Thursday, August 05, 2010

Window and Door Security Part 1 Hinged Doors

In my last post I discussed the importance of the physical security of your home in order to prevent burglary. In the next series of posts I want to discuss two essential elements of that physical security, doors and windows. Today's discussion will be about hinged exterior doors.

Owners of new homes have an expectation that all is secure. This is often far from the truth. Homeowners should inspect each of the doors and windows in the new home for proper installation and adequate security. Two problems I have encountered in new homes in my years doing residential security inspections are improper installation and poor quality materials. The following recommendations are applicable to new and existing homes.

Let us address improper installation first. Exterior hinged doors should be made of a solid material like wood or steel. They should have a quality deadbolt lock (to be addressed in a future post) and that lock, and the door itself must be installed properly. The bolt on a deadbolt lock has a throw of approximately one inch. At the inch the deadbolt engages. If the bolt does not travel the full throw it may not engage and you do not have a dead bolt effect. One of the installation issues I have seen is the hole that receives the bolt being too short. The worst case I have seen was in a new home where the hole was only one quarter of an inch. The homes security relied on that one quarter inch of bolt into the short hole. The dead bolt did not engage allowing someone to use a slim tool of some kind or a credit card to slide the bolt back and thereby unlock the door. That hole needs to be bored the entire length of the bolt so that the bolt does not hit the inside of the hole before the deadbolt can engage.

Another issue is hinged doors installed inside out. Normally the hinges and hinge pins on an exterior door should only be accessible from the inside of the home. Improper installation leaving those pins accessible from the outside allows someone to remove the pins and pry open the door on the side opposite the lock. If you have exposed hinges on the outside and cannot reinstall the door this problem can be rectified by "pinning the hinges". This is done by removing the center screw which holds the hinge in place on the door and the frame. Drill a hole on one side. On the other side install a long screw leaving a portion just shorter than the hole that you drilled on the other side. Cut off the head of the screw. When you close the door the screw will go into the hole on the other side thereby preventing the door from being pried open.

For personal security each entry door should have a 180 degree door viewer installed or alternatively you should be able to view the door from a nearby window to identify callers before opening the door.

In part 2 of Window and Door Security we will discuss sliding doors.
Send questions to Frank Plunkett at

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