Door security is one of the top priorities to security professionals, and for good reason. Doors provide the easiest and, for criminals, often the safest entry point into a victim’s home. As one inmate at the Oregon Department of Corrections said to KGW8 News in a study conducted late last year: “I would kick in the door rather than break glass. Loud bangs are better than loud glass breaking, plus you run the risk of getting cut.” With this in mind, many of our customers ask us how they can improve their door security. In this post, we will detail six of the most important tips we can offer to help ensure that your doors add to, rather than subtract from, your home’s security.
Choose the Right Deadbolt for Your Door
As we pointed out in our 7 Tips to Improve Home Security for New Homeowners, your exterior door deadbolts should have a one-inch throw. This means that when you lock your deadbolt, the bolt should extend one inch beyond the door itself. In addition, you should ensure that the bolt hole is also one inch deep. If you lock a one inch deadbolt into a half-inch hole, the deadbolt does not fully lock into place. When this occurs, a thief can use a knife or other tool to push the bolt back into its unlocked position and open your door.
While ensuring proper bolt sizing and installation is a good first step, choosing the best deadbolt for your home goes a bit deeper. Most hardware store deadbolts do not have any pick- or drill-resistant features. Knowledgeable criminals can use fake keys or lock-picking knowledge to defeat these deadbolts. They can also use brute force. Our post detailing Eight Ways Criminals Can Open Your Door highlights how burglars can attack standard-quality deadbolts. Higher-quality deadbolts, such as the Medeco locks that we recommend, add door security by specifically addressing these issues.
Assess How Your Door’s Windows Affect Security
Whenever possible, we recommend installing doors with no windows or, at the very least, windows with minimal glass. A window within arm’s reach of your door’s locks poses an easy target for a burglar. If a criminal can reach through a window to unlock a door, this provides an immediate threat to your door security. If you already have windows that make your doors vulnerable, you can still take steps to minimize your risk. Some customers use a double-sided deadbolt to help solve this issue. A double-sided deadbolt always needs a key to unlock it, even from the inside. This feature makes it impossible for a burglar to reach through a window and unlock your deadbolt without a key.
Unfortunately, double-sided deadbolts also create a fire hazard. In the event of a fire, you’ll want to be able to open your door without finding a key.
Placing a spare key in a safe place near your door can help with this issue. However, we do offer a safer and more efficient solution. Double-sided bolts with captive thumbturns, such as the one pictured here by Medeco, offers the best of both worlds. The thumbturn that is “captured” on the inside of the deadbolt can be used to unlock the door from the inside. This key can also be removed to ensure that a burglar cannot unlock the door as easily. This is a great solution to add door security to doors with large windows.
Install Additional Hardware if Necessary
Remember that many criminals enter doors violently rather than stealthily. Some criminals, such as the one quoted at the beginning of this post, use this as their first option. Others attempt to pick locks and open doors quietly before resorting to violent entry. Either way, installing hardware that makes your doors more difficult to break into helps tremendously with door security. Installing a turnbolt adds a lock that criminals cannot locate from outside your door. A turnbolt is a bolt that locks and unlocks from the inside only, without any hardware showing on the outside of your door. These are especially popular for homeowners with windows near their locks, because they can prevent burglars from opening a door even if the deadbolt and knob have been unlocked.
Installing reinforcing hardware on the hinge side of the door can also make your door stronger in one of its most vulnerable areas. Hinge pins, for example, are metal pins that sit inside your door’s existing hinges and reinforce them in the case of a blunt force attack. Many people assume criminals kick in doors on the doorknob side. However, doors with strong locks often have a weaker hinge side. Installing both strong locks and hardware to strengthen your door’s hinge side gives you a strong line of defense against anybody looking to kick in your door.
Take Control of Your Keys
Even the best lock hardware available does no good if someone uses a key to break into your home. However, when we ask many homeowners how many copies of their keys they have handed out, they cannot answer us. Even more concerning, many homeowners still keep copies of their keys under doormats or in easy-to-find places outside the house. We recommend taking a couple different steps to control your keys. Using keyless locks allows people to access your home without a copy of your key. If you are concerned about friends or family members copying keys that you do give out, a key-control system is also a great option.
Consider Going Keyless
If you travel frequently and often need to let others into your vacant home, consider installing a keyless lock. These locks take more than one form. One option is a keypad lock that allows people to unlock a door using a code rather than a key. You can provide a temporary code to house or pet sitters, then delete the code after you return so people cannot use it to enter the house again down the road. You can also install a smart home lock that you control with your phone. This option allows you to unlock your door remotely using a smart phone. Now you can let someone into your home without even providing a code that you may forget to deactivate later. Some smart locks, such as the Schlage smart lock pictured, combine the best of both worlds by providing keypad entry as well as the ability to lock and unlock your door remotely.
The Benefits of Key Control
You may also want to consider using locks with a key-control system. A key-control system ensures that people cannot make unauthorized copies of your keys. The Medeco locks we mentioned earlier use such a system by giving all of their dealers unique keyways. This means that if we installed a Medeco deadbolt in your home, a different locksmith could not copy the key that opens your deadbolt. Furthermore, we only copy keys for the people that you authorize to make copies. When Medeco customers show up requesting a copy of a key, we ask them for an I.D. We then make sure the customer is allowed to make a copy of the key before proceeding. This extra level of security allows you to lend a key to friends and family members without having to worry about them coming back later with a copy of the key you gave them.
Install a Security System with Door Contacts
Most door security measures aim to prevent the wrong people from opening your doors. However, a security system does a great job scaring burglars away if they do manage to bypass a locked door. Unsurprisingly, the study linked earlier in this post found that “most intruders said they would leave immediately if a security alarm went off.” In the event that a criminal bypasses all of your door’s other security measures, this is obviously the best possible result.
Installing a security system adds door security in a few different ways. An armed security system will sound an alarm and alert the authorities if someone breaks through your door. Your alarm will also let you know if you left a door open when you attempt to arm the system. Many of our customers are surprised to find that they often attempt to arm the system with an exterior door in the house left slightly ajar. Of course, an open door with the best deadbolts and hardware still provides no security.
Finally, a security system with an interactive service, such as our powered by Alarm.com, also allows you to track a door’s activity whether or not the system is armed. You can choose to receive an immediate alert if someone opens a door. You may have a door that leads to a pool or other area of the home that you wish to track closely. Read our post on 5 Unconventional Uses for Contact Sensors for more potential locations for these contacts. Door contacts add security by instantly alerting you to a door’s use.
Install a Doorbell Camera
A doorbell camera provides door security by alerting you when someone approaches your door. These cameras generally send a video to your phone that you can watch both in real time or later on in the day. This adds security in a couple ways. For starters, burglars often scout out homes before robbing them. If someone sneaks onto your porch and looks in the windows, for example, you’d want to know. This can potentially allow you to identify a thief before a robbery actually occurs.
Doorbell cameras also capture thieves that steal packages from your doorstep. For this reason, many people ask for these cameras around the holidays. Whether looking to break in your door or just wishing to take what’s in front of it, burglars often approach doors to scope out their victims. Installing a doorbell camera to monitor these points of entry adds tremendous security and peace of mind.
In addition to security, doorbell cameras can also add a measure of convenience. An Alarm.com doorbell camera allows you to talk to visitors directly through the camera. When used with the smart home lock mentioned earlier, you can then let visitors into the home without getting up. Of course, if a salesperson or other unsolicited visitor approaches your door, you can also decide not to let them in without getting up.
Where Do I Begin?
Doors provide the first line of defense for your home. This makes it extremely important to make them well-secured. After reading this post, you should have some ideas on how to improve door security in your own home. If you have any questions about how you can address these issues, or about door security in general, please do not hesitate to contact us. We will be happy to provide a free site survey of your home to address any potential security issues with your doors that you’ve identified. If desired, we can make recommendations of our own as well. Together we can create a plan for complete door security that ensures your doors provide an effective defense for you and your family.