Tip 2: Locks
A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. So all of your exterior doors, except your sliding glass doors, should be equipped with a sturdy, high quality, dead bolt lock. If you have glass within the door or glass surrounding the door, then you should also consider having a double sided, keyed deadbolt lock, so that when engaged, it only allows you to enter from the outside with a key. Because the interior side of the lock is keyed as well, it means that if you’re not home and a thief breaks a window, he’ll be unable to unable to open a door by turning its interior thumbscrew. When you are home, you can insert a key that looks similar to a thumbscrew, so that you are able to lock and unlock the door easily. While these are a great security measure, keep in mind that you should always keep the thumbscrew key close to the door, so that if a fire breaks out, you’ll be able to unlock the door and exit the premises easily and safely.
Choosing a deadbolt
- Check the throw on the deadbolt: it should be at least 1-1/2 inches long.
- Make sure that the part of the deadbolt lock that sits up on the outside of the door is angled, so that a thief is unable to put a pipe wrench on it and twist it off.
- Ensure that the throw goes into a full socket and not just a cover plate on the doorframe. In other words, the throw should not touch any of the wood in your doorframe. Instead, it should be completely protected by the socket. This provides added strength.
- The socket (or the piece that the throw goes into) should be attached by screws that are long enough to go into the studs on the other side of the doorframe. Short screws will simply not be strong enough to withstand the force that may be applied during a kick-in. A safe bet for a screw length is 3” or more.
Checking old locks
Many older homes still have spring-loaded door locks, which either have a little button on the back of the handle or a thumbscrew on the back of the handle. When turned from the inside, the door becomes unlocked. These door locks may be ok if used in conjunction with a proper door, a strong doorframe and a good quality deadbolt lock, but they are insufficient by themselves. In most cases, a credit card or a screwdriver pushed in between the door and the doorframe are enough to push the angled throw into the door and unlock the lock, and if that doesn’t work, a kick-in will.
Avoiding lock sabotage
A thief can take a small ball of paper and push it into the deadbolt lock socket in the doorframe. The person locking up does not notice it, and they lock the door and leave. The thief then comes back later, inserts a screwdriver between the door and the doorframe, and is able to push the deadbolt throw back into the door. Here are four ways to avoid this problem:
- Check the socket on the deadbolt before locking the door.
- Have a good fitting door and frame, so that a screwdriver cannot be inserted.
- Always ensure that the bolt is fully extended into the lock position before pulling the key out.
- Buy a deadbolt that will not allow you to remove the key until it is in the “lock” or “unlock” position.
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