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How to Improve the Security and Safety of an Older Home

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
By Gates Dearen

They don’t make them like they used to.  That’s the catchphrase that is used by realtors to make any older home seem more attractive to buyers.  The truth of the matter is that there’s a reason why they don’t make houses like they used to.  That’s because building codes have been updated and improved.  For example, nobody wants lead pipes in their home for a good reason.  They’re toxic.  The same goes for asbestos roof shingles.  And nobody wants aluminum wiring in their house nowadays, because it’s a fire hazard.  I could go on and on.  There is a host of building materials that have come and gone over the years, mostly due to the fact that they were either hazardous or ineffective at fulfilling the function they were created to achieve. 

This is especially true in the window and door industry.  There are many older homes in Florida whose windows are practically museum pieces.  Take jalousie windows, which are still found in some houses.  Created in the 1950’s these louvered windows were all the rage because they could be cranked open to let in the air, even if it was raining outside.  The thin glass slats that composed the jalousie were designed to cant out and down to shed rain. 

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The problems with jalousie windows began with the fact that the mechanism that opened the slats was prone to jamming.  Since they haven’t made these windows since the 1970’s, good luck getting parts.  Even worse, Jalousie windows are a burglar’s dream come true, since prying the panes out of the frame is child’s play.  That’s one of the main reasons they stopped making jalousies.  The third reason is that even when they are fully closed, jalousie windows still leak a lot of air.  This makes your HVAC system work double time, and your utility bills skyrocket.  Ask any window and door professional, and he or she will tell you that jalousies are just no good.

Even if your home has never had a jalousie window, older homes still have many issues when it comes to windows and doors.  While it’s true that homes built prior to 1970 had windows made with old-growth wood, houses that are 50 years old or older can still succumb to two age-old problems: termites and wood rot.  While your window sills and door frames might look solid, inside, they could be very porous.  The best way to search for termite damage and rot is to take a screwdriver and use the handle to tap on the wood.  You’ll be able to tell whether the wood is solid or porous by the sound it makes when you tap on it.  If it thunks like an old marimba, you have a problem.

Are Your Windows Robbing You Blind?

courtesy of Moody Air Force Base
 U.S. Air Force
To continue, the two hungriest energy hogs on older homes are single-pane windows and sliding glass doors.  If you have either of these in your home, they could be responsible for almost half the cost of your utility bills.  That’s because 21% of heat loss is due to drafts caused by air intrusion and 22% is lost through radiation.  That means if your house still sports the same windows and doors it had on the day it was built, they are costing you a lot of money in energy bill expenses.

The best way to detect radiant heat loss is to put your palm on the inside window pane or casement on either a hot or cold day.  If you can feel the great outdoors through your skin, how long do you think it will take to transfer that to the interior of your home?  Another sure sign that you need to consider upgrading your windows and doors is if your home heating system seems to run nearly non-stop in the dead of winter and your air conditioner does the same in the heart of summer.  Are your windows robbing you blind?

Aside from the expense of heating and cooling your home, the number one reason to consider upgrading your windows and doors is security.  Speaking of robbing you blind, are you aware that more than 2 million burglaries are reported in the US every year?  That’s right. According to FBI statistics, a burglary happens once every 15 seconds in this country.  While many people are quick to spend money on burglar alarms and surveillance systems, let me point out the obvious:  These systems only work once the thieves have broken in.

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Since most crooks don’t tunnel into your home, the first line of defense in your home are your windows and doors.  Older windows and doors are like a burglar magnet.  They are all too easy to defeat.  Either the window stops have worn out, or the locks no longer lock.  Sliding glass doors can be defeated by popping the door off its track.  Even most front or back doors are all too easy to pry open or kick in.

If you don’t believe me, gather your family together for a “burglar party.”  Have everyone go outside and lock all the windows and doors.  Then offer $10 to the first person who manages to break in.  You’d be surprised at how quickly someone will claim the prize.  Most teenagers make the perfect second story men by climbing up the fence and onto the roof to pry open a bathroom window.  Grandma might surprise you by using a hairpin to jimmy the sliding glass door or window.  Most of us have forgotten our keys at one time or another. How did you get in?  Window locks are usually the easiest to defeat.  If push came to shove, I'd bet you broke a single pane to get into the house, didn’t you?

Modern replacement windows and doors have the latest security measures built-in at the factory.  Window grids called muntins make it impossible to gain entry by breaking a window.  Window locks can also require a key which makes them jimmy-proof.  Since new windows are double-paned, this requires a burglar to break both the inner and outer window, another disincentive for thieves. 

Cat burglars and home invaders are always on the lookout for any window left ajar.  Why break in when the homeowner provides easy access.  Modern windows can be equipped with vent locks that allow you to let in a breeze without letting a thief breeze into your home. 

Replacement doors can also take your home security to the next level.  Featuring everything from bump-proof deadbolts to kick-proof door jambs, modern doors are built tough to make a burglar think twice before trying to break into a home.  Even sliding doors can be replaced to enhance your security and give you peace of mind.  As for the crooks, since they look for the path of least resistance, spotting your newly reinforced home could very well make them scratch their heads before mumbling to themselves, “They don’t make them like they used to.”

HomeRite is a window and door dealer that specializes in energy efficient, quality windows with warranties and service to match. The company has been in business since 2005. HomeRite has partnered with a manufacturer that has been producing high-quality products and providing excellent customer service for over 60 years. Windows and doors from HomeRite are some of the highest quality, most thermally efficient windows and doors on the market.

HomeRite products add substantial value to their clients’ properties. HomeRite is a member of the United States Green Building Council, a non-profit organization comprised of leaders across the industry working to advance environmentally responsible buildings.

Gates Dearen is the co-owner of HomeRite Windows and Doors in Jacksonville, Florida. He and Richard Walden have been serving the building products industry in Florida for over 25 years. They strive to match homeowners with the right windows and doors for their homes and budgets. They make the home improvement process pleasant with first-rate, energy-efficient products, affordable pricing, and award-winning installers who employ the best practices and who always treat customers and their property with the utmost respect.

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1 comment:

  1. Thanks a lot for sharing this valuable info! I would love to prefer glassed in shower listed at These are the best options for perfect security.