Locksmiths say deadbolt key to home security
There are many things you can do to boost home security like adding an alarm system or getting a guard dog, but unless you have working deadbolt locks and actually use them, your home isn’t secure, locksmiths say.
Lance Cronk, owner of highly rated Metro Lock Service in Portland, Ore., says intruders use force to gain entry in a majority of home burglaries. “Because the locks or deadbolts are not functioning properly or they are inadequate, the intruder is able to kick the door in,” he says.
A deadbolt is a type of lock that has a steel bolt that extends into the door jamb and strike plate of a door frame. The most common type is the single cylinder deadbolt, which is operated by a twist knob on the inside of the door and a key on the outside. Some people prefer the double cylinder deadbolt, which doesn't have a twist knob and requires a key for operation - both inside and outside of the home.
According to the latest FBI statistics, there were 2,159,878 burglaries in the United States in 2010, resulting in $4.6 billion in property loss. Out of all burglaries, more than 60 percent were the result of forced entry. Residential burglaries accounted for 74 percent, and more than half occurred during the daytime.
“You should definitely have a deadbolt, and it needs to be a quality one with a hardened steel bolt,” says Eric Ball, locksmith at highly rated Broad Ripple Lock in Indianapolis.
For the deadbolt to function properly, the bolt must extend fully into the hole on the door jamb. The hole should be reinforced with a metal strike plate. If the bolt doesn’t extend all the way into the hole or if a strike plate isn't used, the lock and door frame can be compromised.
“Typically when someone kicks in a door, it’s not the door that breaks, it’s the door frame,” Ball says. “You should use 3-inch screws to reinforce the strike plate into the studs of the frame of the house.”
Even if you have a deadbolt lock on your door, it won't make a difference if it’s not used regularly. Cronk says many homeowners find it easier to lock the doorknob and often neglect to lock the deadbolt.
Ball agrees. “Doorknobs are for convenience, deadbolts are for security,” he says.
Homeowners should take note that a single cylinder deadbolt can be breached if an entry door has glass panels, because a burglar can break the glass and reach inside to unlatch the deadbolt. A double cylinder deadbolt will protect against this, and Ball recommends homeowners keep a key close by but out of arm’s reach. However, the double cylinder deadbolt can be problematic in the event of a house fire because a key is needed to unlock the door from the inside.
Another solution may simply be to replace the door itself. Many exterior doors are designed with security in mind, using reinforced glass or small windows far enough away from the lock to prevent a burglar from reaching in.
For additional security, Cronk says you should avoid hiding a spare key under the doormat. “Get a secure lockbox for your Hide-a-Key,” he says. He also recommends new homeowners have their locks changed, because there is no way to know who previously had keys to the home.
For more information on protecting your home, visit the Angie’s List Guide to Home Security and Safety.