Hardening (Fortifying) A Home On A Tight Budget

The costs are still there to harden, or fortify, a home against intruders. However, just as there is a large cost difference between a Range Rover and a Jeep, the same applies for home fortifications. Both Range Rovers and Jeeps are well known for their off-road performance. Both can get a family home on the worst winter day, yet one costs around $130,000 feature packed, and the other tops out around $70,00. A person could spend a fortune on hardening a home or spend just a little. The key for those on fixed incomes, including wage earners who have most every incoming dollar spoken for, is to do a little at a time within a workable budget.
Human beings have always been innovative about denying access to intruders. Securing a home is just easier now with the advanced technology and products ready to be installed. However, not every home needs a bunch of “products” to make the home safer against criminal intrusion. Some homes would not be safer even if they had the most advanced technology installed. The home’s safety is compromised because of a lack of following security protocols by every occupant. That is what really makes any home unsecured against intrusion. A door that could take the impact of a truck is not secure if the kids and grandma see no reason to lock it. An alarm system so advanced that it would even warn if angry birds were about to fly over and poop on the car is of no use unless it is armed.
The fundamental in this context is a lackadaisical attitude brought on by those who do not wish to be inconvenienced by the need to take security precautions because nothing has ever happened . . . yet. It literally takes only a few seconds to disarm an alarm system before going outside. However, I have not seen one system yet that occupants will arm while they are home unless it is bedtime. Most systems have a “Stay” and “Away” setting. The stay setting arms perimeter (door and window) sensors while leaving motion detectors and specialty sensors off. Away arms all the intrusion sensors.
Every alarm should be armed at the “Stay” setting when people are home. However, since it takes learning a new routine of disarming before opening a door to go out or to let someone in, it is simply not done. Some indicate it makes a home feel like a prison. Some indicate it makes them look weird to friends, relatives and neighbors to have to constantly arm and disarm an alarm system just to run in and out of the house, especially during the summer months. Summer is for vacations and freedom from school for three months, not having to push buttons to be let out of the house or back in.
Well, in the 1950s, we did not even lock our doors, yet we learned to do it later as a society. An alarm system no more “imprisons” a family than locking the front door does. It just reminds everyone that it takes an active effort and a proactive stance to secure the home against those who intend harm to the family or their possessions. It is much better for children to grow up with the constant reminder of why it is necessary to set the alarm just as most of us learned why we had to start locking our doors than to grow up remembering how it felt to be burglarized or to have had a criminal inside while at home.
Fixing Poor Door Choices on a Budget
Some homeowners regret their door choices after becoming more security minded. A solid door without any windows is recommended at entrances. There are many highly decorative models to choose from. Apartment dwellers and house renters are usually at the mercy of the landlord. The premise is that glass in a door allows a criminal to bust it out, reach in and unlock the door from the inside. If the windows are small, replacing the deadbolt with a keyed model and hanging the key just out of reach is the least expensive option. (Check local codes since this may not be allowed in some areas.) A redundant key should be kept nearby in a second location. Occupants may need to evacuate in a hurry due to a fire or other emergency. Never add any security feature that traps occupants inside.
Some do not wish to put in a keyed deadbolt, or the home may have two narrow windows on either side of the door that can be compromised to gain entry. A $75.00 sheet of Lexan polycarbonate purchased from a home supply store and installed on the interior glass side can significantly harden those vulnerable points. Lexan is tough. It is touted as being 250 times stronger than glass. Unlike other acrylic sheets, Lexan is a tougher, more shatter resistant material. It is not bullet resistant, but it can take a beating. A laminated version that is bullet resistant is available (not at home supply stores) but obviously would be expensive too. It can be cut with ordinary tools and drilled to receive screws to fasten it in place. One panel could harden one or more entrances. Add a bit of trim over the edges, and a space where entry could easily have been made is now hardened. It is not impenetrable, but the extra layer (and all security should be in layers) could make all the difference, providing an early warning of intrusion and time to mount a defense.
Some homeowners stand back and examine their entry doors and realize that a well-placed foot could open it in seconds. Dispersing energy even with a not-so-well made door is the key to at least slowing a forced entry. Every second bought before forced intrusion is made is precious for mounting a defense, whether it is going into a safe room, grabbing a gun or just running out the back door. Barring doors has been the answer for centuries. Now we just have better ways of doing it.
An inexpensive option works under the premise of transferring the energy of any attempt at forced  entry into the floor. One device is a rod that attaches to the doorknob and connects to the floor at an angle. Get one that actually connects to a receiving device installed in the floor. The ones with rubber feet would be the second choice if nothing else was available. They may buy some time for early warning though. Plus, they are great for travel when staying in hotels and motels.
Another model is a rod bent into a shape to transfer energy into the floor. It is made to be decorative. A hole is drilled into the floor at the base of the door. A metal part is installed there to receive the rod. The rod is simply slid into the hole to secure the door at the bottom. If the door is kicked, the metal rod absorbs the energy transferring it into the floor.
I hesitate mentioning brand names of products I have not personally tested. However, just so the readers understand what the device types are that I am referring to, the makers of the famous Club that secures steering wheels on cars also make the Door Club to secure doors. OnGard is another model based on the same premise as the Door Club. There are more products of this class. The OnGard demonstration videos really look great, making the product appear to be a really effective security product. Maybe it is. I do not know for sure yet. They are less expensive than replacing doors and are not that difficult to install. Remember though, they only work when put in place. Passive options are better than ones that need to be put in place or activated.
As mentioned earlier, barring doors has been around for a long time. One product I am very familiar with is the KatyBar. I have the original that stays attached to the door when not in use. The new one even works on French doors. It is basically the same product except that the bar lock does not stay on the door when it is not in use. This model is being marketed for hurricane protection, but it is the same concept that was formerly marketed for security. Maybe the hurricane protection market is better than the market of securing against intruders.
This product has been tested and approved by the Florida Building Code to withstand 2,580 pounds of force. My brother-in-law is a contractor in Florida, and their codes are tough. Plus, Florida is strict about companies attempting to market hurricane-rated products. This option is more pricey, but it is one where I can attest to the quality of the product.
All of these things are after-the-fact fixes for doors that are not already secure. However, not everyone can afford a door such as the ones Master Security Doors makes. Not everyone can afford to even replace a questionable door with a new solid wood or metal reinforced door. The options presented in this article are not the best choices, but they may be the only choices for those on tight budgets trying to make it a bit tougher for an intruder to get inside.
Securing Existing Windows
The good news is that unless there is easy access to second story windows, most homes can get away with just reinforcing first floor windows. Home supply stores sell window security bars for around $50 per window. They are not going to stop a very determined intruder, but they are a deterrent and will buy time to mount a defense. They also can be installed by do-it-yourself types. Be sure to check the building codes in your area before installing them. Some models cost less than 50 bucks each. Be sure to check out what you are getting before making a purchase. Decide whether or not you are leaning more toward having a visual or actual physical deterrent. A visual deterrent gets the criminal to bypass your house for an easier target. A physical deterrent actually impedes forced entry.
Window films can be installed by some homeowners. However, many protective films are expensive and not that easy to obtain. There are plenty of dealers that will install the window films but do not sell them outright. There is an installation method that secures the film and glass to the window frame, making windows blast resistant. Installing window films so they do not have bubbles or creases takes patience and a toolkit. Not every homeowner is the do-it-yourself type.
The inexpensive security bars are much more budget friendly. One ground floor window could be protected every month until they are all protected. Replacement security windows that have shatter resistant glass cost more than regular windows but are not insanely expensive. Bullet resistant protection may just jump into that insanely expensive category. However, what most homes need are windows that cannot be quickly circumvented with a rock, bat or crowbar rather than being tough enough to take gunfire.
The goal for most who are fortifying a home on a budget is to buy time when an intruder makes an attempt at forced entry. Those of us who cannot afford to live in an ultra secure building make compromises. We know that a vinyl sided wood frame house has vulnerabilities no matter what fortifications are made. However, most home invaders want to get in and back out easily with minimal risk. Even the ones intent on harming the occupants and not just getting drugs or money want the element of surprise. You can deny that to them by following set security protocols alone. Add a few low-cost hardening options to the home, and it can be made far more secure than what most of the neighbors have in place. Simply not appearing to be an easy target is often all it takes to be passed over.
Budget Cameras and Alarm Systems
The best alarm systems are monitored by a trusted monitoring service. However, that does not mean that an unmonitored system is not effective. If you already have a smartphone, get an IP camera. An IP camera connects directly to your existing home Internet connection. You can see what the camera sees from your smartphone by accessing the IP (Internet Protocol) address over the Internet through a website or app. These are very popular with homeowners who must leave beloved pets at home while at work or school.
There are so many alarm products in the budget class that there is no way I could cover them all. Just to demonstrate that there are some real workable low-budget alarm and camera options, I took the liberty of doing a search at the Walmart website. Of course, Walmart would not be the first choice for buying alarm system products for most of us. However, I found some nice items at very low prices that would give early warning of intrusion to a home’s occupants. Obviously the quality would vary as well as the suitability for a product’s intended purpose. Though it may be buyer beware for buying budget alarm and camera products for securing the home, there are some really good items out there available at a decent price. Take a look HERE at what I found at Walmart by simply searching for “security.”
The point is that there are options for every budget to make any home a little more difficult to break into. Every little positive step toward securing one’s castle is a smart thing to do in today’s times. Ideally, it would be nice if we could return to the innocence of an earlier age where we remember never needing to lock our doors. Those days are gone. Rather than living a delusion that the world is a safe place, wake up to the reality that it is not and take the responsibility to do something to protect your family at home a little better.
Cody S. Alderson is a long-time regular contributor to The United States Concealed Carry Association. He is a private consultant and author based in southwestern Pennsylvania. Cody invites you to visit his website at www.aldersonarts.com or his Facebook Page to comment on this article.
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