When it comes to security, external doors play a key role in any building. An effective one will not only keep cold air at bay and look great; it’ll also be able to exclude potential intruders. Fortunately from a homeowner’s perspective, this is a problem that’s been grappled with for millennia – and with the help of a few simple measures, we can vastly reduce the likelihood of a home suffering a break-in.
Some of us might imagine a burglar to be a master locksmith, overcoming even the most fiendish of mechanisms with a sharp ear and an equally-sharp set of toothpicks. While such people probably do exist, they’re hugely outnumbered by a less subtle sort of criminal – one who’ll be happier to kick the door off its hinges. If your external door can’t withstand a strong kick, then it probably isn’t fit for purpose. Of course, a thief is likely to use crowbars and hacksaws to get through – and any obstacle we can offer will be useful. Opt for a door with a substantial core built from solid wood and metal.
One large determiner of the overall security of a door is the quality of its locks. A door that’s fitted with inferior locks will, all other things being equal, be more vulnerable to attack than one which isn’t. You’ll want to check the minimum standards of your home insurer when it comes to locks – as if you fall below them, you might not be covered in the event of a break-in.
Naturally, windows are more vulnerable to damage than the door itself is. If you’ve got glass right next to your door handle, then there’s a chance that a would-be thief could break it open and access the lock. Patio doors are therefore often thought of as an invitation to would-be burglars. Not only that, but transparent glazing will allow burglars to see into your home and see all of the things that they might like to steal. If you’ve got glass doors at the rear of your property, leading into a living room where you’re keeping high-end A/V equipment or expensive artwork, then you’ll be more vulnerable to break in. The same can be said of glass that’s visible from the street.
If a burglar can access the hinges of your door, then they’ll be able to disassemble them and remove the door from its frame. This is especially so in outward-opening French doors, whose hinges might be on display in the garden.
Finally, we should consider the frame. There’s no point in installing a substantial door into a weak frame – as this will allow potential intruders to simply remove the latter from the wall and walk in.
Now that we’ve looked at the various vulnerabilities of an external door, let’s consider how we might address these weaknesses.
Ideally, you’ll want two locks – a cylinder lock and a mortice deadlock. The latter should be engaged only when you’re out of the house, ideally – if a fire should break out, you won’t want to be trapped inside the house, looking frantically for the key. On the other hand, if you have small children in the house, you might want to prevent them from opening the door and wandering outside. A compromise between these two considerations can be achieved with a draw bolt at the top of the door – beyond the reach of even the most determined toddler.
Be aware that uPVC doors come with all of their locking apparatus pre-installed. Never attempt to modify a uPVC door, as doing so will almost certainly ruin the door aesthetically, and create a security vulnerability which wasn’t there before.
The hinges of your door should ideally be removed from view. To support a 44mm wooden door (the thickness required to support a mortice lock) you’ll need a trio or substantial 100mm hinges. If there are any recessed panels in the door, these should be at least 9mm thick at the thinnest point. In the case of sliding patio doors, you’ll want at least three locking points and an anti-lift device that prevents them from being simply picked up from their runners and tossed aside.
Your door is only as strong, as we’ve mentioned, as the frame it’s installed into. Secure your timber frame to the surrounding wall at intervals of 60cm or less to achieve a burglar-resistant fit. You can further improve the strength of your door by installing a pair of metal bars on either side of the frame. The one on the lock side is known as a ‘London bar’; the one on the hinge side is known as a ‘Birmingham bar’. Together, they’ll provide protection against brute-force attacks.
Glass is always going to be less secure than solid wood or plastic, which is why a deadlock is necessary. For optimal security, you’ll want to choose laminated glass – which consists of two panes either side of a sheet of laminate. It’ll withstand far more punishment than any other form of glass. Frosted or obscure glass will also prevent people outside from seeing into your property – it’s a good choice for glazed front doors.
In order to obscure the view a would-be burglar might have of your valuables, you might want to consider a door with blinds. These are particularly suitable for French-style patio doors, and can be attached to the door itself to ensure that it can be opened without obstruction, whether the blinds are up or down. A thin set of blinds will ensure sunlight can get into the home while ensuring that outsides can’t see in.
The ability to protect your home and its contents is a vital quality in any door. Even if you don’t live in a high-crime area, it’s worth investing the time and effort to ensure that your doors offer the most effective barrier possible. Keep your doors well maintained and have security in mind to keep your home as safe as possible.