Securing your Home

Most burglaries are carried out by opportunist thieves. In 1 out of 5 burglaries, they don’t even have to use force – they get in through an open door or window.

So fit strong locks to your doors and windows and make sure you always keep them fully locked.

If you are replacing or fitting new doors and windows, get ones that are certified to British Standard and BS7950 (windows) or PAS 24-1 (doors).

Look at you home through a burglar’s eyes

  • How would you get in if you’ve forgotten your keys?

If you can get in, so can a burglar

  • Are there places where they could break in without being seen?
  • Would they have to make a lot of noise breaking glass?

Reduce the risk of your home being burgled by making sure you’ve taken these simple (and often inexpensive) precautions.

Windows

A third of burglars get in through a window. If you are replacing windows, take the opportunity to install new ones that are certified to British Standard BS795 'Windows of Enhanced Security'.

To make your windows more secure, you could:

  • Consider using laminated glass, particularly in ground-floor and accessible windows, as this is much harder to break
  • Fit window locks with keys to all downstairs windows and windows that are easy to reach – for example, those above a flat roof or near a drainpipe
  • Even small windows such as skylights or bathroom fanlights need locks. A thief can get through any gap that is larger than a human head
  • Remember to keep windows locked. Remove the keys and keep them out of sight in a safe place
  • Louvre windows are especially vulnerable because thieves can easily take the slats out of the frame. Glue the slats into place, and fit a special louvre lock. Better still, replace them with fixed glass
  • Consider fitting security grilles to vulnerable windows – but only if these windows are not escape routes, in case of fire. Many DIY shops now sell decorative wrought-iron grilles.

Doors

If your front and back doors are not secure, neither is your home. Two thirds of burglars gain entry through a door.

  • If you are replacing a door, take the opportunity to improve your security by installing a door that is certified to British Standard PAS 24-1 'Doors of Enhanced Security'
  • Ask for it to be fitted with a chain or bar and, if it doesn’t have a window or other means of checking who’s at the door, a door viewer
  • Glass panels on or around doors are especially vulnerable, so replace them with laminated glass. Or, you can buy special film to stick to the inside that will do the same thing
  • Make sure the doors and frames are strong and in good condition
  • Wooden doors should be solid and at least 44mm (1¾") thick
  • Fit five-lever mortise deadlocks (Kitemarked BS3621) to all wooden outside doors, including French doors. And make sure you use them
  • You can make wooden doors stronger by fitting a steel strip and plates to the door frame and around the lock
  • Keep your doors locked even when you’re at home
  • Use the mortise deadlock or, on PVC-U or other enhanced security doors, the fully or double-locked mode especially at night
  • Fit mortise bolts to the top and bottom of all outside wooden doors, including both sides of French doors
  • Remember to fit all security devices with strong screws or bolts
  • Before fitting locks to PVC-U or metal doors, check with the installer to make sure that this will not affect your warranty.

1. Door viewer

If you don’t have a window in the door or some other way of checking who’s calling, fit a door viewer. Look through this to identify callers before you open the door.

2. Hinges

Check that the door hinges are sturdy and secured with strong, long screws. For added security, fit hinge bolts. These are cheap and help to reinforce the hinge side of a door against force. Hinge bolts or security hinges are especially important if your door opens outwards.

3. Letter boxes

Never hang a spare key inside the letterbox. This is an obvious place that a thief will check. Letterboxes should be at least 400mm (16 inches) from any locks. Consider fitting a letterbox cage or other restrictor, which prevents thieves from putting their hands through the letterbox and trying the latches from the inside.

4. Rim latch

Most front doors are fitted with a rim latch, which locks automatically when the door is closed. You can open these from the inside without a key. For strength and quality, look for BS3621 Kitemarked products.

5. Automatic deadlock

This locks automatically when the door is closed and is more secure than other types of rim latch. It needs a key to open it from both the inside and the outside.

6. Chains and door viewers

Buy a door bar or chain and door viewer. Use them every time someone calls.

Remember, though, that you only use the door chain or bar when answering the door – don’t leave it on all the time.

7. Mortise deadlock

Fit a five-lever mortise deadlock about a third of the way up the door. Most insurance companies are happy with one Kitemarked to British Standard BS3621. You can only open a deadlock with a key, so a thief can’t smash the nearby glass panel to open the door from the inside. Deadlocks also mean that if burglars get into your home through a window, they can’t carry your belongings out through the door.

Sliding patio doors should have anti-lift devices and locks fitted to the top and bottom to stop them being removed from outside, unless they already have a multi-locking system. Get specialist advice. If you are getting new or replacement patio doors, ask the system supplier for their high-security specification.

If you live in a flat

Doors on individual flats are often not as strong as those on houses and can be the easiest way for a thief to break in.

Doors to flats over a floor level of 4.5 metres (normally those on the second floor or higher) should have locking mechanisms fitted in line with BS5588 Part 1:1990 ‘Fire Precautions in the Design and Construction and Use of Buildings’.

Shared entrances

Consider having a phone-entry system fitted to the main door to your building. Never ‘buzz’ open the door for strangers or hold the door open for someone who is arriving just as you are leaving or entering the building.

Keys

Never leave a spare key in a convenient hiding place such as under the doormat, in a flowerpot or behind a loose brick. Thieves know all the usual hiding places.

If you move into a new home, change the front and back door locks immediately as other people may have keys that fit.  If you are looking for a locksmith, the Master Locksmiths' Association website lists locksmiths who are vetted and regularly inspected.

Never leave your house or car keys in or near a door or window. Some thieves have been known to use a fishing rod or magnet on a stick to steal them through the letterbox.

Decide on a safe place for your keys and always use it, so you can find them in an emergency. Increasingly, burglars are breaking in to steal the keys of high-value cars. So take care of your car keys and, if you have a garage, keep your car in it rather than on the drive.

Around the home

Outside lighting

Good lighting can put off or draw attention to a thief. The most appropriate form of lighting to use is high-efficiency low-energy lighting, controlled by a dusk-to-dawn switch so that it comes on only when it’s dark. This provides a constant and uniform level of light. It costs very little to run and helps to create a more reassuring environment.

Lights that come on if they sense movement can be annoying to neighbours and dangerous to passing traffic. If you have these, make sure they are directed downwards. Fit lights out of easy reach – at a height of at least 2.5 metres (eight feet).

Make it look like you're at home even when you're out

  • Remember, most burglaries happen when a house or flat is empty
  • They are also more likely to happen during the evening or at night
  • Don’t leave curtains closed during the daytime
  • Use timer switches to turn on lights, radios and other appliances when you’re out. You can buy these from DIY shops.

If you're going away:

  • Cancel any milk or newspaper deliveries
  • Cut the lawn before you go
  • Don’t put your home address on luggage labels when travelling to your destination
  • If you can, get a friend or neighbour to look after your home while you’re away. Ask them to collect your post, draw your curtains at night and open them in the mornings, and generally make the place look lived-in. Be prepared to do the same for them.
  • Buy some small safes. Hide them and securely fix them and store chequebooks, credit cards, passports, jewellery and so on. For more advice see the Home Office ‘Peace of Mind While You’re Away’ leaflet.

Gardens, gates and fences

  • Prevent intruders getting to the back and sides of your home by installing strong fencing or gates
  • Check for weak spots where a thief could get into your garden, for example, a low or sagging fence, or a back gate with a weak lock
  • A thorny hedge along the boundary of your property can put thieves off. But make sure that passers-by can still see the front of your home so that a burglar can’t work without being seen
  • Gravel areas around your house. The noise of walking on gravel puts burglars off.
  • Don’t build pergolas, gazebos and so on too near to the house as they can help thieves reach upper windows
  • Solid fences or walls (particularly those with a flat or rounded top) are relatively easy for a burglar to climb over. Fixing trellising to the top can make it more difficult.
  • DO NOT USE barbed or razor wire, or broken glass as you could be held legally responsible for any injuries caused. You can get safer alternatives that are designed not to cut or injure or plant some prickly plants.

Passageways at the side and back of your home

Fit a strong, lockable, high gate across the passageway to stop a thief getting to the back of your home where they can work without being disturbed. If you share a passageway with a neighbour, ask their permission and for help with the costs.

However, if the passage is a right of way (for example, where it connects two streets rather than just allowing access to the back of a limited number of houses), you would need special permission to fit a gate from your local authority or the courts.

Garages and sheds

  • Garages and sheds are often full of expensive tools, which are ideal for breaking into the rest of the house
  • Never leave a garage or garden shed unlocked, especially if it has a connecting door to the house. A thief could get in and work on the door inside without being seen
  • Fit strong padlocks to shed and garage doors and make sure that the doors are solid enough not to be kicked in
  • Lock ladders inside your garage or shed to stop a thief using them to reach upstairs windows. If there is no room in your garage or shed, chain or padlock ladders horizontally to a sturdy bracket on an outside wall. Consider having lockable steel boxes fitted to the floor to store your tools in, or anchor posts fitted to the floor to secure larger tools and equipment.

Burglar alarms

Many burglars will avoid breaking into a property with an alarm.

There are many alarm systems on the market. These range from fairly cheap alarms, which you can fit yourself, to more sophisticated systems, costing hundreds of pounds, which need to be installed by professionals. Low-cost alarms are less reliable and can, through false alarms, be a nuisance to both you and your neighbours.

Consider whether you need an audible-only alarm (which sets off a siren or bell) or a monitored alarm (connected to a central 'listening' service). Due to the huge number of false alarms, police will only respond to audible alarms if there is confirmation of suspicious activity – such as a neighbour saying they saw someone or heard glass being broken.

For monitored systems, the monitoring company will check whether any alarm was false – for example, set off by the homeowners entering the wrong access code – and call out the police if necessary. Monitored systems are particularly important for isolated properties.