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Tips to Secure Your Exterior Doors

Updated: Nov 3, 2023

More than 50% of the time burglars use the front and rear exterior doors as the point of entry. 35% of the time they are walking through an unlocked door, a crime known as, “unlawful entry”. In other cases, they are forcing the doors open or using other means to defeat a locked door, a crime known as “forcible entry”.

Most burglars, when they encounter an unanticipated degree of resistance will move to another target that is less hardened and less likely to draw attention to their criminal activity. You can see how important it is to keep your doors locked at all times and to have a door and lock system that is more likely to keep criminals on the other side. Here are some tips.

Selecting a Door It is recommended that you get a solid core door. A hollow door can be broken through. To prevent someone from creating a hole in the door itself, choose a solid-core wood or steel door. Try to minimize the number and size of any glass panels in the door and consider installing security film on the window portions of any door. Security film on glass makes it harder to break completely through the glass it protects.

Selecting a Lock (traditional & smart locks) Choose a grade 1 or 2 deadbolt lock. The ANSI (American National Standards Institute) and BHMA (Builders Hardware Manufacturers Association) rate deadbolt locks. It is best to get an ANSI Grade 1 or 2 or a BHMA Grade 1 lock. These high-quality locks use hardened steel components and are drill and pick resistant.

Upgrade to a Smart Lock You may also want to upgrade to a smart lock at this time. Smart lock brands like Schlage, Yale, and Ultaloq allow you to lock doors remotely and many have features that allow automatic locking. If the lock is open beyond a predetermined interval the smart lock automatically locks the bolt. This can go a long way to preventing the “unlawful entry” that we referenced earlier.

Door and Lock Installation Have your doors and locks professionally installed and ask the installer about ways to make the installation more secure. Below we mention some techniques and products to help.

Additions to Fortify Your Doors

Security Strike Plates It is recommended that you use security latch strike plates. The strike plates that come with most lock sets are not very long and are often made of softer metals. Security strike plates are made of harder metals and are much longer than standard strike plates. The extra length spreads the force of impact over a wider area of the door jamb making it more likely to withstand the impact of a forced entry attempt.

Upgrade Strike Plate Screws Most lock sets that you purchase will come with strike plate screws that are a half inch in length or even less. These screws offer very little resistance if someone tries to force their way in by breaking through at the lock point, damaging the lock and door jamb on impact. If you are able, use 3” or at least 2” inch stainless screws to secure your strike plate. The longer screws will go through the full width of the door jamb and intentionally penetrate the door frame, adding much more strength to the lock system.

Latch Reinforcement The addition of a door latch reinforcement device can substantially strengthen your exterior door. Many of these devices are designed to withstand 800 lbs of inward force. They can be placed anywhere on the door interior where you think the most force might be applied. Some videos out there are recommending a few inches above the deadbolt lock but that is not our recommendation. Positioning the latch reinforcement near the lower latch may be more appropriate, as many burglars will kick doors open. The impact point then would likely be about waist high.

Prevent Lock Picking If you are concerned about someone picking your traditional deadbolt lock, there are devices that can be added to the interior side of your deadbolt that will stop the interior lever from moving. If someone successfully uses a pin or “bump key” tool to simulate your key, these devices will stop them from turning the interior lever, effectively thwarting the attempt.

Add Lighting Lastly, consider adding lighting on timers or motion sensors. It should be no surprise that criminals will go to homes where they are less likely to be noticed. Shedding light on their ill intention at your doorway will often cause a thief to choose another target.

Most law enforcement professionals emphasize the proper installation of quality exterior doors and locks as a top priority to secure your home. The tips above will go a long way toward that endeavor.

Plan for Safety,

Andy, Senior Editor


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