Basement Security Windows and Doors
How to Prevent Burglaries
According to the Department of Justice, in 2017 there were more than 1.7 million burglaries across the United States, with total losses from burglary reaching $3.9 billion.
Aside from the financial loss from your items being taken, burglary comes with a large psychological impact. The thought of an intruder in your home – particularly if your family is present at the time – can cause lasting trauma. After all, the primary job of a home is to provide safety and security for your family.
Keeping your home safe from burglary is neither an expensive nor a difficult process. It ultimately boils down to the elimination of weak points. Most burglars will be sufficiently deterred by anything that makes their life more difficult or riskier.
While your basement can be a weak point, owing to the fact that it is usually unattended at night and at a level a burglar can reach, with a few steps you can bring your basement security up to a level that will make a burglar think twice before attempting to break in.
Number of burglaries in the united states in 2017, by location of the felony
Your home is only as secure as its weakest point. Before focusing on your basement, you should take stock of the security situation in the rest of your home.
Burglars tend to target similar types of houses: most burglars are opportunists and will avoid any home that looks too well secured, too risky, or not worth the effort.
A meta-study by the University of Portland found that statistically, burglars follow a very narrow pattern of behavior; as a homeowner, you can use this to your advantage to ensure that your home is one that burglars view as too difficult to attempt to break into.
One of the defining common features of burglaries is poor lighting. For obvious reasons, burglars wish to operate in darkness. Most burglars survey their target houses from the road before acting, demonstrating that most burglary is an opportunistic crime. Having a well-lit exterior to your home will be an immediate and obvious deterrent.
Even if you don’t wish to have constant lighting outside your home, you can install motion sensitive lighting, which turns on when someone is outside your home.
Get an alarm system
Not only does an alarm system provide peace of mind for your family, but it will also act as a deterrent to burglars. An alarm system will set off a loud noise when your home is breached; some models can also directly contact the police or a central call center to access external help.
Furthermore, placing evidence of an alarm system (whether stickers in the window, a visible alarm box, or a sign in the front yard) will show a burglar that your house is a risky prospect.
Make things difficult
The University of Portland meta-study reviewed literature that asked former burglars to review pictures of houses to determine which ones they would be likely to target, and which ones they would be most likely to avoid.
The most common reasons for avoiding a home (aside from obvious occupants) were easy surveillance from the road (burglars don’t want to risk being seen by passersby) or from neighboring homes.
Therefore, while it may appear that keeping your home screened from the road protects you from burglars, it actually gives cover to them.
A well-kept, visible, and well-lit home is an immediate deterrent. Additionally, homes that present an attractive proposition are likely to be targeted more than once – the British Crime Study of 2003 found that 1% of burglary victims account for 20% of burglaries.
Basement Window Security
If you have a basement, access to a home through basement windows and doors can be a target. Oftentimes, basement windows are in need of replacement, which makes them weak points in terms of home entry. They are also not visible from the road, or by neighboring houses; they are often poorly lit and are easily accessible for burglars.
However, most of these things can be easily reversed if you are intent on making your home secure.
The following five steps should be your first steps (depending on how vulnerable you perceive your home).
Keep them clear of foliage
As mentioned above, visibility is a major deterrent for a burglar. Shrubs and other foliage may seem like it is shielding your home, but it ultimately is providing a screen behind which a burglar can attempt to gain access through your basement windows.
Trimming back any foliage will remove this cover and force burglars to operate in the open, in full view of the road or your neighbors’ homes. This in itself is likely to deter a burglar and make your home seem like less of a viable target.
Install security film
Assuming a burglar does make it to the stage of attempting to enter your basement, they are likely to enter by jamming open the window. If you have modern, lockable windows, then they will attempt to smash the window.
Installing a security film to your windows will mean that they cannot be smashed without the use of mechanical force (which burglars are unlikely to process).
These security films are extremely cost-effective and easy to install. While their transparency may not deter a burglar, they will protect against all except the most determined and committed thief.
Add bars or metal shutters
If security is your primary concern (i.e above aesthetics) or your home has been a repeated target of burglary, then you may consider bars or metal shutters over your basement windows. Bars are fixed in place, making it impossible for someone to enter your home in this way. Shutters can be raised or lowered, meaning that you can lower then at night.
The latter is a preferable option if you use the basement during the day.
One downside to bars is that they may prevent escape in the event of a fire or other emergency; you should consider these factors carefully when deciding if they are the best option.
Keep valuables out of sight
A burglar who scopes out a property will take a cursory look for valuables. Tidying valuables out of sight will mean that they are less likely to consider your home worth the risk. If you use the basement as a recreation room (meaning there is a television or other expensive electrical equipment) then installing curtains in your basement will mean that a burglar cannot see what is inside.
This step will mean that a burglar is unlikely to view your home as a risk worth taking, particulary when combined with other security steps.
Alarm system on basement windows
As mentioned above, an alarm system can protect your home both as a deterrent as well as a means of alerting you to the presence of a burglar in your home.
Most burglars leave immediately upon triggering an alarm, meaning that your family is more secure (i.e. they are unlikely to have an encounter with a burglar).
Make sure that signs of an alarm system are visible on all windows of your basement. Indeed, even the act of installing these stickers will deter a burglar, so if an alarm system is outside of your budget, the stickers alone will give a burglar a second thought.
If your basement has an exterior door then this can be a major weak point in your home security. Because these doors tend to be used less, they are less likely to be secure, and more likely to be in a state of disrepair that would render them vulnerable.
As with windows, running a simple inventory of your home security will likely show flaws and weaknesses; luckily, most of these can be addressed simply and easily.
Reinforcing your door will mean that, even if your other tactics haven’t deterred a burglar, they still won’t be able to gain access.
Lengthen the screw
The standard screws that attach a strike plate to a door are an inch long or less, meaning that they are susceptible to being forced, as with a kick or with a mechanical tool (such as a crowbar).
To inspect the screws, open your door and remove one of the screws. If they are short (or if the connection with the wood of the door frame is damaged) then you should insert longer screws.
The longer the screw, the more secure the door. Anything over three inches should be sufficient.
secure the strike plate
The strike plate is the area on the door where the deadbolt lock is inserted into the doorjamb. Strike plates are pieces of metal, which makes them somewhat sturdy, although the weak point is often the connection between the strike plate and the door itself.
As most burglars know, a kick to the strike plate can detach it from the door, meaning that, while the lock remains in place, it is failing to lock the door to the frame.
Securing this part of the door requires only a little hardware and less than an hour of work.
Add a steel reinforcement
If lengthening the screws in the strike plate is not going to give you peace of mind, or you live in an area particularly prone to burglaries, then you can look at more advanced solutions.
For example, if you want to make sure that the strike plate holds up even in response to more serious impact (such as a prolonged series of kicks or the use of a ram of some sort) then you can look to use additional hardware to secure your door.
Adding a steel guard over your doorjamb will prevent the wood from splitting and thereby ensure that the deadbolt lock will remain in place despite the impact on the door, keeping the door closed despite a burglar’s efforts.
Add a smart lock
As technology has improved, it has become ever more viable to install a smart lock on your door. This is a lock that is opened by inserting a code on a keypad or even using a fingerprint.
These eliminate the need for keys, thus reducing the danger of having your keys stolen to gain access, or a burglar picking the lock.
For those who are extremely security conscious, installing a smartphone-activated lock will mean that each attempt to open the lock will require express permission via an app. This is especially useful if the property is regularly empty.
Peel and stick alarms
If your basement door is not connecting to your existing alarm system or if you do not have an alarm system, consider peel and stick alarms.
These alarm systems are fairly rudimentary. You simply stick the alarm across the inside of a basement door, so that one part is on the door itself and the sensor is on the door frame.
Once the alarm is activated, any attempt to open the door will result in the alarm sounding. These are not connected to wider alarm systems, nor to police dispatchers, although the sudden loud noise may be enough to scare away a burglar.
The weak point in most homes is the basement – an unattended, dark part of the home full of valuables. By addressing this weak point you can make your home much more secure as a whole, keeping your family and property safe. The overall goal is firstly to deter burglars.
Secondly, you need to make sure your home is resistant to entry. These two steps will dramatically decrease the likelihood of being burgled.
Sources and Further Reading