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Here Are Some Ways to Make a Burglar's Life More Difficult

November 05, 1989|GARY ABRAMS | Abrams is a Los Angeles general contractor and a free-lance writer

A sad fact of life in our society today is that we must protect our homes from intruders.

Police agencies tell us that even with an alarm system in our homes, we can further reduce our chances of becoming burglary or assault victims by assuring that our doors and windows are protected with good locks, properly installed.

But even if everything is locked, your home may still be made safer. Here are some "extras" for better home protection:

Deadbolt locks: Having a good-quality, 1-inch-throw deadbolt lock on every exterior door in the home, as well as on the door from the garage into the house, is the first line of defense in home security.

The lock should be installed at chest level to improve its resistance to "kick-in" attacks. Also, the strike plate that the bolt fits into on the jamb must be securely anchored.

Many deadbolts are sold with short strike plate screws that only penetrate the three-quarter-inch-thick door jamb, which is not a great deal better than having no deadbolt at all.

Instead, the plate should be fastened with screws long enough to penetrate the wall stud behind the door jamb--at least 3 or 4 inches.

If you have a double cylinder deadbolt lock, which requires a key on both sides of the lock, be sure to hang a key on a hook near the door in case of fire. Many people forget this potentially life-saving measure.

Out-swinging doors: Doors that swing out from the house can be a security problem because even though the door may be properly deadbolted, an intruder could still remove the door from its frame by knocking the pins out of the hinges. Fortunately there is a very simple trick to keeping the door on its hinges, even if the pins are removed.

First open the door as far as possible and remove two opposing screws from either the middle or top hinge. Then insert a 4-inch finishing nail (a nail with a narrow head) into either screw hole and tap it in until the last inch of the nail is exposed. Finally, test close the door to assure that the nail will enter the other screw hole easily, and that's it.

The nail across the hinge leaves will keep the door in place on its frame even if the hinge pins are taken out, and the tight remaining screws are more than sufficient to hold the door's weight.

Sliding-glass doors: Sliding-glass doors require a "pin lock" in addition to the manufacturer's lock to help keep the door from being pried open or lifted out of its track.

A pin lock is a steel rod about 4 inches long with a small knob on one end. To lock the door, insert the pin into a one-quarter-inch-diameter hole drilled through the frames of both the moveable and stationary portions of the door. It sits in a small bracket attached to the door frame when the door is open.

The pin lock is by far the best lock for sliding-glass doors. No other lock on the market can compare with the effectiveness and strength of this very inexpensive device. It sells for about $3 at most hardware stores.

Double-hung windows: For improved security, double-hung wooden windows--windows that slide up and down--should also be protected with a pin lock or a 4-inch nail inserted into a one-quarter-inch hole drilled between the two wood sashes. A second hole in the upper sash can be drilled 5 inches above the first to allow the window to open for ventilation while still locked.

There is a very good trick to preventing the lock from being pulled out of the hole from the outside on windows that have a second hole drilled for ventilation.

Simply cut the pin or nail so it can be inserted into the hole deep enough that it is slightly below the surface of the wood. Then, use a small bar magnet, available at most hardware stores, instead of your fingers to remove the pin from the hole.

With the lock in place below the surface of the wood, you can enjoy fresh air knowing that an intruder will be unable to reach into the open window and remove the lock from its hole. Buy one magnet for each window and stick it to the center sash lock, out of sight from the outside.

Louver or jalousie windows: Louver windows are especially vulnerable to intruders because the glass panes can be easily lifted out of their brackets from the outside. A simple way to increase the security of this type of window is to epoxy the panes to the brackets.

Use two-part clear epoxy adhesive, now available in an easy-to-mix syringe. Open the louvers fully and apply a 1-inch-diameter circle of mixed epoxy to the top surface of the glass/bracket joint on both sides of each pane. Allow the adhesive to dry fully before closing the window. With the glass bonded to the brackets with epoxy, the louver window is no less secure that any other type of window in the house.

Sliding aluminum windows: Sliding aluminum windows can easily be made much more secure in two ways. First, since most windows of this type are sold with a very flimsy lock, an auxiliary lock is needed. I recommend a sill-mounted lock with a small bolt that slides behind the sash to lock it.

These cost about $5 at most hardware stores. Equally effective, but a little less convenient to use, is a rod or dowel cut to fit into the track behind the sliding sash.

Even with a good lock in place, sliding windows are still vulnerable to being lifted out of the track from the outside.

A simple way to prevent this is to glue a 2-inch long piece of broken pencil into the upper sliding-window track, centered directly above the screen.

With this "block" in place, the window cannot possibly be lifted out of the track unless it is first unlocked and slid over to the open position. The best glue to use for this job is G. E. Silicone Sealant.

All the procedures described above can be completed in less than two hours in the average home. And although it is true that no home security system is completely fail-safe, why not make things as difficult as possible for the crooks?

After all, we all know what they say about an ounce of prevention.

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