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Home Theft Protection: Secure Your Garage

Keep the bad guys out with these inexpensive but very effective fixes

FH09SEP_BURPRO_01-2Family Handyman
Most garage burglaries can be prevented by taking a few simple steps to secure and reinforce service doors, overhead doors and windows. All the strategies in this article are fast and cheap, and will really enhance your security.

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Don’t leave your remote in the car

Garge-Door-Opener-KeychainDownsize the remote

Thieves know right where to look for your garage door opener remote—clipped to the visor in your car. To avoid giving them easy access to your garage, take the remote with you when you leave the car. The handiest way to do this is to replace your big remote with a small keychain version (sold at home centers or where you bought your garage door opener). Match the remote to the brand and year of your opener. Then follow the instructions for programming it.

If you’ve lost the remote for the garage door opener, it’s possible that it has ended up in the wrong hands. To be safe, follow the instructions that came with your opener to reset the code, disabling the lost remote. While we’re at it, here’s why you need to wrap your key fob in foil at home.

Fortify the service door

Lock-ReinforcerPhoto 1: Lock reinforcer

Prevent the door from splitting by wrapping it with a metal lock reinforcer. Mark the edge of the door and chisel a shallow recess so the reinforcer is flush to the door’s edge when it’s installed.

Strike-Plate

Photo 2: Heavy-duty strike plate

Reinforce the weakest link on your service door by installing a heavy-duty strike plate with extra-long screws that penetrate the framing at least 1 in.

Weather-StrippingPhoto 3: Anchor hinges to frame

Strengthen the hinge side of the door by replacing one of the screws in each hinge with a 3-in.-long screw that penetrates the framing.

For a service door, the solution is to install a good-quality dead bolt and reinforce the doorjamb and hinges to resist a brute-force attack. The best dead bolts have an ANSI Grade 1 rating, but even a Grade 2 lock will provide above-average security. Look for the rating on the package. But even the best dead bolt won’t help if the doorjamb and door aren’t reinforced. Before installing the dead bolt, strengthen the lock area of the door with a metal sleeve (Photo 1). Then install a strong strike plate that’s securely attached to the wall framing with long screws (Photo 2). Heavy-duty strike plates are available at home centers and hardware stores.

Hinges that are installed with the usual wimpy 3/4-in. screws are nearly as easy to kick in as a wimpy door latch. So while you’ve got the drill and screws handy, remove one of the short screws nearest the weather stripping from each hinge and replace it with a 3-in. screw (Photo 3). If you have an attached garage, use these same methods to reinforce the door from the garage into your house. Also make sure to keep this door locked; otherwise, a burglar who gains access to the garage can walk right in.

Video: 3 Places to Hide Valuables at Home

Scare away thieves with motion detector lights

Motion-Sensor-Light

Motion detector upgrade

Replacing light fixtures with ones that have a built-in motion detector is an easy way to make your garage and house more secure. Burglars will be reluctant to jimmy open a door or window when they’re working under a bright light. Or you can add a standalone motion detector that connects to your existing lights. If you live in a cold climate, don’t use compact fluorescent bulbs in the light fixture. They take too long to light in winter, giving thieves extra time. These are some motion sensor security lighting options built to last.

Cover garage windows to stop prying eyes

Garage window covers

Garage window cover

To prevent burglars from “casing the joint,” cover glass so they can’t “window shop.” Use curtains, shades or blinds as garage window covers. Or apply a translucent film to the glass to garage windows that obscures vision but still lets in light. Plastic film like this is available in several patterns from the window covering department of home centers as well as at full-service hardware stores and window covering retailers. It’s also available online (search for “privacy window film”). Installation is simple. Follow the instructions included with the film you purchase.

Bar the windows to prevent break-ins

Window barsWindow bars

Make your own window bars for a fraction of the cost of factory-made bars.

Steel-PipeTee connection

Bolt the bars to the frame with tees bolted in place by lag screws and washers.

If they can’t simply enter through an open door, burglars will often try to come through windows because most are relatively easy to pry open or break. Breaking a window is their last choice because of the noise. Luckily it’s not difficult to eliminate this chink in the man-cave armor. First, make sure to lock windows if possible. If you have windows that you don’t open, screw them shut. But for the ultimate window security, add strong bars across the window so that thieves can’t get in even if they pry open the window or break the glass.

Ready-made bars are available, but it’s easier and cheaper to use a few lengths of 1/2-in. steel pipe. Use either precut and threaded pieces of 1/2-in. steel pipe or measure for the lengths you need and have the pipe cut and threaded at the hardware store. Space bars every 6 to 8 in. Get two tees, two 3/8-in. washers and two 3-1/2-in. x 3/8-in. lag screws for each bar. Thread a tee onto each end of the pipes. Then attach the pipes to the framing by running a lag screw through a washer, then through the tee and into the framing.

Disable the overhead door

Overhead-door-latch

Latch trick

When you go away on vacation, unplug the garage door opener. If you don’t have an opener, padlock the latch or disable the door by putting a bolt through one of the holes in the garage door track. This will prevent someone from coming in through the overhead door while you’re away.

Keep the garage door closed

A timer never forgets

Leaving the garage door open is practically an invitation to burglars, not to mention that you’re really presenting a storefront window display of your possessions to anyone driving by. But if you’re like a lot of other people and tend to forget to close the door, or have kids who forget, there’s an easy solution. Install a device that signals your garage door opener to close the door after a predetermined amount of time. You can set the amount of time that elapses before the door closes, or override the control if you want the door to remain open. It takes about an hour to install the sensors on the garage door track and the keypad that connects to the opener control. One more point: When you’re leaving for work, don’t just hit the remote button to close the door and then drive away. Wait until it closes to make sure it doesn’t reopen. Learn more garage security tricks.

Required Tools for this Project

Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.

  • 4-in-1 screwdriver
  • Cordless drill
  • Drill bit set
  • Non-contact voltage tester
  • Safety glasses
  • Socket/ratchet set
  • Wire stripper/cutter

Required Materials for this Project

Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here’s a list.

  • 1/2-in. steel pipe and Tee fittings
  • 3-in. screws
  • Garage door timer
  • Heavy-duty strike plate
  • Keychain remote
  • Lock reinforcer
  • Motion detector lights
  • Padlock
  • Window film