How to Harden Your Door Against Break-ins

by James Florence


As a home’s first line of defense against break-ins, it’s critical for exterior doors to be sufficiently reinforced. Photo: Metro Locksmiths, Inc. (2016)

Your home may have a high-end alarm system, but if your doors are second-rate, you’re running an unnecessary security risk. Exteriors doors are a home’s first line of defense, which is why a weak one represents a major point of vulnerability. Use the following checklist to make sure your doors have what it takes.

Door hardening starts with the door itself. While interior doors are typically 1 3/8-inch thick, exterior doors should be 1 3/4 inches of solid wood.

Door edge
When a deadbolt is installed in a door, it creates a 1-inch bore through the outer edge, leaving the actual wood around the deadbolt only 3/8 of an inch thick. To address this vulnerability, install a door edge stiffener, which sandwiches the weak spot with two pieces of metal fastened with two binder bolts.

Deadbolt strike plate
The deadbolt strike plates on many doors are only 2 inches long, fastened by 1/2-inch screws, which provide little resistance against kick-ins. To provide maximum reinforcement, upgrade to an 18-inch door strike plate that’s fastened by 3 1/2-inch #9 deck screws.

To provide adequate reinforcement, exterior doors should have three hinges, each with a four-screw hole pattern. Replace any 3/4-inch screws with 3 1/2-inch #9 deck screws.

Door locks come in three different grades, with Grade 1 being the strongest and Grade 3 being the weakest. Any exterior door lock should be a minimum of Grade 2 (a UL 437 high-security lock is a good choice). Deadbolts should have a 1-inch steel bolt that extends into the door frame and be UL Listed for pick and drill resistance.

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