Improving your home security needn’t mean spending a fortune on flash burglar alarms (although that’s not to say that alarms are a bad idea!). There are numerous steps you can take to make your home more secure that cost just a few pounds, and some that will cost nothing but a bit of your time.
I personally know several people who have very expensive burglar alarms, reinforced window locks, dead-bolts, etc. There is nothing wrong with this of course, except for the fact that they only had these measures fitted AFTER they were burgled. Here are 5 steps you can take right now to reduce the risk of your home being broken into.
1. Close and lock all your doors and windows, even if you only plan to be out for a short time. This may seem obvious, but around 22% of burglars gained access through an open or unlocked door or window in 2005 (British Crime Survey).
2. Leave a light on if you are going out at night, or do not plan to return home until after dark. Some people even leave a radio on when they go out as a clear sign to a burglar that someone may be home.
3. Privacy is great, but having 20ft high hedges all the way around your house will also provide privacy for burglars. Consider trimming hedges in very secluded areas.
4. Secure tools etc out of sight. Most burglaries are opportunistic, so leaving your toolbox in the back garden just makes it easier for the burglar. This also applies to ladders.
5. If you are going away, ask a trustworthy neighbour or a friend to look after the house. Get them to remove mail from in front of the door, etc. Also remember to cancel things like milk deliveries.
So you can see that there are things you can do for free, that will reduce the chances of your house being targeted. However, these methods alone still may not deter the persistent criminal. Your next step is step physically stop them (no, not by standing outside you house 24/7 with a baseball bat).
Alarms are a great deterrent. Burglars would rather just go to a house without an alarm; it’s as simple as that. You can get an alarm system, including fitting for as little as £250-£350. Alternatively, you can buy an Alarm Kit and fit it yourself. This can be a tricky task, but you will certainly save money.
Forced door entry is one of the main methods burglars use to enter properties. A flimsy door with one locking point will open with a good kick or shoulder. If your budget will stretch to it, replace doors with a Solid Wood or Block Board door at least 44mm thick.
Sliding patio doors are a favourite point of entry for burglars. Older styles are easily lifted from their tracks, even when locked. You can buy anti-lift devices fairly cheaply from most DIY stores.
Replacing standard locks with Mortise Deadlocks or Cylinder Sash Locks will add immediate strength to a door. Locks such as these can be fairly expensive, but so could not having one! See Fitting a Mortise Lock for an in-depth guide to DIY fitting, so you can at least save the locksmith costs. For extra security, you can also fit Rack Bolts to both doors and windows. This is simple, quick and cheap to do.
You can buy self-fit window locks for as little as £5 (per window). They are very easy to fit and come with full instructions. Try to fit them so they are plainly visible from the outside. This will act as an immediate deterrent. Window locks are particularly important on rear windows (one of the main entry points for burglars). You can also buy Window Alarms for individual windows.
Although replacing all the glass in your house with reinforced or laminated glass would be very expensive, it is worth thinking about replacing the glass in vulnerable areas such as the rear/secluded windows.
Exterior spotlights with motion sensors will act as a major deterrent. A burglar really won’t want to flooded in 500watts of light as they prowl around your house. These can be bought very cheaply, and can be fitted by the competent DIY-er, although you might have to pay to have it wired in. A simple in-line timer switch is also a good idea if you are going away overnight. These simply plug between the socket and a table lamp, for example, and can be set to switch on or off several times a day.
Buy a good quality Hasp and Staple and a heavy-duty Padlock for wooden sheds or outbuildings. Hasp and staple locks are great because when the lock is closed, the screws holding it in place are hidden. Make sure shed windows are secure and if possible fit mesh over them. Metal Sheds can offer a far more secure option if, for example, you have an expensive pushbike.
In most houses there are numerous points of entry an intruder might use. Just having an expensive mortise lock on your front door really isn’t enough, and you need to ensure that all possible entrances to your home are secure.
A standard casement lock on a door will not stop an intruder for more than a few moments. A burglar will ring the doorbell and when there is no answer, a swift kick in the right place could have them inside in seconds. Fit a good quality deadlocking bolt (a mortise lock for example) and consider fitting rack bolts top and bottom, especially if you are away from home often. If you have a UPVC front door or are considering having one fitted, check that it has multiple locking points (most do).
Also consider fitting a strong security chain as burglars have been known to wait for the door to be answered before forcing their way in. Thankfully, this is not common, but a chain will certainly make lone occupants feel safer when answering the door at night.
Increasingly, thieves are using a method called fishing. This means that they will use a pole with a hook on the end to “catch” keys left on hallway tables. This could be you car keys, house keys or both. Never leave keys anywhere near the front door, unless they are secure in a drawer, etc.
Back and Side Doors
The back door is even more appealing to intruders as they can often work unseen, meaning that they can take their time. Your back door should be at least as secure as your front door, with good quality deadlocking bolts in place. Try to trim back any trees or bushes directly around the back or side doors, reducing the burglars ability to hide.
Some older sliding french windows can be lifted out of their tracks, even when locked. Fit additional locks to the frame to prevent this. With wooden french doors, fit rack bolts top and bottom, close to where the two doors meet. This is the weak point of any double door.
Never leave windows open, no matter if you are just popping to the shops for 5 minutes. Fit additional locks to all windows, especially to the rear and side of the house. Rack bolts can be fitted to any wooden windows quite easily and you can buy locking systems for UPVC and Metal-framed windows. Make sure that any locks have removable keys, otherwise the burglar can just break the glass and unlock the window.
Most upperfloor windows will be safe (unless you leave ladders laying around) but any that can be reached by climbing a drainpipe or from a flat roof should be secured as you would with a downstairs window. If you think a downpipe could be used as a way to climb to a window, you can paint it with security paint. This clever substance remains slippery, making climbing very hard.
Not many modern houses feature louvred windows, but some older houses might still have them. The individual slats of glass can be easily removed by bending back the metal frame that holds them. One way to prevent this is to use a strong epoxy resin to fix the slats in place in their frames. The only other way to make louvred windows secure is to fit a security grille.
Skylights or Roof Windows
Not really a problem unless the roof can be accessed by means of the downpipe or lower flat roof. Fitting a simple rack bolt will make skylights secure enough to deter a burglar.
Not a problem in detached houses, but it has been known for burglars to break in to one house in a terrace, get into the roof space and break through the dividing wall to the next house. Indeed, some older terraces (and even semi-detatched houses) have a shared roof space. Fit a standard bolt to the hatch to ensure this never happens to you.
Garages and sheds
Outbuildings can be both a direct target for a thief and a useful place to find things to help them get into the main house. Fit a good quality lock to sheds, preferably a hasp and staple which when closed covers the screws. For garages, fit a heavy duty bolt which can be padlocked.