You can make your home more secure easily and economically, without paying for a professional security system. Of course you can shop around for such systems, see what they cost and what they do, and whether you can find one to fit your taste and budget. But in the meantime, with a little do-it-yourselfing and shopping at a local hardware or department store, you might start by upgrading the security of your home yourself. Start with your doors.
- 1. If you don’t have a deadbolt lock on every entry door in your house, you should. Yes, the lock that has the push-button lock in the doorknob is easier for you. It’s also easier for an intruder. And when you’re looking at deadbolt locks, keep in mind that the most efficient ones have a “throw lock,” meaning a metal extension at least one inch long that goes into the doorframe.
- 2. The doors themselves should be sturdy and strong. Hollow core wooden doors are meant for bedrooms or bathrooms – not for the exterior door. Steel is nice, but expensive. A solid wood door is good. Beware of those attractive doors with pretty windows. They can be invitations to intruders. It’s just too simple and easy for an intruder to break the door window with a rock, reach in and unlock the door. Of course, this is not going to happen if the only window in the door is far too high for anyone to do any reaching inside from it.
- 3. Your door’s frame is as important as your door. If the frame is old or rotted, it’s an invitation to intruders. Be sure the frame is as strong and sturdy as the door. This includes side doors, back doors and basement doors, as well as the front door.
- 4. If any of your doors have hinges on the outside, remove the door and change the hinges so they are on the inside. That will discourage an intruder who otherwise invites himself in by knocking out the pin in your exterior hinge.
Your full length glass patio doors – shall we classify them as doors or as windows? In either case, you can make them a lot harder to enter by getting a piece of metal pipe cut to the same length as the distance between the middle and the edge of the door. You put the pipe in the bottom of the window, where the glass slides – except it’s not going to slide anywhere with that pipe in there.
The next easiest way for intruders to enter your home is by windows.
- 5. Make sure every window in your house has a lock, and is locked unless there is a reason to leave it unlocked for a limited time – and make sure the time is indeed limited. A further quick-and-easy deterrent comes into play when you are installing the window lock. Liquefy some solder and pour a few drops on the heads of the lock’s screws. The result will be a screw that is not going to easily unscrew for an intruder.
- 6. There are devices called window sensors, which can be installed on each window. They will sound off if the window is jimmied, broken or forced.
- 7. Glass break detectors let you know if a window is broken. They are sensitive to the sound of breaking glass – not to other normal household sounds.
- 8. You may already have a camera installed on your door(s). But cameras can also be installed to focus on windows, especially those that are more accessible such as first-floor or basement windows. And if those cameras are too expensive, “pretend” cameras are much lower in price and still do a good job of discouraging intruders.
- 9. In case you love gardening and landscaping, make sure the bushes and shrubs near your windows aren’t growing so well that intruders could use them as cover for their break-in attempt. The same goes for doorway plantings. When burglars could hide in them while trying your door, it’s time to prune – severely.
There are other easy ways to make your home and property more secure, without spending a fortune.
- 10. Your dog – or dogs – will earn their kibble by barking at an intruder. Even if your pup is a small one, the last thing intruders want to hear is a barking dog, whose noise will alert you that something is going on that shouldn’t be going on. A word of warning – you don’t want to pay money to send your dog to an “attack” school. Attack training is not recommended for family pet-type dogs. Obedience training is great – but almost any dog that has a pulse, regardless of age, size, health or disposition will bark the house down when an unfamiliar person appears at the door.
Of course there are far more than ten ways in which you can upgrade your home’s security without spending a lot of money. Some of them fall into the “common sense” theme, which of course isn’t always as common as we could wish.
Around the House
- You do have a different password and login on each of your computers –don’t you? If not, take a few minutes right now and install them.
- Do you have a large-size fire extinguisher on every floor of your home? This means NOT the small, kitchen-frying-pan size, but one that could actually extinguish a decent-sized fire. Yes, you may need it only once in your life. But be ready for that “once.” Fire security is important too.
- Don’t put the spare house key under the door mat, in the mail box or on a nail in the garage. Dig a little hole in the garden – in a spot you’ll easily recognize – and wrap your key in plastic, then in foil, then bury it – shallowly, of course. If a service person is coming to repair something in the home while you’re at work, make your arrangements over the phone. Don’t leave them in a note on the front door – unless you want to start with the heading “Dear Burglar.”
- Your valuable tools won’t disappear from the garage so easily if you paint the handles orange, or any other bright color. Burglars hate articles that can be easily identified.
- Don’t put your full name on your mailbox, or even your first initials. The mail carrier will readily figure out whose mail you are to get if you just put your last name on the mailbox, and you won’t be giving good information to an intruder.
- If someone comes to the door and tells you they are a salesperson, close and lock the door and ask them to slide their ID under the door. Use that ID to call their home office and see if the so-called salesperson really is one.
- Or, if someone comes to the door asking to use your phone, close and lock the door a.s.a.p. Tell them you will make the call for them, and actually do it.
An ingenious way to test your home’s security is to pretend you are going to burglarize it yourself. How would you get in? Where would you look for valuables? (A safe screwed to a closet floor is pretty hard to put under your coat and sneak away.) How would you get out?
If the answer to those questions is fairly obvious, you can see that you have some homework to do. Yes, it takes time, effort and at least a modest investment of money. But imagine the worst. An intruder breaks in, vandalizes your home, steals your valuables, and maybe, on his way out, sets the place on fire. Sad to say, this has happened to far too many people. If it happened to you, how much time, effort, energy and funds would you invest to have had it NOT happen?