By Duncan Cottrell
There are many aspects to home security, but alarms are not the first line of defense. They tell you somebody is already inside, although they may limit the intruder’s time. If burglars think police response can be slow, they may have enough time to grab valuables and run. An alarm’s best uses are for fires, to deter timid burglars, and to limit intrusion time.
According to a 2010 U.S. Department of Justice special report, “National Crime Victimization Survey: Victimization During Household Burglary,” the most popular point of entry for household burglaries involving forcible entry was the door, with 73% of all such burglaries resulting in door damage. Break-ins can be caused by kicking-in a door, which destroys the door jamb and often breaks the door itself at the lock. It’s easy to do because only one inch 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 four main options. You can install a security door in front of the entry door (retail from about $130 depending on style). I call them “burglar bar doors.” Or you can install a security storm door in front of the entry door (Larson Secure Elegance, about $350 at Lowes) which adds the advantage of weatherproofing.
Alternately, you can 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).
And, 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.
The Entry Enforcer (404-289-6960) provides and installs these and other intrusion-prevention products. I also reinforce double doors and have solutions for glass doors and windows (including window security film). I’m happy to help my neighbors know what options they have and to give advice to those who want to do their own installation.
Options for Door Security
By Duncan Cottrell