5 tips to make a sliding door safer

There are many relatively easy ways to improve the security of a sliding door. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Lisa K. of Plain City, Ohio)

There are many relatively easy ways to improve the security of a sliding door. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Lisa K. of Plain City, Ohio)

Keeping your home safe means making sure that every entry point, from front doors to back doors and windows, has the proper mechanisms to deter criminals. While dead bolts are great for steel-coated front doors and locks are easily installed on windows, sliding doors can be more difficult to secure. Here are six tips for improving the security of a sliding door:

Test the existing lock

Most sliding doors will have a lock on one side, typically in the handle; this small latch lock holds the door to the frame. Before addressing any other security issues, make sure this lock works by closing the door, locking it and then trying to pull it open. If the door moves, the latch isn't catching the door properly or is coming loose from the frame. Repair or replace as necessary.

Install a slide-locking bar

The slide-locking bar sounds complicated, but actually it's just a thick wood dowel or metal bar, cut to fit in the bottom track of your door. When locking up your home for the night or going out, simply fit the dowel or metal bar into the track. This keeps the door from being opened, even if the latching lock is damaged or removed.

Maintain door tracks and rollers

Most sliding doors move back and forth on plastic rollers, but if these become damaged they won't move smoothly, and the door may be more easily lifted from its tracks. If your door isn't rolling properly, start by lifting it out of the track and cleaning any dirt and debris — both can cause the track and the roller to degrade. If, after cleaning, the door still won't move properly, you may be able to adjust the size of the rollers. Some doors have small adjustment holes along the bottom and top edges that will fit a Phillips screwdriver and allow you to expand or compress the rollers. Clean tracks clean and snugly fitting rollers can prevent a thief from simply lifting the door off its track, bypassing any lock you have in place.

Install a commercial locking product

You may also want to consider a commercial locking product available from a local hardware store or online retailer. These locks feature one- or two-bolt locking systems that attach to the closure point on your door and have steel bolts that drop into place. Most can be installed at any height on your door and are adjustable, meaning they can either supplement or replace an existing latch lock. Key and lock options are also available as are products with battery powered, audible alarms.

Wire in your home alarm

If you have an in-home alarm system, make sure it's wired to a contact on your sliding door. This is easily done at the time of installation by alarm technicians and means that if your sliding door is opened after you've set the alarm, a warning will sound. You can also install glass-break sensors on your door or the wall nearby in case a thief tries to smash the glass instead of opening the door.

If all else fails ...

A new sliding door that fits tightly in the frame sometimes is the best answer, offering the best protection as well as a higher level of energy efficiency. Another good idea is to replace the door frame with one that features heavy-duty metal tracks that are properly secured along their length; many older models are only secure at the corners.

Consider hiring a professional if you choose to install a new sliding glass door, since improper installation will defeat any security upgrades you hope to make.

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