Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Hardening your home

(This one is going to be your 5 Minute Prep piece for today, simply because you can read it in 5 minutes. You may even be able to do some of the tasks in 5 minutes, but trust me, doing all of this is a lot of work. Very worthwhile work, though.)

I keep thinking back to the lady with the 3 inch screws and the false sense of security that gave her. Sure, she had done something to improve her security, which puts her ahead of probably 80% of people, but there is so much that she left undone, and most of it is simple and relatively inexpensive.

According to a post by Off The Grid News that I trolled up, the breakdown of how a criminal gains entry to a residence is as follows:

  • 4 percent enter through the front door
  • 23 percent enter through first floor windows
  • 22 percent enter through a back door
  • 9 percent enter through the garage
  • 6 percent enter through unlocked storage areas
  • 4 percent enter through a basement window or door
  • 2 percent enter through a second floor window
Based on a few discussions with some LEOs I know and reading the crime reports for a number of years, this looks about right. So what do you do to harden your house?
  1. Lock your doors and windows. You'd be amazed how often a burglar gains access through an unlocked door or window. Don't make it easy for them. 
  2. Don't hide spare keys stupidly. Everyone knows the spare key is under the mat, or the flower pot, or the on top of the door frame. If you going to hide a key outside, get one of the heavy duty lock boxes and put it on there.  I use this one. It's built like a tank. A burglar can get in, but it will take a while and make a lot of noise.
  3. If you can afford it, get a centrally monitored burglar alarm. Every LEO I've talked with says this is the gold standard tool to keep burglars away. They may even kick in a door or break a window to be sure there is an actual alarm (you can buy fake stickers and signs), but when the siren goes off, they nearly always run. We have one, and I don't think you'll get in the house with it on.
  4. Harden your exterior doors. This can take several forms. For wood framed doors, at a minimum you need to look at a product that hardens the door frame and the area around the door locks, such as those from Armored Concepts. Better is to reinforce the entire frame, using kits such as ones sold by Kickproof or StrikeMaster, and then reinforce the area around the locks.

    After we were broken into (the rear door was kicked in), I went with modified hurricane-rated doors front and back. They have 3 locking points and are made of reinforced fiberglass. I used 1/16" aluminium plate on the outside of the door frames to reinforce them and all the screws are extra long and drilled into the studs. The doors themselves have oval windows (a concession to my wife) that are tempered and have a reinforcing film applied (more on that next).
  5. Overhead garage doors are a weak point that is difficult to reinforce. As a rule, the best you can do is to use the provided lock points and a padlock if you plan on being absent for a long period of time. If you have garage door openers, remove that dangling cord from the manual release. If your doors have windows, burglars will break the window and use a long pole to snare it and disengage the release so they can open the door.
  6. Windows are a weak point that can be difficult to deal with as well, especially those that can be reached from the ground or a deck. First, be sure they are locked. There are various high-security window locks, but when you can break in with a rock, I believe they are a waste of money.

    While it may be a waste of time, you can drill into the sashes and slip in a bolt so that the windows can't be opened from outside even if the lock is opened. I've been told that burglars don't like to deal with broken glass, due to noise and the possibility of cutting themselves, thereby leaving DNA evidence. Just be sure you can remove that bolt with your bare fingers in case of a fire.

    More expensive but possibly more useful are reinforcing films, such as this 3M product. As a bonus, you get energy savings. I think this one is going to be added to my to-do list. This is a DIY project if you are the least bit handy around the house.
  7. There are also a lot of miscellaneous things you can do-keep your foundation plantings trimmed down, keep ladders secured, consider a video surveillance system (be sure it has recording capability), make friends with that nosy neighbor, keep a dog and so on.
Being broken into sucks, as I can testify to from bitter experience. Given our current social situation, if you live in a metro area, small to medium city or a suburb I don't think it's going to be bad practice to have hardened home your to at least this level. I think if I lived in one of those areas I might have a roll of chicken wire and staples handy so I could cover my windows, just in case.

This is one of those areas where being ahead of the curve is a good thing.


Anonymous said...

Put two switches on your garage door opener: one for turning off the light so the door can be opened and the garage stay dark, the other for powering off the opener (saves finding a ladder to pull the plug).

Replace the emergency release rope with a piece of 3/4' EMT, slotted to fit over the tab where the rope attaches, secure with a small bolt. Smooth surface allows a hand grip but prevents "snaking" it with a coat hanger. Make it long enough so the shortest member of the firm can reach it, not so long it hits the top of the vehicle.

Padlocks in the track are good, removable eyebolts in flush concrete anchors in the floor are better, takes under a minute to screw in/out. Position so permanently installed matching eyebolts in the door line up adjacent to the floor eye bolts with the door closed, install two sets, use keyed alike Kryptonite-like bicycle locks.

Windows: 12d double-headed nails, installed at a 20 degree down angle. Grind/file off the point, leave the end rounded. Drill through the inner sash, halfway through the outer. 12d nails are .128" diameter, use a .9/64 drill bit (8d - .113" dia - works fine but double heads in that size are hard to find).

Locking key boxes - install two. #1 is "almost hidden" and empty. #2 is very well hidden and has the key. Pro tip: read - and fully understand - the combination coding instructions for most of the pushbutton ones; it's the numbers, not the sequence, so 4 digits is stronger than 10.

Pin the bottom of the doors, see "door club" on Amazon. (Don't pin a door needed for entry....). Doesn't stop, slows down, which is usually enough to allow a suitable "homeowner response."

Solar/battery motion sensing LED lights can serve a purpose.

LED night lights as part of a 120 volt receptacle (see; Pass & Seymour, Cooper Wiring) are useful. Not easily disabled, allow casting of a shadow/silhouettting as one moves through a house. I call them "target identification lights."

Two alarm systems. Whatever alarm system you have, add a very simple Simplisafe to the Most Important Room with monitoring and text only notification alerts. Tells you when little Johnny takes his friends into the closet to see Daddy's gun safe.

You got the door reinforcements and window films right but don't forget to pin the hinge side of doors. Use at least 3 (5 is better) long 5/16" lag bolts into the double framing studs with 1.5" exposed past the jamb, cut off the hex heads, drill the door's hinge face to accept the bolts. Using solid core doors for interior doors is a good idea, too.

RE: chicken wire over windows. Use so-called "pig fencing" on frames, hinged at the top, secured inside at the bottom. Make sure they can be very easily opened from inside in an emergency. FYI, they don't need to be a carpenter-close fit, or even fill the entire exterior window frame. You're keeping people and rocks out, not bugs. One easy way is a deep channel (think J-channel for siding, 1/2' - 3/4' aluminum channel from the home center works well) at the top, similar with a simple - but stiff and partially shielded so it's hard to operate from outside - twist latch at the bottom, fast to install, fast to remove. Install the channel, make the frames, store somewhere until needed.

RE: the NRA Range Construction Manual - 3.5" of dry, compacted pea gravel will stop all handgun projectiles and most rifles. Wood studs become the weak points, use galvanized C-shaped studs and 3/4 plywood, use 1/4 inch bolts, washers into coupling nuts inside the center of the panels to keep them from bowing out. They're (obviously) heavy, but 2'X4'X3.5" panels are moveable. Pea gravel "bleeding" from holes can be reduced (but not stopped) by applying self-healing roof membrane (used to prevent leakage from ice dams Up North) on the inside face of the exterior panel.

The Freeholder said...

The biggest problem with roll-up garage doors is the door itself, which is fundamentally weak. Even the old-fashioned roll to the side doors are only so strong, though they are a better choice. With a roll-up door, all you have to do to gain entry is place the bumper of a vehicle up to the door and push gently--the door will buckle and fail.

I like the two alarm system concept. That would be the bomb for a house with small kids, probably even teenagers. Maybe especially with teenagers.

You're correct on long screws for the hinges. I wasn't clear on that, but it was done. 4" stainless steel deck screws with this nasty dual tip design for improved drilling. Things went into 40 year old yellow pine like it was butter.

My chicken wire idea is for something that you would do at the last minute, a la hurricane shutters. Your idea, coupled with the pea gravel, would make for a nicely fortified building when incorporated from the start. I couldn't find a copy of the NRA's Range Construction Manual online (I'm guessing they sell it), but I wonder how thick the gravel would need to be for rifle rounds up to 30-06/.308? Build that into your walls, add your exterior sheathing and cladding, then your interior finish. You'd have a serious amount of thermal mass plus the ballistic protection. It would take some engineering, but this could be a "big win" sort of idea.

Thanks for the input. Very valuable.