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How Do You Defend These Doors?

This is the view of my in-law’s walkout basement doors. Aren’t the french doors nice? To borrow a phrase from the comedian John Pinette, “I say nay, nay”. Just a few years ago I would have said they were a nice feature, let in a lot of sunlight, etc, etc. But these days I see doors and windows quite differently, especially french doors such as these. (Click on the image to enlarge it to see the sidelights on either side of the doors too.)

Regrettably, most residential homes are a security nightmare. This particular setup is essentially a 12-foot wall of glass. They’re like a beacon that says “please come rob me and take my stuff!”

It wouldn’t be hard to break thorough them at all. Simply wait until everyone was gone, break a pane or two of glass and voila, easy access. In fact, there are any number of windows (and even the front door) that can be quickly circumvented. Probably the only thing that keeps this from happening are active nearby neighbors and the fear of incarceration.

Obviously, homes these days are more and more about beauty and less about functionality and security. That’s a shame. Think about your home for a moment. If you were a burglar, how would you get in? Better yet, take a walk around and look. I’ll bet you can find a few ways fairly quickly.

The question, therefore, is: what can you do to keep burglars and other scum at bay? Additionally, if things got bad enough, what can you do to defend your home if you had to?

The short answer is that you can do quite a bit to deter burglaries when times are good but very little can honestly be done in a post-collapse environment. I did write a eBook that attempts to address both of these concerns to a degree, titled Home Security and SHTF Defense: How to Protect Your Home and Family (including an accompanying Home Security Checklist), which is part of the free Subscriber benefits I offer. In it, I walk you through a number of home security steps you may take and offer suggestions about post-collapse defense. Perhaps you’ll enjoy it and learn a few things.

General Security Ideas

Back to the task at hand, what to do about french doors (and sidelights) such as these? In some respects, such doors are even worse than large windows because they have a natural give-point at the center and are designed to be opened and walked through. Anyway, for starters you may have noticed the door security bar that spans the top of the french doors. It’s a start but really not worth much. In fact, a burglar wouldn’t even know it was there until he tried to open the door, in which case he would simply need to break another pane of glass and unlatch it; maybe that would be enough to deter someone, but I would suspect that’s not very likely if they’ve already broken one pane of glass.

In addition, I would definitely consider visible signs to show burglars that you mean business, such as a door security bar or door club (actually two in this case) as well as a home security sticker prominently displayed on one of the sidelights. Even if you don’t have an actual security system installed such stickers can be purchased and easily displayed; who knows, it may be enough of a deterrent that a burglar will move on. There are other possibilities such as window security film but I’m not sure how that would work with small window panes such as these. At the very least it would probably be a royal pain in the you-know-what to install.

Post-Collapse Ideas

If you really needed to defend your home, chances are you’re fighting an uphill battle. That doesn’t mean that you should do nothing and give up. There are actions that can be taken. In this case, I would have to start with reinforcing the glass even before shoring up typical doors security problems.

I would need at least three 4×8 sheets of 3/4″ OSB plywood, pre-cut to fit over the doors and sidelights. They would then need some form of bracing, such as a “katy” device bar (buy it or build it) that spans the openings and attaches to the wall studs in at least two spots (high and low).

I would also want to shore up the typical door problems of short hinge screws, inadequate strike plates and deadbolts, flimsy secondary locks (the half-barrel bolts that insert into the floor and upper frame) that are specific to french doors, and so on. I might also want to beef up the door jamb with products from a company like ArmorConcepts.

To make things even more difficult for intruders I would want to pile up furniture and other heavy stuff in front of the doors (on the inside) to make forced entry even more difficult. Of course, this could be a significant safety hazard if that were your only exit, so use with caution.

Concluding Thoughts

There are other things that can be done (read the eBook) but the point is that I had to go a long way to secure something that should never have been that much work in the first place. I recognize the desire to have pretty homes but there has to be some pullback toward functionality and, in this case, security.

 

8 comments to How Do You Defend These Doors?

  • JR

    I just scanned the article. Really this is a non-issue for any one with a bit of sense. What have is plywood I would nail on to all windows. Cheap, simple and effective. I also have guns, but unless things get really bad, would rely on bear spray for things that I deemed less serious.

  • Anne

    We have the same double french doors in our basement. We are going to build some barn door “shutters” that will slide open and be able to lock when closed and bolt into the floor. Our plan is to do them with a rustic style that goes with our rock fireplace. We have large walls on both sides of the doors.

  • Paul

    Consider using roll down exterior shutters. Similar to what store fronts use. Up and out of the way when you don’t need them and handy for storms etc. They use these in hurricane areas.

    • Now that’s something I hadn’t considered. I wonder how tamper-proof they are?

      • Paul

        If somebody wants in they’re going to get in. I install doors and windows for a living, as well as general remodeling of houses. The trick is to make your house look harder to get into than your neighbor’s. As far as a total colapse of society as we know it is concerned, all bets are off. However, at least with a secure patio door, you have one less opening to defend. Assuming the jagoffs go for the easy entrances.

  • rassd71

    There are options for making even french doors defensible barriers. For windows or glass panels in doors, you can apply ‘window armor’ or hurricane laminate to them. It’s an extremely tough plastic that is applied over the glass. The good ones are also UV rated and FEMA rated to withstand hurricane debris! Then the door itself needs to be reinforced. There are hinge side and latch side steel plates you can buy that even most picky ‘better halfs’ won’t mind! Personally I would want to screw steel plating directly to the doors and use lags to hold the doors into the framing. Another simple solution is to install slide latches top and bottom, in the case of these french doors, on each door. But don’t overlook the hinge side, the one inch screws that are standard are just into the casing. I replace at least 2 of the screws with 3 inch decking screws, that way they are grabbing the studs and if framed right both the main stud and jack stud! For when things get bad, then you can sheet with plywood and put in a steel brace bar across. Although even the most understanding partners might object to making all the doors and windows look like a fort ready for battle during ‘peace time’!

    Just my 2 cents, hope it helps.

    Robert aka rassd71

  • Martin

    French doors are certainly a problem to defend but then again, so are most doors and windows these days.