Intruders usually enter homes through doors, say police. However you can’t expect burglars to stand on tradition—especially if you have windows that they easily could force open and climb through without being noticed. A large expanse of fixed glass is less of a problem than you may think. The clatter from smashing a picture window probably would call attention to a break-in. Most burglars are cautious about being caught, so they don’t bother with homes that are secure, opting to move on to easier targets.
If the doors are locked, burglars will concentrate on smaller, operable windows. If the window can’t be forced open, a burglar may stick tape to a pane, break it, and quietly pull away the pieces to gain access to the latch. The solution is to lock your windows in both their closed and open positions. This way no one can reach inside and enlarge the opening. The drawings below a variety of ways to secure windows and sliding doors. Be sure, however, that whatever method you use doesn’t block a potential fire exit.
Most homes have many windows. Securing every one can be costly and time-consuming, so start with all sliding glass doors and windows accessible from ground level. Analyze which upper-level windows could be reached from a balcony, garage or porch roof, or tree. Enterprising second-story burglars may bring along a ladder to get at the ones you think are inaccessible. For an extra measure of protection, hire a security company to install sensing devices in your windows and doors. In a typical setup, when a window is broken, an alarm signal travels to the security company, triggering a call to the police. Make sure all windows work properly. Sashes that wobble when you crank them, rattle in high winds, or have to be propped open offer only token resistance to break-ins.
Tools: Drill and bits, screwdriver, pliers, and hammer.
The problem with a sash lock. Ordinary sash locks offer little security because you can open most of them easily with a knife blade, as shown. A heavy-duty model that clicks shut offers more resistance.
Install a key lock. Key locks can’t be jimmied, even if the glass is broken. Most will also let you lock the window in a partly open position. You’ll need to drill a hole in the upper sash for every position you want to be able to lock.
Using nails as locks. With the sash closed, drill a hole on each side, as shown above, through the bottom sash and most of the way into the top sash. Open the window halfway, and drill again. To secure the window in either position, insert two nails.
Check a casement window. Many casement windows won’t open enough to admit an adult. To check, open the window and measure from the inside edge of the sash to the jamb.
Remove an operator crank. If a fully opened window will admit a person, open it partially so the opening is 10 inches or less. Then remove the operator crank and set it out of reach.
Install a chain lock. Install a door-type chain lock to keep windows from opening. Fasten it down with the biggest screws possible.
Install a hasp or a stop. A hasp on a basement window can be secured with a padlock. Use a keyless combination lock or keep the key somewhere that’s handy, but not on the sill. If your windows don’t have hasps, drive long screws into a stop on each side. Leave a few inches to open the window for ventilation.
Add a grill or grate. Custom-made grills mortared into the foundation give basement windows a behind-bars look—but they provide peace of mind in a high-crime area. Scissors-type gates and hinged iron shutters can be padlocked from the inside, yet opened for escape in case of an emergency.
The problem with a sliding window. Thieves like sliding windows (and sliding glass doors) because some can be jimmied easily from their tracks, even when the door locksets are in the locked position.
The best way to secure a windowless door is with a dead-bolt lock. Here are additional security measures you may choose to take. Double-cylinder dead-bolt locks employ special one-way screws that you can turn in, but not out; otherwise an intruder could simply remove the assembly. Fittings with a double-cylinder lock generally include an extra set of conventional, slotted screws. Mount the lock and strike with these, make any adjustments, then withdraw the slotted screws and replace them with the tamperproof versions.
All surface-mounted hardware depends upon screws for holding power; if the screws that came with your lock don’t penetrate at least halfway into the door, discard them and buy longer ones. For added strength, coat the screws with glue before driving them into pilot holes. Mount any surface lock about 8 to 10 inches higher than the existing knob set so that you can see and operate it easily. In addition to the devices shown here, a variety of sliding bolts and other locking devices are available in decorative finishes. NOTE: Whichever security measures you choose, be sure you install them such that family members can quickly exit the house in case of fire.
Tools: Screwdriver, pliers, drill, and hole saw or spade bit for the diameter hole specified for the lock
Attach a chain lock. For extra protection that’s quick and simple, install a chain lock. Mount the hardware with screws that penetrate the door frame and the jamb studs.
Use a nail as a security pin. Secure sliding glass patio doors by drilling holes through both the track and the sash frames. Slip nails into the holes to prevent the doors from opening.
Install a bar. An accessory bar mounts to the door frame to jam the sliding door. It prevents an intruder from forcing the lock, but doesn’t protect against jimmying the door up. Alternatively, cut a piece of wood to fit tightly in the bottom track and keep the sliding door from moving.
Attach a toe lock. Toe-operated locks are convenient and the least obtrusive. Mount the lock on the casing and drill a hole in the sash into which a locking rod enters.