Secure Doors and Windows with Simple Hardware
Many homeowners are not satisfied with the security hardware that comes standard on their doors and windows. It is probably a little extreme to line your door with deadbolts from top to bottom, but there are some simple things that you can do with some basic pieces of hardware that will greatly increase the physical security of your home.
Let's start with doors. Most of the time, when a thief breaks into a house through a door, it's not the door or the lock that fails - it's actually the jamb. Whether you have one deadbolt or five, if the door is hit with enough force, the bolts will simply break right through the back of the jamb they are resting in. A swift blow to the face of the door would be enough to splinter the backside of the jamb, and the door would swing wide open as though it were never locked.
While most entry doors come with a strike plate to prevent this from happening, it never gets installed on a lot of service doors. It is also a good idea to install an additional steel plate on the backside of the jamb when installing a new door. This strengthens the jamb and, combined with the strike plate, makes it nearly impossible to split. It is a very simple addition and it doesn't affect the door aesthetically at all.
One thing to consider if you have glass in a door is a deadbolt that operates with a key instead of a levered switch. On a standard deadbolt you just turn the lever and extend the bolt into the jamb, thus securing the door. A door with glass, however, invites an intruder to simply break or cut the glass, reach through, and unlock the deadbolt. Even if a glass panel is broken or cut and the intruder is able to reach in to the lock, the absence of a levered switch means the door can't be unlocked without a key, even from the inside.
These are a great solution for glass doors, but check your local building codes before installing this style of lock. They are not accepted everywhere because of fire safety reasons. Make sure that this sort of lock is not installed on a door that is your primary exit in the event of a fire. You don't want to be stumbling around in the dark looking for your keys when you need to get out of the house quickly.
As far as windows are concerned, there are several options available to increase security. The most secure style of window is a casement window. Casement windows are the style that have a crank inside and open outward on a gear system when the crank is turned. If you leave one open, the arm that operates the window's action can be disconnected, which will allow the window to swing free. But, if you have casement windows, there really isn't any way to open these from the outside as long as you remember to close and lock them.
Sliding windows open by sliding one panel to the left or right. Most come with a cam action lock similar to what you would find on the sash of a double or single hung window. There are a lot of ways to get in and around these sliding windows and sometimes the whole sash can even be removed. The best way to secure them is to purchase a bar that will prevent the sash from being moved. You can buy a spring loaded burglar bar that fits between the window frame and the sliding sash. Set the tension on the spring so the active sash can't be moved at all. By eliminating the ability of that sash to move, you have eliminated most of the ways that an intruder could work that window into an entry point.
Double hung windows are the type that move up and down. Most come with a cam style lock that holds the top and bottom sash together so that neither one can move. An additional piece of hardware has been developed in recent years that has taken the security of these windows one step further. A small tab is installed into the face of the frame of the top sash. It can be pushed in, allowing the bottom sash to move up and down freely, or it can be extended so that the top rail of the bottom sash hits it when the window is raised. With the tab extended, the window will not open. Most vinyl double hung windows come standard with this feature now, but you can buy them separately and install them into a wooden window after the fact.
There are a myriad of gadgets, chains, and peripheral security items that you can add to your windows and doors to increase security. The most important thing when making a decision is to use a little common sense. Think about how your window or door operates when you are shopping for hardware. Make sure that it's a good marriage between your entry point and the hardware that you use to protect it.
For more information on home security, read our article on Home Alarm Systems.