By Fern Garber
There are many aspects to home security. Most people initially think of alarms. But alarms are not the first line of defense; they just tell you somebody is already inside, though they limit the intruder’s time. Burglars know police response is so slow, they have enough time to grab valuables and scram. An alarm’s best use is for fires, to deter timid burglars, and to limit intrusion time.
According to the FBI, about 70% of break-ins are by kicking in a door, which busts out the door jamb (frame) and often breaks the door itself at the lock. It’s easy to do because only one inch (usually less) of soft wood in the door jamb backs up the deadbolt, and it’s been weakened by drilling for the strike plate (which is typically held by two short screws). The minimum thing you can do is replace those screws with 3-inch screws, though that frequently won’t keep the door jamb or door from busting out. You can also replace the strike with a larger one that takes more screws.
For door security you have the following options:
- Install a wrought iron security door in front of the entry door (retail from about $130 depending on style). I call them “burglar bar doors.”
- Install a security storm door in front of the entry door (Larson Secure Elegance, about $350 at Lowe’s). Adds the advantage of weatherproofing.
- Reinforce the door jamb and the door with one of the steel hardware systems now available. Door Jamb Armor is the most robust and includes door shields for the door itself. Strikemaster is an equally effective competitor, but has no door shields. These are long (4 to 5 feet), powder-coated white, steel plates that attach to the frame with long screws that anchor them into the wall studs. They have holes that receive the deadbolt and knob latch, thus backing them up with steel instead of wood. Equally important is a door shield, especially if you have a fiberglass door. If you are handy and have the right tools, you can buy these and install them yourself, though usually there are complications (like alarm sensors being covered or cracks that are too tight). Professional installation is a real frustration-avoider. Prices are from $240 for single doors or $400 for double doors.
- Once you are inside the house, there are several products you can put in place to prevent the door from being forced in, but they won’t secure the door when you leave. Nightlock, Door Chucky, and Door Guardian are some of the brands.
- The deadbolt lock is an essential component of the security system. Most residential deadbolts are widely available, relatively flimsy Grade 3. A better choice is Grade 2, usually only available through a locksmith. Best readily available choices are Kwikset’s UltraMax or Schlage’s B560. High security deadbolts are the ultimate quality but cost about $250.