42 Home Security Nightmares Lurking Around Your Home
Are you protected from these potential (and often overlooked) home security nightmares?
Hiding keys outside
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Many people like to keep a house key hidden somewhere in the yard. This is great for having someone take care of your home or if you accidentally get locked out. Unfortunately, most homeowners “hide” their key in obvious spots, where a burglar will look immediately. In other words, don’t just put that key under the welcome mat!
Generally speaking, the farther from the house a key is hidden the better, and a disguised item (such as a fake rock) is only useful if hidden among similar items (like regular rocks). Don’t give the keys to your home to a criminal! Drill down deeper into this topic and find out more about where not to hide your keys.
While we’ve mentioned the need to concern yourself with the visibility outside your home, give some thought to the visibility of items inside your home as well. Many homeowners forget that windows are a two-way portal: just as you can see out of them, a potential intruder can see in.
If you have especially valuable items, give some thought as to whether they’ll be visible from a ground-floor window. This is especially applicable to first-floor bedrooms where jewelry or other items might be left out on dressers. Some items, such as televisions, are difficult to position so they won’t be visible from a window. In that case, the best you can do is to make sure you pull the shades or blinds shut in the evening. Similarly, give a little thought to putting away valuables by either tucking them out of sight or in a dedicated secret hideaway.
Not securing 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 inches 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. Need to replace your patio door? Here’s how to do it.
Windows and doors
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. Or check out Intermatic or Door and Window Alarms. 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. These are the things a burglar will never tell you.
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 deadbolt 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. Check out more garage security tips here.
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 secure mailbox. Once the mail is dropped in, you need a key to open the box. Locking Wall Mailbox is one manufacturer. Just screw it to the wall or post as you would a standard mailbox.
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.”
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.
The perils of privacy
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Privacy gates and fences might make you feel more secure, but in fact, they often provide hiding spots and cover for thieves who want to force entry into your home. The same traits that allow fences to give you privacy from the outside world can allow an intruder to be unseen as he forces entry.
Of course, the layout of every home and property is unique. But if possible, plan your privacy fencing so that at least the main entryway is visible from the street. Doors are by far the most common entry point for criminals, and a highly visible door makes their job more difficult. Even better is a reinforced door, and a door upgrade is a rewarding DIY project.
Bushes too close to the home
Much like a fence, your choices in landscaping can make your home more or less friendly to those with ill intentions. Bushes and trees right up against the side of the home provide cover in the same way that a privacy fence might. Correct this mistake by having low-height or thin-growing plantings immediately beside the home, and keep the taller, denser plants more distant.
It’s important to note that you don’t have to give up all your plants, but do give a little more thought to where they’re placed. Also, taller or more dense shrubs and bushes are fine against solid walls, as long as windows and doors aren’t obscured. Additionally, following this tip will lead you to avoid larger plants and trees whose root systems can damage your foundations and whose leaves can clog your gutters, often the first step in curing a wet basement.