If a home invader or burglar is determined to get into your home, simply locking the doors may not be enough to keep them out. A door installed with standard equipment by a builder is surprisingly easy to break down with just a few hard kicks. If you want your home to be a little more secure against break-ins, you’ll want to strengthen your doors.
How do you reinforce a door to prevent it from being kicked in? The weakness in your door comes from the fact that it receives impact at some fairly small pressure points, making it easy for the wood to split and fracture. Spreading out the area over which the force of kick impacts reduces the strain on any one spot. However, almost every element of the door can be strengthened.
The contractor that built your house is more likely to have had appearances in mind rather than security. Houses typically come standard with doors that are woefully insecure. A few relatively cheap pieces of hardware can dramatically improve the durability of your front door. Here are a few ways to make your door tougher to breakthrough.
Lock the Door
The most secure door in the world won’t do a thing if you forget to lock it. You’d be shocked at how many people neglect or forget to actually lock their doors. Some studies have shown that up to 30% percent of burglars access the home through an unlocked door or window.
If you want to prevent someone from getting into your home, make sure that you’re actually locking the door. The rest of our tips will be useless if the door is unlocked. It can be an easy thing to forget. We’ve all done it, but this is a crucial step to ensuring home security. If you find that you’re likely to forget to lock the door, you may want to invest in a lock that can remember to lock itself for you.
Smart locks are the solution for the forgetful homeowner. Many smart locks allow you to use a code to open the door. So, if you tend to lock yourself out of the house (and don’t want to resort to kicking the door in), this can be a real lifesaver.
If you forget to lock the doors, smart locks can help you out there as well. Many smart locks can be preprogrammed to lock at a certain time of day or after being unlocked for a certain amount of time. This means that even when you’re running late for work and forget to lock the door behind you, your home will be secured.
Add a Grade 1 Deadbolt
The toughness of your deadbolt can directly impact how much abuse it can take. Deadbolts come in three tiers sorted by the ANSI grading system, with grade 1 being the strongest and grade 3 being the weakest.
- Lock Grade 3
- Lock must be able to handle 200,000 lock cycles
- Lock must withstand 2 door strikes
- Lock must meet a 150-pound weight test
- Lock must withstand a 2-door-strike hammer test
- Standard residential locks
- Lock Grade 2
- Lock must be able to handle 400,000 lock cycles
- Lock must withstand 4 door strikes
- Lock must meet a 250-pound weight test
- Lock must withstand a 5-door-strike hammer test
- High-quality residential locks
- Lock Grade 1
- Lock must be able to handle 800,000 lock cycles
- Lock must withstand 6 door strikes
- Lock must meet a 360-pound weight test
- Lock must withstand a 10-door-strike hammer test
- Commercial-grade locks
The lock on your front door is almost guaranteed to be a grade 3 lock. Builders are only required to put in grade 3 locks and so they don’t spend the money on anything nicer. While grade 1 locks were once only available for commercial uses, residential and consumer models are becoming more common.
If you want the strongest front door possible, dish out for grade 1. If you’re looking to make an upgrade but save some cash for other improvements, go for something that’s grade 2.
Replace the Deadbolt Strike Plate
The deadbolt strike plate is the metal plate where the deadbolt latches into the doorframe. This is where the majority of the force from the impact of a kick is going to be directed. If you look at the strike plate on your door, it’s likely 2–3 inches long. The strike plate is generally where the door will splinter and crack, rendering the lock useless.
There are a number of small changes you can make to the strike plate to dramatically improve the strength of the strike plate and turn this weak point into a reinforced point of strength.
The easiest change you can make to your deadbolt is to swap out the short screws that hold it in by default. The screws used to install a strike plate are generally less than an inch in length. This means that your strike plate is only screwed into the decorative wood trim around the edge of the door frame. A couple of swift kicks can easily rip these tiny screws straight out of the molding.
Make kicking in the door significantly more difficult by replacing those short screws with a few 2–4-inch screws. Screws of this length will make it all the way into the studs beyond the door frame and anchor much more securely. You can change out the screws on the hinges as well for reinforcement on both sides of the door.
Given how inexpensive screws are, this is likely the most economical change on our list. If you’re looking to get the most bang for your buck (literally, a dollar is about all you need), go get yourself some long screws.
Longer Box Strike Model
While a standard strike plate is generally just a couple inches long, replacing this with an elongated strike plate can distribute the force of a kick over a much wider area, making the door and the lock much less likely to break. Elongated strike plates can range in length from about 5 inches to well over a foot. The longer the strike plate, the tougher the door will be.
Longer strike boxes will also usually require more screws to install. The longest models take as many as 8 screws as opposed to the standard 2 on a typical strike box. Additional screws also provide additional reinforcement. Making it more difficult for the screws to tear through the wood and come free.
Full Metal Enclosure
Most strike boxes just have a cut out in the metal, which the deadbolt will pass through. The deadbolt will then rest in a cutout in the wood of the doorframe. Since wood can break and tear, it adds strength to get a strike plate with a full metal enclosure. Essentially this is a metal box that extends into the doorframe.
Once again, this is going to spread out the force of the strikes over a wider area, making it difficult for the deadbolt to break through the wood of the frame.
Reinforce the Door Frame and Door Jamb
While a reinforced strike plate will make it significantly harder for a burglar to enter your home, with enough persistence, an unwanted intruder may eventually be able to split or rip away the door frame itself. To prevent this, you need to reinforce the door frame itself.
A number of companies offer products which will add a layer of steel to the door frame, preventing splitting. These products are easy to install and will blend into the doorframe. Just a few screws, and you’ll have made the process of kicking down the door that much more difficult.
Install a Sturdier Door
Hollow-core doors should only be used for interior doors, but sometimes wind up on the outside of homes anyway. If you’ve got a soft, hollow door, invest in something a little tougher. All your other reinforcements won’t mean a thing if a home invaders foot can crack right through the door itself. There are several great materials for strong exterior doors.
Hard Wood Doors
Solid wood doors are pricier than hollow core models, but the difference in strength is massive. Pine doors are common and moderately priced, but hardwood is stronger still. The stronger the material, the more difficult it will be to crack. Investing in a harder, stronger wood will make your door significantly less likely to split to the force of a few strong kicks.
Hardwood doors are probably as sturdy as you need, but you might be surprised by how affordable steel doors are. With a solid metal door, there’s no chance of cracking, fracturing, or splitting. Look for something hurricane rated for the highest quality. Unless your would-be intruder can kick harder than nature’s most destructive storms, they aren’t getting in.
Fiberglass is certainly an improvement over hollow core doors. However, this material is prone to cracking and breaking if hit hard enough. It’s also usually the most expensive of the options we’ve listed. Fiberglass doors might look nice, but if you’re concerned about security, opt for something tougher.
Lots of front doors have windows down near the locking mechanism. Your lock quickly becomes useless if someone can simply break a window and unlock the door. Look for doors that don’t have glass installed at all or place it sufficiently far from the locks on the inside of the door. This is an easy thing to forget to look for, but it can make all the difference.
Protect Your Door Hinges
If your door swings outward, then it has hinges that swing outward. While most modern houses have doors that swing inward and therefore hinges on the inside of the door, many older houses have outward swinging doors. Many years ago, it was considered smart to have an outward swinging door to save on indoor space and because it was thought to be easier to escape in the case of a fire.
If you have one of these outward swinging doors, then pay special attention to this section. Getting a really secure lock side of the door is useless if a thief can just pull the door off the hinges on the other side.
A smart thief may simply try to disassemble the hinges rather than brute-forcing the door down. If you want your door to be secure against a break-in. Make sure that your hinges are protected. The major weakness is the hinge pin. If the hinge pin can be removed, then the door can be pulled off entirely. Obviously, if you can remove the door from the hinges and the frame, the lock becomes irrelevant.
Setscrew in the Hinge
A setscrew locks the hinge pin to one side of the hinge. Essentially this is a screw that holds the hinge pin in place. This screw should be placed so that it swings out of sight when the door is in a closed position. With a setscrew, you can’t remove the pin if you can’t open the door. Simple and effective.
You can buy a hinge with a setscrew, or if you’re feeling handy, it isn’t terribly hard to make one on your own. Just follow these steps.
- Open the door and make a mark on the rotating part of the hinge.
- Close the door and make sure that the mark is not visible when the door is closed.
- Repeat steps 1 and 2 as needed.
- Remove the hinge and drill a hole on the spot you marked.
- Use a tap to thread the hole to match your screw.
- Screw-in your setscrew.
- Close and lock your door.
Also known as non-removable hinge pins or crimped pin hinges, these hinges are built so that the pin cannot be removed. The top and bottom of the pin are flattened, preventing it from being grabbed or pulled out. While this type of hinge can make removing a door much more of a process when you need to do it (you’ll need to unscrew the hinges), they also make life a lot more difficult for anyone hoping to pull your door off its hinges.
Stud hinges allow the hinge pin to be removed, but when the door is closed, metal studs in the hinge prevent the door from being removed. The studs will fit into holes on the opposite side of the hinge plate. Once again, this technique will require the door to be opened for the door to be removed.
Hinge covers or hinge shields cover the hinge in a metal casing. These shields will prevent the pin from being removed without the shield being removed first. You guessed it; The shields are designed so that they cannot be removed while the door is closed.
Hinge bolts are very similar to safety studs. A hinge bolt is another means of preventing the door from being removed even if the pin has been pulled from the hinges. A bolt is installed in the door, and a matching hole is cut into the frame. When the door swings closed, the bolt rests in the hole in the frame. If someone were to remove the pin, the bolt would then prevent them from pulling the door out as long as the door was locked on the other side.
Use a Door Barricade or Security Bar
Door barricades and security bars are both additional pieces of hardware that will give your door an extra degree of security. Think of these as additional locks, both likely to be stronger and more kick resistant than your existing locks.
You don’t need to pick between a security bar or a door barricade. They are installed at different places on the door and when combined make an entryway nearly impenetrable. Additionally, these aren’t necessarily replacements for improving your strike plate or deadbolt, but supplementary improvements. When you start to stack defenses is when you start to button up your home nice and tight.
A door barricade is a locking mechanism installed on the floor near the door. The door barricade will slide closed and then prevent the door from opening. These things are tough. Door barricades will often prevent the door from opening even after the door frame or locks have given way.
If you’ve got windows near your locks, your door can be easily unlocked, and your home accessed just by breaking the window. Because the door barricade is installed at ground level, it is extremely difficult to reach through a broken window.
A door barricade may not be the most attractive addition to your entryway, but it’s going to stop a home invader dead in their tracks.
A security bar is a steel rod that stretches across the width of a door frame. When the security bar is fastened on both ends, it prevents the door from opening, even if the door is unlocked or the lock has broken.
A security bar serves a similar function as a door chain (except that door chains snap away with very little effort). Security bars are easy to install, and when engaged, make it nearly impossible to open the door.
Some security bars come with alarms to provide additional security. Some security bars come preinstalled with dog alarms, which will imitate the sound of a guard dog barking. This may sound silly, but they’re shockingly convincing and surprisingly effective at deterring criminals early in their attempt.
Security and Lighting
Most burglars select their targets first by finding houses with low visibility from the street. The less visibility, the more ability they will have to jimmy, pick, and force their way into a home. One of the biggest changes you can make to make your doors less likely to get kicked in is to make your home a less attractive target.
Lights, security cameras, and clear sightlines to the street are all ways to make your house a less attractive target in the first place. Your door can’t be kicked in if it never seems worth kicking.
A would-be thief approaches your door, and suddenly they’re met by a flash of light. Suddenly in the spotlight, the intruder may decide that they’d rather not even attempt to break-in. Motion-detected lights are cheap, easy to install, and generally convenient for the homeowner.
Coming home late and fumbling to find your keys? A little light might help. Motion-activated lights are useful for you and intimidating for criminals.
Once you’ve got the invader all lit up, wouldn’t you like to get a look? Security cameras can aid police in catching someone who does manage to get in, and they often deter home invaders before they strike. The increased chance of getting caught after being captured on camera may make them think twice about going after your house.
Did you know that most home invasions happen in the middle of the day? Most burglars prefer to strike when nobody is home. Lights are unlikely to scare someone away if it’s broad daylight. A camera might though. There are plenty of amazing home security systems out there. But more and more people are using smart doorbells as a camera system.
Smart doorbells allow you to set up motion-alerts, which will record video after motion has been detected and give you a notification on your phone straight to the recorded video. If you see someone up to no good, give the police a call and make sure that your home is secure before you head back home.
If someone can stand on your doorstep and feel obscured from sight on the road, they’re going to feel a lot more comfortable doing whatever they need to break-in, including kicking in the door. Anything you can do to trim bushes, cut trees, or remove other obstacles to clear sightlines will dissuade home invaders from choosing to target you.
Many burglars look for obscured as the number one reason to target a house for a robbery. If you don’t want to have someone try their luck, make them feel exposed when standing at your door.
Don’t Forget About Side Doors, Back Doors, and Windows
It can easy to get fixated on the front door as being the major point of entry. This should be your main focus. Most burglars prefer to start by trying to get in the front door. However, if the front door is buttoned uptight, they may attempt to sneak around to the side doors, the garage door or the back door.
If you neglect these other points of entry, an invader may simply skip over your super-secure front door and then easily bust in another door. Consider every opportunity for entry into the home.
Some burglars may give up at the first sign of trouble and move on to other, easier targets. However, some are persistent. You don’t want to get caught with your pants down just because you put all your eggs in one basket. Almost all of these tips can be applied to any door in the house.
Don’t forget about the windows either. About a quarter of break-ins occur through ground floor windows. While windows go a bit beyond the scope of this article, you’ll want to consider the security of your windows as another opportunity for preventing a home invasion.
It’s important to keep your possessions and your loved ones protected from harm or theft. Kick-ins are one of the most common ways that criminals gain forceful entry into residential homes. This is because, with standard security equipment, it is trivially easy to kick down a door.
There are many strategies we’ve covered for increasing the security of your doors. Almost every element of the door from the lock to the hinges to the door itself can be upgraded to be more secure. While you likely won’t apply every improvement we’ve discussed in this article, there is added strength in each additional improvement.
With enough time, effort, and determination, a burglar will be able to overcome almost any number of defenses. The key is to make the process too long, too difficult, and too intimidating for the invader to see it through to the end. If your door requires ten kicks to break down instead of just one, that’s nine more chances for the burglar to decide that it isn’t worth the risk and give up.
Kicking at a door isn’t quiet either, the extra security may give you or a neighbor time to hear a commotion and alert the authorities. At the end of the day, the contents of your home are precious. Protect your home and the people in it, by making your doors as secure and impenetrable as you possibly can.