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Ways to improve your home's security

Updated June 24, 2010

Start with the right door

  • All exterior hinge doors should be solid core construction, 1 3/4" thick, with a solid frame and a proper strike plate.
  • Hinges must be mounted on the inside of the frame so the door swings inward.
  • The hinges should be installed with non-removable hinge pins and locking pin. (To install a locking pin, remove the center screws from the two hinge plates, top and bottom, and insert a headless screw or bolt or nail into the door jamb through the hole in the hinge plate, leaving 1/2" protruding. Then drill a 3/4" hole in the opening in the opposite hinge plate on the door.) With this pin in the jamb, the closed door will remain closed even if the hinge pins are removed.


  • Exterior doors should all have a deadbolt lock with at least a 1" throw.
  • If there are no glass panes or windows within 40" of the deadbolt lock, then the type that closes with a thumb turn on the inside is sufficient. However, if breaking glass means the thumb turn can be reached, then you will need to have a double cylinder deadbolt lock which is keyed inside as well as outside.
  • Caution: a double-key deadbolt can be a fire hazard, so be sure a key is quickly accessible to anyone who is inside the house with the deadbolt locked. For security reasons, do not leave the key in the inside lock even when you are home, but have it in a place where it can be reached even in a panic situation.

Installation tips

  • To install a deadbolt lock, attach the strike plate to the door with 3" brass wood screws penetrating through the frame to a structural member. The bolt insert should be hardened steel, the cylinder guard must be solid metal, the keyway should be at least a five-pin tumbler system, connecting screws holding the lock must be on the inside, no screw heads should be exposed, screws must be case-hardened steel, and, must be at least 1/4" installed in solid metal stock.

Glass doors

  • For sliding glass doors, use 1 1/4" pan head sheet metal screws inserted in the top of the door frame at both ends and the middle to prevent the sliding glass from being lifted out of the track. The screws should be adjusted so the door barely clears them when itís opened and closed.

Securing garages

  • Garages, especially one attached to the house, should be secured with the same key.
  • Lock and cover any windows, too.
  • If you have a garage door thatís opened manually, lock it with a heavy duty padlock of hardened steel, with at least a 9/32" shackle, a heel and toe double-locking mechanism, and a five-pin or greater tumbler. It should be impossible to remove the key until you lock the padlock. Keep the padlock locked, even when the garage is open.
  • If you have an electric garage door opener, be sure it is multifrequency. Also, test the door from time to time to be sure it can't be lifted up from the bottom.

Double doors

  • Double doors should have flush bolts installed at the top and bottom of the inactive door, and should have at least a 1" throw protruding well into the top frame and threshold. The strikeplates should be secured with wood screws at least 3" long.
  • For dutch doors, put deadbolt locks on both the lower and upper door for best security. These can be keyed alike, just as all deadbolt locks in your home and all key-in-the-knob locks on the doors can be keyed to open with just one key.
  • Doors with glass are more susceptible, and can be secured better by using security screening, decorative grilles, or burglary-rated glazing.
  • For screens or grilles, use non-removable screws.

Window locks

  • Secure double-hung sash windows with locks and install eyebolts in closed and vent positions: Drill a hole that angles slightly downward through a top corner of the bottom windows into the bottom of the top window on both sides, and place an eyebolt or nail in the hole to keep the window secure. Use 1 1/4" pan head sheet metal screws to secure sliding windows the same way sliding doors are secured.
  • Keep crank-type casement window hardware in good working order, with no extra play in the crank. Louvre windows should be replaced with another type or should be covered with metal grating secured with large bolts.
  • For window security, additional locking devices are available to add to the security measures noted above.


  • Keep doorways, windows, and porches clear when planting bushes and flowers. Bushes that provide you with privacy also give a burglar a place to hide.
  • Cut back tree limbs that a burglar could use to climb to an upper-level window.
  • A well-maintained lawn is a very effective clue that someone is at home on a regular basis.
  • Locked gates and well-maintained fences can increase the difficulty of entry and deter the removal of large items.
  • Walks and driveways should be kept free from offering concealment to intruders.
  • Thorny bushes such as roses can and should be planted under windows.
  • Burglars hate bright lights. Install outside lights and keep them on at night. Motion-detector lights can be particularly effective.

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