Pick-Proof Your Dead Bolt
Even amateur thieves can pick a lock. To hold the dead bolt firmly in place so the door can't open, install the SIMLock (thesimlock.com). Replace a dead bolt screw with SIMLock's special screw, then slide the 'lock' over it to keep the dead bolt from turning. This product only works on dead bolts that lock in the vertical position.
Reinforce Your Entry Door Strike Plate
Reinforcing your door's weak spot, the jamb, with a heavy-duty strike plate and extra-long screws gives it the added strength needed to withstand a burglar trying to kick in your door. If your dead bolt was installed within the last 10 years, it's probably already reinforced. To check, simply remove the strike plate. If it's heavy steel with at least 3-in. screws or has a heavy reinforcing plate, you can rest easy. If not, buy strike plate-reinforcing hardware.
To install, remove the old strike plate, then hold the new one in place and deeply score around it. Chisel out space for the new plate, then mount it by driving 3-in. screws through predrilled holes.
Secure Patio Doors
Patio door locks are easy to pick. Placing a heavy-duty stick in the door track will bar the door closed, but it looks crude and it's inconvenient to remove every time you want to open the door. Fortunately, there's a better way to get the security you need.
Andersen Corp.'s auxiliary foot lock (andersenwindows.com) fastens along the bottom of the door and has a bolt that fits into a grommet to hold the door secure. A similar lock, the Door Guardian (thedoorguardian.com) attaches at the top of the door. Both locks allow the door to open 3 in. without compromising security. Installation takes about 10 minutes. Screw the bracket containing the pin to the door, then drill holes and insert grommets in the track for the pin to slide into.
Add Inexpensive Door and Window Alarms
Keeping doors and windows locked is your first line of defense. Make wireless alarms your second. Burglars hate noises, so even a small alarm usually sends them running. The alarms are available at home centers. Or check out Intermatic or Door and Window Alarms. The alarms don't provide the same security as pro-installed monitored systems since the wireless devices are activated by doors or windows opening (not glass breaking). Use the alarms for doors and windows in 'hidden' areas of the house where you don't normally gather and that are often dark.
Attach the alarm to the door or window (with a screw or double-sided tape) alongside the magnetic contact strip (they don't have to be touching, but within 1/2 in.). When the door or window opens, breaking magnetic contact, the alarm shrieks (these little units have a piercing alarm). The door alarm has a delay feature, giving you time to set the alarm and leave, then open the door and deactivate the unit when you come home, without setting it off. The window unit has an on/off switch. The alarms will work on any door or window, and the batteries last two to three years.
Beef Up Your Wooden Garage Entry Door
A flimsy old wooden garage entry door has weak center panels that can easily be kicked in, making it a favorite target for thieves. Adding a dead bolt won't solve that problem. A down-and-dirty way to beef up the door is to add a 1/2-in. plywood reinforcement panel and then bar it with 2x4s placed in bar-holder brackets.
Cut the plywood to fit over the door's center section (make sure it covers the windows but doesn't cover the door handle). Fasten it to the door with drywall screws.
Test-fit a bracket and 2x4 against the door. Measure how far the bracket is from the wall, then cut filler strips that distance and install them. Fasten the brackets in place by drilling 1/4-in. pilot holes and inserting 3/8 x 3-in. lag screws. Place the 2x4s in the brackets.
Install a Small Safe
Most of us don't need a big, heavy, expensive safe to secure our valuables. For $100, you can get a safe that will protect against thieves. Be sure to fasten it to the floor or wall so an intruder doesn't walk off with it. Safes go up in price for options such as fire protection and digital or biometric (fingerprint-reading) opening systems. Sentry Safe makes the ones shown here (sentrysafe.com).
Install the wall safe or cylinder floor safe by bolting it to the floor (most safes have holes inside for just that purpose). Hide it in the corner of a closet or other inconspicuous area. Or mount the wall safe inside a wall and cover it with a picture. Or chip out a hole in your concrete slab and stick in the floor safe, then pour new concrete around it.
Keep Spare Keys in a Lock Box
Hiding a house key is risky business. Clever (or lucky) burglars sometimes find hidden keys. And insurance companies may refuse to cover your losses if there's no sign of forced entry. The solution is a combination lock box (about $12 at home centers and hardware stores). Screw it to a fence post or your house in an inconspicuous spot. But don't use the short, wimpy screws provided by the manufacturer. A crook could pry off the box, take it home and patiently saw it open. Instead use four No. 10 x 2-in. screws, preferably stainless steel.
Know Who's There
You never want to open a door unless you know who's on the other side. A peephole lets you see who's there, but entry doors don't come with peepholes, and a lot of peepholes are so tiny that they don't clearly show you who's out there. Strangers can hide slightly out of view or appear so distorted that they're hard to identify.
Avoid uncertainty by installing a wide-angle door viewer. The one shown here from M.A.G. Engineering and Manufacturing Co. (magsecurity.com, No. 8720) offers a 160-degree view and is available on the company's website. Install it just like a standard peephole—drill a hole from each side and screw it in.
Protect Your Mail
Mail theft is a growing problem, since unsecured mailboxes are easy targets. One sure way to keep thieves from stealing your mail—checks, credit card offers, personal information—is to use a security mailbox. Once the mail is dropped in, you need a key to open the box. Locking Wall Mailbox (lockingsecuritymailbox.com) is one manufacturer. Just screw it to the wall or post as you would a standard mailbox.
Put Motion Detector Lighting Anywhere
Put motion detector lighting anywhere. Motion detector lights are a proven crime deterrent, and standard hard-wired models cost as little as $15. If running a power supply would be difficult, buy ones that run on solar power. The downside is the cost. A Heath Zenith model shown here (the SL-7001) costs $80 (heath-zenith.com).
Don't Keep the Clicker in Your Car
A thief who breaks into your car can grab the remote for easy access to your garage. This isn't just a problem when your car is parked in the driveway; the registration card in your glove box gives a crook your address.
So get rid of the remote on your visor and buy a keychain remote. You can easily take it with you every time you leave the car. Home centers stock only a small selection of remotes, but you'll find more online. Start your search by typing in the brand of your opener, followed by “remote.”
Lock Up the Overhead Door
Some people “lock” the overhead garage door when they go on vacation by unplugging the opener. That's a good idea, but physically locking the door is even better. An unplugged opener won't prevent “fishing,” and—if you have an attached garage—it won't stop a burglar who has entered through the house from opening the garage door from inside, backing in a van and using the garage as a loading dock for his plunder. Make a burglar's job more difficult and time-consuming by locking the door itself. If your door doesn't have a lockable latch, drill a hole in the track just above one of the rollers and slip in a padlock.
Install Door Reinforcement Hardware
You can spend hundreds on a fancy “pick-proof” dead bolt for your entry door. But you're kidding yourself if you think that'll stop most burglars. The truth is, most don't know how to pick a lock. They gain entry with one really well-placed kick or body slam that splits the doorjamb (and often the door as well), and they walk right in. You can stop burglars in their tracks by beefing up your door and jamb with reinforcing hardware. The components cost about $120 and take about an hour to install. Here's how to do it.
Measure the entry door thickness and the spacing between the entry knob and the dead bolt cylinder. Then buy either a single or a double wrap-around door reinforcement plate kit and four 1-1/2-in.-long stainless steel wood screws. Then get a doorjamb reinforcement kit.
Remove the entry knob and dead bolt cylinder. Then remove the dead bolt and latch and toss the short screws. Install the wrap-around door reinforcement plate and reinstall the latch and dead bolt plates using the longer stainless steel screws.