If you’re a homeowner, you know there’s no greater priority than security—after all, it’s not only your valuables that are at stake, it’s the safety of yourself and your family. However, like many Bay Area homes, yours may contain unknown deficiencies that pose an increased vulnerability to break-ins. To help you avoid this, we’ve asked four Diamond Certified Expert Contributors to provide some helpful hints for home security.
Home security starts at the front (and back) door, so make sure all your doors are adequately reinforced. Blaine Lucas of Foothill Locksmiths, Inc. recommends starting with hardware.“In addition to upgrading your lock to a UL 437 high-security model, replace your deadbolt with a one-inch steel bolt that’s UL-listed for pick and drill resistance,” he advises. “It’s also wise to reinforce your deadbolt strike plate. Whereas a standard strike plate affixed with half-inch screws provides almost no protection against being kicked in, an oversized plate anchored to the wall post with three-inch screws will add substantial reinforcement.”
In addition to upgrading your door’s lock hardware, Randy Reed of Reed Brothers Security recommends reinforcing the hinges and the outer edge of the door itself. “When you install a deadbolt, it creates a 1-inch bore through the door’s edge, which means the actual wood in this area is only 3/8 of an inch thick,” he explains. “To strengthen this area, install a door edge stiffener—fastened with two binder bolts, it sandwiches the door’s edge with two pieces of metal to reinforce the weak spot.”
Testing Door Hardware
While hardening your exterior doors is a prudent measure, if their locking components aren’t working correctly, all your reinforcements could be for naught. “Door hardware that doesn’t function properly can make your home more susceptible to break-ins,” affirms Gary Lekan of First Lock & Security Technologies. “That’s why it’s important to test your doorknob latches and deadbolts and address any malfunctioning components.”
Prior to testing a doorknob latch, Mr. Lekan says it helps to have an understanding of how it works. “A doorknob latch consists of two parts: the main latch, which is the larger of the two, and the dead latch. When you close a door, the main latch falls into the hole in the adjacent strike plate while the dead latch is held back. The function of the dead latch is to prevent would-be burglars from using a knife blade or credit card to push in the latch and open the door. However, sometimes both latches fall into the strike plate hole, which creates a vulnerability.”
According to Mr. Lekan, the only thing you need to test a doorknob latch is a little silence. “Listen for clicks when you close the door,” he instructs. “If the latch is functioning properly, you should only hear one click. If you hear two clicks, that means the dead-latch is falling in as well.” Mr. Lekan also recommends checking the strike plate on the door frame for wear marks, which is another common indicator of a faulty latch.
In this day and age, more and more applications are going digital, and locks are no exception. As Alex Berger of B & B Locksmith & Security, Inc. explains, today’s sophisticated lock technology boasts several benefits, beginning with enhanced security. “Since digital locks are operated by keypads, they’re far more difficult for burglars to manipulate, and when paired with high-security hardware, they’re virtually burglar-proof. Additionally, since digital locks operate by codes rather than keys, they never need to be rekeyed—all you have to do is reset the code.”
Another valuable feature of modern digital locks is code customization, which eliminates the need to provide physical keys for houseguests or service people. “If you have a house cleaner, dog walker or other professional who accesses your home on a regular basis, a digital lock allows you to custom-program a code just for them,” explains Mr. Berger. “You can even program the code to only allow access during the specific times when the person is expected to be in your home.”
Guidelines for Buying a Safe
A secure home brings greater peace of mind, but if you own high-priced or irreplaceable items, you may want the added security of a safe. However, as Mr. Reed explains, not all safes are alike, so it’s important to look for quality. “Most safes sold at big-box stores are lightweight units made of a special kind of insulation that’s covered with sheet metal,” he says. “While these may provide some protection against changes in temperature or humidity, they aren’t appropriate for storing valuables, as they can be easily pried open with a crowbar or screwdriver. A better option is to visit a store that specializes in home security and ask for a high-quality safe that provides adequate protection.”
Mr. Lucas says other attributes to look for in a safe include fire resistance (look for certification), burglary protection (such as a re-locker that double-locks in the event of a brute force attack) and ample combination possibilities (the code should have six digits or more). Lastly, he says to make sure your safe is securely bolted to the floor. “In the case of a burglary, you don’t want someone to be able to haul away your safe. Plus, larger safes can be top-heavy, which is a safety issue if they aren’t bolted down.”
A Reliable Locksmith
Few homeowners take the time to find a locksmith before they need one, but as Mr. Lucas explains, doing so can help avert a precarious situation. “Locksmith scammers are a major problem in our industry,” he warns. “Most operate by using the classic ‘bait-and-switch’ tactic, where they’ll quote a low price over the phone but jack up the price and demand cash-only payment once the job is complete. It’s not uncommon for these fraudulent locksmiths to leave a job unfinished or the home or business in poor condition, with damage to the locks and doors. The best way to avoid this is by finding a reputable locksmith in advance. That way, when you suddenly find yourself in a tight spot, you can be confident you’ll be taken care of.”