Windows and glass doors are the most vulnerable parts of any home, and that’s where the bad guys are coming in. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, and there are many products available, so how do you know where to start? What would be best for your home, school, or retail storefront?
This blog post is a quick overview that will help you narrow down the options and make shopping for window and door security much easier. I will focus on homes to keep the scope of the article more concise, but the same basic principles apply to virtually every building.
Quick and Dirty Facts on Window and Door Security
I’ve made a quick list of things you should keep in mind when shopping for window and door security products:
- Aesthetics matter. You want to think about the effect security products will have on your home’s appearance. There are a wide variety of options available. Some will change the look and some are virtually invisible. Don’t wait until after you have purchased security products to think long and hard about this. Otherwise, you may really regret your decision – and it will be too late.
- The glass type affects how secure a window will be. Annealed glass breaks into big dangerous shards, while tempered safety glass bursts into millions of small glass pebbles. This is especially important if you are purchasing security window film, which will work much better on annealed glass than tempered, and should be secured around the edges with an attachment system to hold everything in place during an attack. Without an attachment system, the broken glass can be forced through the frame, allowing entry.
- Window framing, sliding glass clearance, and window size must also be factored in to determine the most effective solution. If any of these details are overlooked, the solution may fail catastrophically if put to the test. When you need it to work, you REALLY need it to work well.
- Strength of the window security products themselves can dramatically affect the time it takes a burglar to gain entry. Some solutions are considerably stronger than others. The best products are the most likely solutions to prevent forced entry all together.
- Fire egress is required by building codes in certain areas of a home, and not in others. Some property owners prefer to have fire egress features on all windows, just in case.
Narrowing Down Window and Door Security Options
Lets get to the meat and potatoes of the blog post. You have a house, and you are concerned about a burglary or home invasion. Here are some questions we hear most often (and the answers):
Q: How do you know which windows and doors need security and which don’t?
A: Doors and windows used in standard construction are easy targets for bad guys. Door strikers and even deadbolts are not sufficient to withstand a kick or two from someone of even modest stature. Windows are even more vulnerable. One rock or a few hammer strikes and the intruder is in (see video below). Ground level doors and windows are your first priority. A phase two project (or part of phase one if budget allows) should entail second story balconies and windows near the roof line. All too often bad guys use ladders, trees, or other means to access these areas. Many property owners even leave them unlocked!
Q: I do not want to change the look of my house. Is there anything that is invisible, yet strong enough to protect my home?
A: Security window film comes in clear versions and is for the most part invisible, so this is an excellent option if you have window and glass door frames that are conducive to an attachment system. The only problem is, many patio doors and sliding windows have very tight tolerances and narrow frame depths, so attaching the window film is not always possible. In these areas, a retrofit laminated security glass such as Riot Glass™ can be used. It goes right into your existing windows and doors but is much, MUCH stronger than your current windows and glass doors. Often a combination of security glass and security window film is used, depending on the configuration of each door and window. Both solutions significantly increase security and are virtually invisible, keeping your home looking the same as it did before the security installation. For doors, there are door jamb and hinge reinforcement kits that make kicking in a door much more difficult.
Q: What if I want to keep my windows and doors open for fresh air?
A: Security screens are new technology that look just like regular window or door screens, but are made of charcoal colored stainless steel mesh that is anchored in a robust frame which is then secured to the framing of your home. These screens open and close like any operable screen door or window, yet are lockable. The mesh and the frame are custom made for each specific window and door opening and are available in over 60 colors to match any architectural style. These screens are so tough, they are almost impossible to get through. Even a burglar with heavy tools cannot easily get past these screens and will make a lot of very loud noise trying. So yes, you can leave your windows and doors open day and night and enjoy the cool breeze and fresh air. All security screen doors can be keyed the same so you only need one extra key in your life. Interior panic bars allow for fire egress and easy cleaning.
Q: How do I know which security solution would be right for each area in my home?
A: Speaking with an experienced security expert that understands window and door security is essential. They will need to meet you at your home to inspect the property, windows, and door types, as well as discuss your wants, needs, and concerns. Ask a lot of questions on the phone before setting an appointment. Many security companies do not offer a variety of products and may only have security window film available, for example. Other companies will have a wide variety of options. After a 1-2 minute conversation you can usually tell if they are versed in more than one technology.
Q: I am not comfortable having just anyone come inspect my home, and disclosing the components of our security systems. How can I be sure they are trustworthy?
A: Ask how long they have been in business (over 10 years is a good start), whether their technicians are drug and background checked, and read reviews on the company. Check their contractor’s license number and verify it is the same company name. License fraud is common. The license report will also tell you if they are a licensee in good standing with the State of California. These reports are free to view by simply logging in and entering the license number: https://www2.cslb.ca.gov/onlineservices/checklicenseII/checklicense.aspx
Q: How much do the various products cost?
A: Prices vary depending on the size of the windows, the number of windows and doors, and the products used. A combination of products are often prescribed and are tailored to the home, the homeowner’s tastes, and of course, the budget. All of that said, securing a home may run anywhere from $500 to $20,000 depending on these factors. Like anything else you do to maintain and protect your home, such as a new roof or new exterior painting, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. This is certainly the case with window and door security.
The technology and methods used to secure windows and glass doors are often misunderstood, both by homeowners and some security professionals. I shudder to think of all of the homeowners that paid to secure their windows and doors, unknowingly purchasing a solution that will not slow down an intruder. Making sure you are working with an experienced professional is an absolutely essential first step in the process.