Home Safe Home
By Murray Anderson
We all want our homes to be safe and secure. You've got a couple of options: You can make it into a mini fortress by spending hundreds of dollars for alarm systems and ongoing monitoring, or you can save a lot of that money and just do a few simple things to make your home less of a target for the "bad guys."
Let's Start with Doors and Locks
Lots of folks continue to use the locks their home builder originally installed. These locks are an open invitation to a burglar, since they'll open with a good swift kick. Upgrade the locks in your doors by swapping out what is there and installing dead bolt locks. Double dead bolts—locks that require a key to be opened from either inside or outside—are the best. Dead bolt locks have a "throw" (the metal finger that sticks out from the lock into the doorframe when it is locked) of about 1 inch and provide good security.
These locks come with very good installation instructions, and putting one in is not beyond the average person's capability. If you don't trust yourself, a good handyman can do the job. Consider it an investment in peace of mind.
Upgrading the locks is only part of the solution. The striking plates on the doorjamb and the hinges on your door are probably held in place by screws that are about 1 in. long. These small screws are only long enough to go into the door casing lumber. Here again, a swift kick on the outside of the door will pull the screws right out of the wood. Replace the short screws (hinge side as well), with 3-in. screws that are long enough to go right through the door casing and into the framing lumber (2 x 4s or 2 x 6s). With your door firmly attached to the framing lumber, it is much less vulnerable to an intruder's kick.
You should also consider longer striking plates (8 to 12 inches), to replace the existing standard 3-in. striking plate. These larger plates are held in place by 5 or 6 screws. Again, attach them with 3-in. screws that go right into the framing lumber.
Sliding windows and patio doors are relatively easy to get out of their frames by simply lifting the window up out of the frame from the outside—the same way you remove it from the inside for cleaning.
Put a couple of screws into the window track above where the window sits when it is closed. Don't sink the screws all the way in. Leave the heads protruding about ¼ in. These protruding heads make it impossible to lift the window up when it is closed. From the inside you can still slide the window and remove it for cleaning by moving it over to the open position and lifting it out. Sliding patio doors can be secured in this same manner.
The old "stick in the track" method will stop the bad guys from sliding windows and doors open from the outside. If you cut a piece of dowel (about 3/8-in. diameter) to sit in the window or door track, you can prevent it being slid open. The dowel is easy for you to put in and take out from the inside, but its round shape and the fact that it sits down in the track make it very difficult for someone to dislodge from the outside. Paint the dowel to match the window frame and it will be virtually unnoticeable when it is place.
If you are a little more adventurous, you can drill a hole through the window frame and the window casing and put a nail into the hole. When the nail is in place, the window can't be opened. This trick works for all kinds of windows, not just sliding ones.
Basement windows can be a bit more of a challenge, but installing break resistant glazing and pins, as explained earlier, can help. In basements, you might want to consider installing bars or metal grating to prevent forced entry. Decorative bars are available, and they can be painted to blend with your house trim.
Little Things That Can Make a Difference
Leaving untrimmed bushes, particularly near windows, can provide a perfect hiding place for a burglar to lurk, unseen. Cut them back.
Burglars don't like light, so install yard lights that illuminate the entry points to your home. Motion detecting lights are great, just make sure you install them where it would be difficult for a burglar to remove or break the bulb.
Give It That Lived-in Appearance
Interior lights and a radio plugged into timers that turn on at different times give a house the appearance of being occupied. Consider leaving a pair of large, slightly muddy running shoes out on the porch—maybe a big dog dish, as well. If you are going to be away from you home, stop newspaper and mail deliveries, or ask a trusted neighbor to pick them up for you. Don't forget those advertising flyers that can pile up—a sure sign that no one is home.
A little foresight and a few dollars can help make your home a place that "bad guys" will avoid.