Improving Home Security

Jan. 4, 2011

Home security has become more complex with the introduction of electromechanical locks and the additional benefits they provide. However, unlike commercial and institutional facilities, residential security does not appear to be embracing the benefits of electronic security as rapidly. As a result of the research I have done for this residential security article, it seems the greater the number of choices available to a customer, the more divided and uncertain they seem to become.

I spoke with locksmiths and urban and suburban homeowners and renters, trying to find out what their thoughts and concerns are regarding home security.

Their answers ranged all over the place. Some felt they could not get enough, while others felt that a length of chain wrapped around the gate frame and slipped over a hook on the fence post was a “high security lock” for their entire property. Some said it was important to have good mechanical locks on their door and windows.

According to Uniform Crime Report for 2009, there were an estimated 9,300,000 property crime offenses in the United States. Burglary accounted for 23.6 percent or approximately 2,200,000 incidents, of which approximately two-thirds are residential. The average loss per residential burglary is under $2,000 with the burglar spending less than 20 minutes on the property. Most residential burglaries occur between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.  The typical residential burglar is a neighborhood male teenager.

Take the average three bedroom, two bathroom home, having a front and rear door and access into and out of a garage. Security for the exterior doors should include a keyed lock or handle set on the front door, and keyed cylindrical locks on the remaining swinging doors. A deadbolt is recommended for all exterior doors for two purposes - the visual value and the value of an auxiliary lock mechanism securing the door. The visual value according to government and private research is if there are two homes, one with a deadbolt lock on the front door and one without, there is a greater likelihood that the home without the deadbolt lock will be burglarized before the home with the deadbolt lock.

The more locks on a door or window, the harder it is for the burglar to gain access.

Deadbolt Locks

A front or rear door adjacent to a window has little security using a single sided deadbolt lock as the inside mechanism. It can be easily accessed if the window is broken or opened. A double-sided deadbolt can help prevent unauthorized access.

Note: Before installing a double-sided deadbolt, contact the local authority having jurisdiction to determine if a doubled sided deadbolt can be installed. Double-sided deadbolt locks are not permitted in a number of towns, cities, counties, etc.  Double-sided deadbolts with a retained key can sometimes be considered acceptable. Some of the local authorities having jurisdiction realize the purpose of a double-sided deadbolt is to protect property.

Auxiliary Door Locks

Homes can have several different styles of exterior doors, including sliding, swinging single or double doors. A variation of the standard single swing door is used on most residences’ front doors. There are double doors, sliding patio doors and French doors.

The following auxiliary door locks are designed to provide an extra level of security. Some of these door locks can be also be used to provide relatively secure minimal ventilation. Note: Any of the following auxiliary door locks are not designed to take the place of the installed door lock.

Most sliding glass aluminum doors are not very secure. To provide additional security, the CAL Double-Bolt Lock secures the door to the frame at two points, preventing movement of the door that can eliminate the possibility of lifting the door out of the track.

Bolt style sliding door locks can be installed onto the lower or upper portion of the door. A hole slightly larger in diameter than the bolt itself is drilled along the track, permitting the bolt to enter and secure the door. Some of these locks are available with a keyed lock mechanism. This type of lock allows the door to be either shut or open and locked.

Major Manufacturing’s Octopod is designed to provide a secondary surface-mounted deadbolt that provides ventilation by locking the door in an open position. The Octopod can be installed on narrow stile doors and frames with a frame width of only 1 5/8".  The lock housing will accept any keyway standard 1-1/8" mortise lock cylinder. The Octopod can be installed at the top and/or the bottom of the door using one or two rods ranging from 9” to 48” long.

In addition, spring loaded foot style bolts are operated by pressing down to lock, and pressing down again to release.

Electronic Residential Locks

Electronic residential locks are available as entry and deadbolt locks from Schlage, Kwikset, Arrow, Samsung, Sunnect and EMTEK. These locks are divided by functionality. At this point in time, only the Schlage locks are designed to operate with Z-Wave enabled products. Z-Wave according to Wikipedia, “is a proprietary wireless communications protocol designed for home automation. The technology uses a low-power RF radio embedded or retrofitted into home electronics devices and systems, such as lighting, home access control, entertainment systems and household appliances.” Kwikset Home Connect enabled locks are designed to operate with Zigbee.

Customers interested in electromechanical locks and willing to pay for them were younger and more electronically “comfortable.” They especially liked the idea of the functionality that electronic locks can offer. This includes the ability to be in control of the homes’ appliances from anywhere, view parts of the home on their “smart” cell phones, have lights come on before they arrive and confirm whether the lock is locked. What seemed to be especially important was the ability to know the time when someone uses a specific access code. 

With the development of “Smart Phones” and intelligent electronic locks, customers can literally control access, view CCTV cameras and turn on and lights as well as control the temperature of the residence using their cell phones.

Parents felt the uses of these locks would be of value as a method of providing their children access without the concern of a lost key.

Strike Plates & Door Viewers

An inexpensive way to improve the level of security is to install the larger strike plates using longer screws. Normally a three-inch screw is long enough to enter into the door stud framing, providing a solid attachment. These oversized strike plates can be used to repair and/or strengthen the jamb. They are available in a variety of finishes and lengths up to 18” having one or two holes for dead bolt locks, cylindrical locks and mortise locks with or without deadbolts. Some examples are Don-Jo, Major Manufacturing and Entry Armor by Pro-Lok.

Another excellent security upgrade is a door viewer. This way the homeowner can look out through the safety of the door and determine if he or she wants to provide access to the caller.

Window Locks

There are as many different locks are there are different styles of windows. One of the most common is the sliding window. Many are manufactured of wood, plastic or aluminum. For the aluminum variety, aluminum sliding window locks have a thumbscrew. I normally drill and tap into the side of the window lock that contacts the moving window. I install a screw that is approximately two inches long. I remove the head from the screw and drill a hole into the window frame, nowhere near the glass. The lock slides against the window, preventing it from being lifted out of the channel. For ventilation, a second lock can be installed on the other open side in the corner. This permits the second lock to remain attached even if someone attempts to unscrew it.

Vinyl tilt windows can have retractable latch lock mechanisms. Double hung windows can use sash crescent locks at the top of the lower window and the bottom of the upper window or window bolts that are a shortened version of the barrel bolt. A couple of companies sell keyed sash window locks (Prime-Line #U9927).

In addition, a vent guard for double hung windows allows for ventilation by securely holding double hung windows in partially open position. The window can open fully when the guard is released (Stanley Hardware # 61-0430).

Suggestion: Installing motion sensor lighting on the exterior and timers on the interior can give the impression someone is home.

Garage Locks

Many homes have garage door openers. The advantage is you do not have to leave your vehicle in order to open your garage door. The disadvantage is you cannot bolt your garage door. “J” shaped bypass tools, about seven feet tall, can hook the emergency release handle on just about every garage door opener. The tool is slide beneath the door and the long end has a hook. With some practice, the long end of the tool hooks the release handle. Pulling down and forward releases the opener mechanism, allowing the door to be lifted open.

The increased complexity of residential security gives locksmiths the opportunity to custom design security for just about every customer’s needs and desires.


For more information on the products listed in this article, contact your local locksmith distributor or:

Arrow Lock and Door Hardware, Telephone: 800-839-3157. Web Site:

CAL Security Enterprises, Inc., Telephone: 305-827-9384. Web Site:

Don-Jo, Telephone: 978-422-3377. Web Site:

EMTEK Products, Inc., Telephone: 626-961-0413. Web Site

Kwikset Corporation, Telephone: 800-327-LOCK (5625). Web Site:

Major Manufacturing, Inc., Telephone: 714-772-5202. Web Site:

Pro-Lok, Telephone: 714-633-0681. Web Site:

SAMSUNG Ezon Intelligent Digital Door Locks. Web Site:

Schlage Lock, Telephone: 877-288-7707. Web Site:

Sunnect Lock, Telephone: 703-440-5010. Web Site: