How To Make Your Home More Secure

Outside Doors

The first step in how to make your home more secure is to deal with the outside doors. Many outside doors are fitted with inadequate locks. A large number have only one lock — usually a cylinder nightlatch operated by a lock from the inside or a key from the outside. This is an arrangement which guarantees easy pickings for any thief: even when the bolt is ‘deadlocked’ the door can easily be forced open, your house ransacked and property stolen.

The solution is not particularly difficult or costly, especially when you measure it against the misery which a burglary usually brings. For complete security and ease of operation, all outside doors should be fitted with at least two security devices — the front door with a nightlatch and mortise deadlock and all other doors with a nightlatch and two mortise bolts.

How To Make Your Home More SecureThe value of a mortised lock or bolt is that it is fitted into the wood of the door itself, unlike the nightlatch which sits on the inside. This makes it virtually impossible to force or pick open when the lock is in operation. And the deadbolts themselves are specially strengthened so they cannot be sawn through.

The instructions below tell you how to fit both types of locks, and also the bolts, to a new door or to one where they are not already installed.

Before you buy

Many homes lack security because substandard or wrong sized locks are fitted. One of the most common faults is that the lock is too heavy or wide for the door for which it is intended. So before you purchase any locks, make a note of the exact thickness of the door frame and the position of any glass panels.

When a mortise lock or bolt is fitted there should be a gap of at least 10mm on either side of the faceplate. Any less, and the door will be too weak to support the lock properly making it easy to force open.

If you are buying a nightlatch, make sure that it is suitable for your door — some are for right or lefthand opening doors only, while others can be adjusted to fit either. If you are not sure which way your door opens stand on the outside: if the door hinges are on your left you have a left hand opening door; on the right, a right hand opening door.

Whatever type of lock or bolt you buy should be of the best possible quality — even if it costs a little more. Mortise locks are usually referred to by the number of levers used in their design. Try to get hold of a three, or better still, a five lever lock if you can. In the UK, there is a British Standard (BS 3621) which certifies that a lock has met a minimum standard of security.

Any security lock you fit should be ‘deadlocking’. This means that when the bolt is in position, it cannot be pushed back into the body of the lock.

When you buy a night latch or mortise lock you are usually also supplied with a pack of fixings screws, as well as extras such as a cylinder pull (nightlatch) or keyhole covers (mortise deadlock).

With some locks, you may need to buy the extras separately, or you may want, for example, to choose special decorative pulls. Check these points with the supplier. If you are fitting a mortise bolt you should also buy a special serrated key to operate the bolt.

Tools for the job

Ideally, to cut a mortise you need a hand brace and wood bit. At a pinch an electric drill and flat bit can be used — although you are unlikely to achieve such an accurate result. It is also easier to cut out the keyhole on the mortise lock using a padsaw. But if you do not own one, a 6mm chisel can be used instead —again with less accurate results.

A particularly useful device when fitting door locks and bolts is a wedge, which can be pushed under the door to hold it in position while you work. Although you can buy wedges (usually rubber ones) from DIY stores, it is quick and cheap to make your own by sawing a short length of 50mm X 50mm timber diagonally along its length.

Front and back door security. All outside doors should be as secure as possible against thieves and intruders. On the front door fit a nightlatch and mortise lock, on the back a nightlatch and two mortise bolts.

For additional security it is well worth fitting extra security devices — on the front door, a door viewer and security chain; and on all doors, two hinge bolts.

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