Believe it or not, the most common entry point for a home break-in is right through the front door. With enough effort and some simple tools, it is possible to defeat just about any residential or commercial entrance. However, there is a wide gap between what is possible and what is practical. A well-hardened door may be so time-consuming and noisy to break through that it can effectively deter just about anyone short of a SWAT team. The purpose of this article is to delve into a few practical ways to achieve this by combating some common ways that doors are breached.
You may be surprised at how easy it is to kick down a door. This is achieved by landing the heel close enough to the locking mechanism and forcing the bolt through the relatively soft wooden jamb that surrounds it. Most residential doors are very susceptible to this form of impact and can be defeated quickly without any special tools.
In the event that a door does prove difficult to breach, recruiting a crowbar or the blunt side of an axe for assistance will allow access through all but the most armored of entrances.
The biggest weakness of this approach is that it lacks in gracefulness and will draw attention quickly with the amount of noise generated as blows are made to the door. Just increasing the amount of time it takes to get through could be an effective deterrent.
A quick way to do this that doesn’t take much in the way of handyman skills would be to replace the screws that fix the strike plate (the metal fitting that surrounds the bolt) with longer ones to increase the integrity of that part of the door by reaching well into the surrounding studs. This small change will make it much more difficult and time-consuming to break through the door with brute force. If someone is inside while this is happening, it will afford critical additional moments to react, while if you are away from home (which is most likely) it will afford more time for neighbors to become alerted.
Reaching the inside doorknob
A common feature of residential doors is to have glass paneling or windows integrated in and around the door. But this leaves an easy entry point for anyone who is willing to break the glass. Unless your door features a circular lock which requires a key to open from either side (which isn’t necessarily recommended as it may stop you from getting out of the door in the event of a fire or other emergency) then it can be opened with little effort.
Fortunately, you don’t necessarily have to make your house look like the entrance to a dungeon to improve your security. A good compromise to consider is replacing these windows with tempered glass which is more resistant to impact and extremely noisy when broken. The same concept as the doors applies here: delaying is a form of deterrence. The majority of burglars don’t want to attract attention and are relying on their ability to get in and out quickly to avoid being caught or identified.
Another consideration is to have custom wooden shutters fitted for your front doors that cover the glass paneling. This gives you the option of being able to open and close them
When it comes to commercial doors, similar principles apply. Regulations often require commercial properties to use latches for handles instead of round knobs. These generally work well at improving accessibility and are more convenient. But one result of these latches is that they are easy to defeat from the other side. Intelligent burglars can use improvised tools with wire or fishing line that can fit over or under the door and catch the handle. Once turned from the inside, commercial doors almost always unlock the other side automatically.
For this reason, security-conscious facilities may want to opt for latch guards and weatherstripping to make the most critical entry points (like exterior doors or rooms that contain servers with sensitive data) more secure.
Compared to other methods of entry, lock picking is actually less common as it usually requires a degree of expertise and some special tools. However, the tools and skills can be easily acquired for those motivated to do so.
Cylinder locks have been around for well over a century and a half and although certain improvements exist, the core technology remains the same. Locks contain key pins of varying lengths inside a plug that line up with the shape of the correct key to create an even “shear line.” When lined up properly, the shear line results in a gap in the pins that allows the cylinder to turn freely. When the gap isn’t lined up evenly, one or more pins impede the cylinder from turning. Then a pick is used to systematically displace the pins one at a time in order to get the shear line even. In some cases, this is as simple as raking the pick across the pins quickly to jostle them into place.
Some of the best ways to prevent a door lock from being picked is unrelated to the lock altogether. Keeping areas around doors well-lit and ensuring there isn’t excessive plant cover is a good way to ensure visibility is working in your favor as a deterrent.
You can also look for high security “bump and pick resistant” residential locks or light commercial-grade locks. High security locks typically feature stronger materials, tighter tolerances and even proprietary key manufacturing. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) analyzes and grades locks on a scale of 1-3, 1 being the most heavy duty. While you don’t necessarily always need a grade one lock, knowing where a lock lands on this scale is great information to have when comparing choices.