22 Inexpensive Ways to Theft-Proof Your Home
You don’t need to spend a fortune to keep burglars at bay. Here are some of the most inexpensive (yet very effective!) DIY home security ideas.
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Make burglars pass you by
The thought of falling victim to a burglar can give even the most stalwart homeowners pause. No matter how safe you may think your neighborhood is, there’s always the chance that a thief could pay an unwelcome visit. Luckily, though, these simple, inexpensive tips can help minimize that possibility and make would-be burglars less likely to target your turf. Plus, here’s what the difference is between a “robbery” and a “burglary” in the first place.
Simple window locks
The latches on most double hung windows are no match for a burglar with a pry bar. Pin locks are an easy solution. To install one, all you have to do is drill a hole. If you want to lock the window in a partially opened position, drill a second hole. You can find pin locks at home centers and online. They work well on sliding patio doors too.
Put motion detector lighting anywhere
Put motion detector lighting anywhere. Motion detector lights are a proven crime deterrent, and standard hard-wired models cost as little as $15. If running a power supply would be difficult, buy ones that run on solar power. The downside is the cost. You can find the Heath Zenith solar model shown here on Amazon. Check out some more of our choices for the best security systems you can buy.
Secure sheds with screws
Your locked shed seems secure, but a cagey thief can bypass the lock by using a screwdriver to remove hinges and other hardware with exposed screw heads. Foil would-be thieves by using Allen head, Torx head or hex-head cap screws instead of standard Phillips head screws. You can also order tamper-proof security screws that require special removal tools that an opportunistic thief is unlikely to have. You’ll also need to buy the special bit or tool. Type “security screws” or “tamperproof screws” into your search engine. Plus, find out the nerve-racking way doggy doors are making your home vulnerable.
Two ways to secure shed door hinges
Shed doors usually swing out, so the hinge pins are accessible from outside; all a thief has to do is pop out the pins and remove the door. To stop this, buy a security hinge with tamper-proof pins and a locking tab at a home center. Or, you can retrofit an existing hinge by removing the center screws on both sides, inserting a finish screw through one side and allowing it to protrude about 1/4 in. Drill out the receiving hole slightly so that when the door is closed, the finish screw head engages the other hinge. That way, even if the hinge pin is removed, the door can’t be taken off. These are the 10 hiding places burglars always look first.
Add inexpensive door and window alarms
Keeping doors and windows locked is your first line of defense. Make wireless alarms your second. Burglars hate noises, so even a small alarm usually sends them running. The alarms are available at home centers. The alarms don’t provide the same security as pro-installed monitored systems since the wireless devices are activated by doors or windows opening (not glass breaking). Use the alarms for doors and windows in ‘hidden’ areas of the house where you don’t normally gather and that are often dark.
Attach the alarm to the door or window (with a screw or double-sided tape) alongside the magnetic contact strip (they don’t have to be touching, but within 1/2 in.). When the door or window opens, breaking magnetic contact, the alarm shrieks (these little units have a piercing alarm). The door alarm has a delay feature, giving you time to set the alarm and leave, then open the door and deactivate the unit when you come home, without setting it off. The window unit has an on/off switch. The alarms will work on any door or window, and the batteries last two to three years.
BIBENE WiFi Home Security Door Alarm System DIY Kit
This cost-effective home security alarm system kit features a built-in magnetic contact sensor and PIR (passive infrared) motion sensor to detect any forceful break-in, activating the alarm to scare off intruders. The app allows you to control the whole security system anywhere with your smartphone or tablet. You receive warning notifications of the exact location where the alarm was triggered, while you can also use the app for arming delay, and more. The kit comes with a PIR main panel, a wireless PIR motion detector, five door/window sensors, two remote controls, an AC adapter, a user manual, and all backup battery and installation accessories.
Install door reinforcement hardware
You can spend hundreds on a fancy “pick-proof” deadbolt for your entry door. But you’re kidding yourself if you think that’ll stop most burglars. The truth is, most don’t know how to pick a lock. They gain entry with one really well-placed kick or body slam that splits the doorjamb (and often the door as well), and they walk right in. You can stop burglars in their tracks by beefing up your door and jamb with reinforcing hardware. The components take about an hour to install.
Measure the entry door thickness and the spacing between the entry knob and the deadbolt cylinder. Then buy either a single or a double wrap-around door reinforcement plate kit and four 1-1/2-in.-long stainless steel wood screws. Then get a doorjamb reinforcement kit.
Remove the entry knob and deadbolt cylinder. Then remove the deadbolt and latch and toss the short screws. Install the wrap-around door reinforcement plate and reinstall the latch and deadbolt plates using the longer stainless steel screws. Find out the things home security experts never do in their own homes.
Defeat bolt cutters
“A determined thief with an angle grinder and enough time can cut through nearly any lock,” says Master Lock’s Justin Matuszek. “But more often, the thief has a bolt cutter and is trying to work fast.” He says the thicker a lock’s shackle and the less it’s exposed, the more secure the lock is from bolt cutters. And the kind of locking mechanism makes a difference in how easily a lock can be picked. The Master Lock Magnum keyed padlock and the Master Lock ProSeries Combination Lock both resist bolt cutters. Both are available on Amazon. Plus, here’s how to choose the best security chain.
Pick-proof your deadbolt
Even amateur thieves can pick a lock. To hold the deadbolt firmly in place so the door can’t open, install the deadbolt protection device. Slide the “lock” over the deadbolt handle it to keep it from turning. Can you guess the most common time of the day for burglaries? (It might surprise you!)
Reinforce your entry door strike plate
Reinforcing your door’s weak spot, the jamb, with a heavy-duty strike plate and extra-long screws gives it the added strength needed to withstand a burglar trying to kick in your door. If your deadbolt was installed within the last ten years, it’s probably already reinforced. To check, simply remove the strike plate. If it’s heavy steel with at least 3-in. screws or has a heavy reinforcing plate, you can rest easy. If not, buy strike plate-reinforcing hardware.
To install, remove the old strike plate, then hold the new one in place and deeply score around it. Chisel out space for the new plate, then mount it by driving 3-in. screws through predrilled holes. You should be aware of all of these sneaky ways burglars can break into your house.
Secure patio doors
Patio door locks are easy to pick. Placing a heavy-duty stick in the door track will bar the door closed, but it looks crude and it’s inconvenient to remove every time you want to open the door. Fortunately, there’s a better way to get the security you need.
Andersen Corp.’s auxiliary foot lock fastens along the bottom of the door and has a bolt that fits into a grommet to hold the door secure. A similar lock, the Door Guardian, attaches at the top of the door. Both locks allow the door to open 3 in. without compromising security. Installation takes about ten minutes. Screw the bracket containing the pin to the door, then drill holes and insert grommets in the track for the pin to slide into. Make sure you’re aware of the sneaky signs a burglar could be watching your house in the first place.
An even simpler idea for sliding doors
“Like a lot of folks, we needed something to secure our sliding patio door. But I wanted it to be a little more stylish than a 2×4 or an ugly metal bar. So I picked up an oak handrail and stained and sealed it. I finished it with an attractive drawer pull. It works great, it’s easy to handle and it gets tons of compliments from everyone who sees it.” —Ryan Velthuis. Check out these tips to fix a sliding glass door should the time ever arrive. Make sure you know the 22 signs your house is vulnerable to being robbed.
Beef up your wooden garage entry door
A flimsy old wooden garage entry door has weak center panels that can easily be kicked in, making it a favorite target for thieves. Adding a dead bolt won’t solve that problem. A down-and-dirty way to beef up the door is to add a 1/2-in. plywood reinforcement panel and then bar it with 2x4s placed in bar-holder brackets.
Cut the plywood to fit over the door’s center section (make sure it covers the windows but doesn’t cover the door handle). Fasten it to the door with drywall screws.
Test-fit a bracket and 2×4 against the door. Measure how far the bracket is from the wall, then cut filler strips that distance and install them. Fasten the brackets in place by drilling 1/4-in. pilot holes and inserting 3/8 x 3-in. lag screws. Place the 2x4s in the brackets. Making your garage extra secure is one of the great ways to outsmart burglars.
Add a security anchor
What do you do when you don’t have a place to lock your bike, canoe or construction materials while you’re away? Sometimes—unfortunately—call the police to report a theft. The Kryptonite Stronghold Anchor, once installed, provides a safe, permanent anchoring spot for your stuff.
This clever, tamper-resistant system involves drilling three holes and installing bolts to anchor the heavy-duty security hook to cement (bits included). A dome covers the hook and bolts. The anchor can also be installed in truck beds or secured to other surfaces using your fasteners. The instructions are clear, the design is clean and simple, and it comes with a lifetime warranty (well, you know, sorta).
Install a small safe
Most of us don’t need a big, heavy, expensive safe to secure our valuables. For $100, you can get a safe that will protect against thieves. Be sure to fasten it to the floor or wall so an intruder doesn’t walk off with it. Safes go up in price for options such as fire protection and digital or biometric (fingerprint-reading) opening systems. SentrySafe makes the ones shown here.
Install the wall safe or cylinder floor safe by bolting it to the floor (most safes have holes inside for just that purpose). Hide it in the corner of a closet or other inconspicuous area. Or mount the wall safe inside a wall and cover it with a picture. Or chip out a hole in your concrete slab and stick in the floor safe, then pour new concrete around it. Plus, check out some clever, inexpensive diversion safes that will fool burglars.
Keep spare keys in a lock box
Hiding a house key is risky business. Clever (or lucky) burglars sometimes find hidden keys. And insurance companies may refuse to cover your losses if there’s no sign of forced entry. The solution is a combination lock box. Screw it to a fence post or your house in an inconspicuous spot. But don’t use the short, wimpy screws provided by the manufacturer. A crook could pry off the box, take it home and patiently saw it open. Instead, use four No. 10 x 2-in. screws, preferably stainless steel.
Blink Home Security Camera Kit
This wireless security camera system is a three-camera package that requires AA batteries and a WiFi connection to operate. It can cover a lot of square footage of your home, with each device featuring built-in sensors that are triggered by motion. Upon detecting an intruder’s movement, the alarm goes off and an alert is sent to your smartphone, while a short video clip of the event is uploaded to Blink’s cloud storage. You can even integrate the security cameras with Amazon Alexa-enabled devices. Install a reliable security system in just one day. DIY home security systems will help to protect your home and your family. And make sure you know the 10 spots where smart homeowners install security cameras.
Know who’s there
You never want to open a door unless you know who’s on the other side. A peephole lets you see who’s there, but entry doors don’t come with peepholes, and a lot of peepholes are so tiny that they don’t clearly show you who’s out there. Strangers can hide slightly out of view or appear so distorted that they’re hard to identify.
Avoid uncertainty by installing a wide-angle door viewer. The one shown here from M.A.G. Engineering and Manufacturing Co. (magsecurity.com, No. 8720) offers a 160-degree view and is available on the company’s website. Install it just like a standard peephole—drill a hole from each side and screw it in. If you opt for a smart doorbell, here are the safest ones you can buy.
Protect your mail
Mail theft is a growing problem, since unsecured mailboxes are easy targets. One sure way to keep thieves from stealing your mail—checks, credit card offers, personal information—is to use a security mailbox. Once the mail is dropped in, you need a key to open the box. Just screw it to the wall or post as you would a standard mailbox. Don’t miss more safety tips that could save your home from a break-in.
Don’t keep the clicker in your car
A thief who breaks into your car can grab the remote for easy access to your garage. This isn’t just a problem when your car is parked in the driveway; the registration card in your glove box gives a crook your address.
So get rid of the remote on your visor and buy a keychain remote. You can easily take it with you every time you leave the car. Home centers stock only a small selection of remotes, but you’ll find more online. Start your search by typing in the brand of your opener, followed by “remote.” Follow these 13 tricks FBI agents do to protect their homes.
Lock up the overhead door
Some people “lock” the overhead garage door when they go on vacation by unplugging the opener. That’s a good idea, but physically locking the door is even better. An unplugged opener won’t prevent “fishing,” and—if you have an attached garage—it won’t stop a burglar who has entered through the house from opening the garage door from inside, backing in a van and using the garage as a loading dock for his plunder. Make a burglar’s job more difficult and time-consuming by locking the door itself. If your door doesn’t have a lockable latch, drill a hole in the track just above one of the rollers and slip in a padlock. Check out some more tips to make it look like you’re home when you’re not (and fool burglars).
Be smart with social media
Social media is a fantastic tool, one that works great for staying in touch with friends and for sharing travel experiences and photos … after your trip is over.
Remember that social media is built to be public, which means that it’s a bit like talking to a crowd with a megaphone. Don’t share travel plans unless you’re comfortable with the entire social media community knowing about them. Because social media accounts default to a public setting, criminals can simply search for keywords like trip, travel, vacation, out of town and find descriptions of the dates and times that people will be leaving their homes.
To avoid this, simply wait until after your trip to share information about your trip! If you do feel the need to let people know you’ll be out of town ahead of time, take a few moments to ensure that your post is marked as private through that social media platform. By limiting its audience and it searchability, you can make sharing your schedule much more secure. Next, read up on all of the things a burglar won’t tell you.