You've closed on a pre-owned home and are excited to be moving in soon. Before you do, take the time to make a few changes in the basic security around the home. You may find that a few simple changes will make you feel safer in your new residence. Here are a few items to address before the big move.
Exterior Locks Are Your First Line of Defense
The deadbolts on exterior doors are a major deterrent to break-ins. If a lock on the front or back doors prove to be a challenge to a thief, they will likely give up on your home and move on to another. Inspecting your locks is the first step to securing your new home.
If the deadbolts on your home are already a quality design, you may only need to get the locks rekeyed by a local locksmith. You don't know to how many people the previous owners and realtor have given keys to get into the house. You might consider the risk low that someone would try to get into your house this way, but rekeying is an inexpensive way to have some insurance that someone won't try and succeed.
This is a good time to replace any poorly made deadbolts. Locks made by a casting process can be shattered by a blow from a hammer or pry bar. Locks with bolts that don't extend far into the door frame also put you at risk of someone forcing the bolt through the frame. There are three basic deadbolt designs to consider. Have the locksmith show you only the ANSI Grade 1 locks with hardened steel bolts for the best protection.
Single Deadbolt - This is the standard design where the lock mounts in the door and the bolt slips through the side of the door and into the door frame. To be effective, make sure the bolt extends at least one inch into the frame so the door can't be forced away from the frame and opened. External Mounted Deadbolt - This lock mounts on the surface of the door and has a bolt that slides into another piece mounted on the wall next to it. This is called a "jimmy-proof" lock because it resists the door being forced away from the frame to bypass the bolt. Vertical Deadbolt - This is also an external mounted lock, but the bolt slides into a piece on the wall so that it is fully covered. This prevents a thief from forcing the door away from the frame so they can get a hacksaw blade on the bolt.
Upgrading the Lock Mounting Hardware
Even if your deadbolts are a quality design, check the following components and replace with more secure parts.
Strike Plate - This is the rectangular plate mounted on the door frame. It has a hole through which the bolt slides into the frame. A better design is a strike plate with a steel box built over the hole to receive the bolt. The box prevents a thief from forcing the door open by pushing the bolt through the wooden frame. Mounting Screws - The screws used to secure the strike plate to the door should be made of hardened steel, extra long and with a wide thread. This will make it harder for a burglar to get a pry bar under the strike plate and force it off of the frame.