If your exterior doors function well and look presentable, checking them isn’t likely to be at the top of your to-do list. But for improved security, take a few minutes to evaluate the doors in your home.
Determine the doors composition. If it’s a hollow-core door, replace it. A hollow-core door is very easily broken through. If you can’t afford to replace it, add a deadbolt near the lockset.
Doors made of solid wood usually provide adequate security – if they are in good condition. Consider thickness (under one and three-quarter inches is too thin and won’t stand up to a strong kick), age (check for signs of deterioration and make necessary repairs), and pattern (floating panels can allow the door to break if kicked; solid fascades with little or no decoration at best).
Many newer wood doors are actually surfaced with wood panels or pressed-wood look-alike composites and have a reinforced solid core between. These offer both the security of a new, solid-core door and the beauty of wood.
Metal-clad doors provide the most security. Steel – plain or pressed to look like wood panel – is attached to a solid wood frame and a fibre core. These doors are strong, weatherproof, and low-maintenance.
Reinforce the frame. If the gap between door and frame is more than 1/16 of an inch or if the door gives when pushed or moves from side to side when pried, reinforce the frame. Gap and play allow room for a pry bar to be slipped in and the door worked open. Also, check for rot, especially around the lock. Rotting framework should be replaced even if the door and lock are sound.
Check windows and sidelights. Any glass on the door or within arms reach of the lock or lockset (about 40 inches) should be made of shatterproof plastic or security glass. Within that distance, a burglar can easily break ordinary glass, reach in, and open the door in a few seconds. Most sliding glass, French, and glass panelled doors are double-paneled and made of suitable materials. With the notable exception of laminated glass, you can replace most glass panes yourself. If your door has decorative glass, install a protective panel of shatterproof plastic behind it, or sandwich it between two layers of safety glass.
Simple Ways to Secure Doors
Even the best doors can be made more secure. Improving the security of your doors requires a few tools, simple hardware and a little time.
Install peepholes on windowless exterior doors. Be sure you can see down to the welcome mat and out to both sides. The larger the barrel of the peephole, the more light. And that makes for a brighter, clearer view.
Reinforce the door frame by inserting woodblocks, nailed in place, between the wall stud and the door frame. Gently remove interior moulding and install blocking at several points along the frame, especially where the hinges attach.
Strengthen door and frame hardware by replacing any short screws on hinges with ones at least 2 inches long for the door side and at least 3 inches long for the frame side. Be sure screws that go into the frame sit firmly into studs.
Replace the strike plate with a high-security model, like the one shown here, installed with three-inch wood screws that go deep into the frame. The steel rods, welded to the back of the strike plate, penetrate the stud and help prevent the door from being kicked in.