― and taking other smart steps, you can minimize the chances of an intrusion.  

Always keep all doors and windows securely locked, even when leaving home for a few minutes.  Why make it easier for burglars to gain access to your home in the first place? The best-built locks in the world will do you little good if you don’t use them.  I’ll talk more about locks a little later. 

Are any of your home’s exterior doors hollow? If so, you should replace them right away.  Hollow doors are merely sheets of veneer over a cardboard core, therefore they are not very sturdy at all.  How can you tell if any of your doors are hollow?  Simple.  Knock on them.  You’ll hear a resonant sound versus a solid “thwack” if your door is hollow.  While hollow doors may be fine for inside the home, all exterior doors should be solid, built of several main materials such as fiberglass, solid wood, solid wood core (a layer of veneer over solid wood), or metal.  With metallic exterior doors, be sure that they’re reinforced inside and have what’s known as a lock block.  If not, these metallic doors can be bent out of the frame with a car jack.  

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While it’s true a solid door without windows provides more security than a door with glass or windows, today’s technology provides for strong, impact-resistant glass, which is much harder to smash through This not only protects you from being burglarized, it’s also advantageous for severe weather.  From a design/security standpoint, your home shouldn’t have any windows close enough to the door so as to facilitate a thief being able to break the window and reach inside to unlock the door from the inside.  

 Sliding Glass Doors

If you have sliding glass doors or glass door panels or nearby windows, make certain to cover the glass with a security grate or grill on the outside.  You can also have a clear, unbreakable polycarbonate panel secured behind the glass on the interior side of the glass. 

To better secure any sliding doors, install keyed locks at the top and bottom. You can install a stop bar that swings down from the door frame to the middle of the door to stop it from sliding.  Some  people recommend placing some type of rod. A thick wooden dowel can work here, or a tight-fitting 2' x 4' wood plank in the bottom track to keep it from being opened.  Reinforce the glass with polycarbonate panels.

Door Locks

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With the exception of sliding doors, all exterior doors should have a deadbolt lock in addition to the lock built into the doorknob. This deadbolt should be high quality (Grade 1 or 2 solid metals with no exposed screws on the exterior), with a throw bolt (the bolt that comes out of the door) at least one inch (2.5 cm) long.  If any of your doors have a low-quality deadbolt or throw bolts shorter than one inch, these should be replaced.  

In addition to the deadbolt, consider having a dead-lock installed.  These provide extra security when you’re at home.  Sometimes referred to as an “exit-only deadbolt” this is a type of lock that doesn’t have an external key aperture.  The mechanism itself is visible on the exterior of the door, but these can’t be broken into unless a burglar destroys the door, the door frame, or the lock itself.  While, by design, these locks don’t work when you’re away from home since they can only be manually turned from the inside, its visibility on all external doors may be sufficient to discourage a potential intruder.   

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Burglars have removed or damaged lock cylinders by hammering, wrenching, or prying them off of doors. Protect your lock cylinders (the part where you insert your key) with cylinder guards, which are either metal guard plates or protective rings on both sides of the door.  For better protection, use guard plates with round-head carriage bolts to prevent them from being unscrewed.  Free-spinning rings around the cylinders will prevent someone from using a pipe wrench to twist the cylinder out.  Many locks already come with these, but if not, most home supply stores carry them.  

Weak or flimsy strike plates can also facilitate someone gaining access.  The strike plate is the metal plate that surrounds the lock-set (the hole in the door frame where the lock bolt enters).  All exterior doors should have heavy-duty metal security strike plates secured by four, three-inch screws. Open up your front door and inspect yours.  To save costs, the exterior doors for many homes today, and especially condos and apartments, have lower quality strike plates, often only secured with short screws that are merely inserted into the door jam.  Longer screws affixed into the underlying stud provide much better protection.   


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Your door’s hinges should be on the inside of the door. If yours are not, rehang the door or secure the exposed hinges with non-removable pins.  You can do this by removing at least the two center screws on each side of the hinge and replacing them with non-removable hinge pins. You can get these at a hardware store or use double-headed masonry nails.  Hinges that are not exposed should be secured to the frame with three-inch screws.

Door Frame

Even with a strong door and quality, properly-installed locks, a burglar may be able to gain entry by breaking or prying the door frame.  Most door frame moldings are simply tacked to the wall, and so a crowbar or a solid kick can easily separate the frame from the wall.  Secure your door frames to the walls by installing several three-inch long screws along the frame and doorstop.  As with the strike plate screws, these, too, should reach into the wall stud.

Viewers, also called peep holes, allow you to see who is on the other side of the door. Install wide-angle viewers at eye level on all exterior doors. If you have to open your door to see who’s there, your lock won't do you much good.  Even better: look for peep hole models with covers to prevent people from looking back inside with special tools, like a reverse peephole viewer.

In this first part of our mini-series on home security, I offered some general information about how to increase your home’s security. I then focused on exterior doors and their various components, including locks, hinges, frames, and discussed how to make them safer.  

If you found this article helpful, please forward it along. If have a comment or question, please post it in the “Comment” section below.  As always, thanks for taking the time to visit our blog.

If you would like to receive an official factory authorized 30% discount coupon for your next window replacement purchase, print out this article with the coupon on it  and bring it with you when visiting HomeRite.

Gates Dearen is the co-owner of HomeRite Windows and Doors in Jacksonville, Florida. Owners Dearen and Richard Walden have been serving the building products industry in Florida for over 25 years. They know the products, the industry, the market and what adds great value to a home. Their approach is a somewhat different than others.  They strive to match the homeowner with the right windows and doors for their home and budget.  They know some home improvement projects can be a hassle.  They strive to make the process pleasant with first-rate, energy efficient products; affordable prices; and expert, award-wining installers that employ the best practices and who respect your home as if it were their own.

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