Doors get short shrift when it comes to security
Homeowners often forget about basic safety measures like dead bolts
Appearance, value and insulation are top concerns when a consumer goes shopping for a new front door.
But sadly, we don’t pay enough attention to the purpose for which doors were first invented — keeping the unwanted out, says door security expert Richard McEvoy.
The insulated, steel-clad door was a great leap forward in exterior fittings because it provided an economical way to deal with the warping that could plague solid-wood doors, while increasing R-value, says McEvoy, who is based in Ottawa.
“Now we have a door that has a perimeter of wood, a layer of steel and then is filled insulation. Great R-factor but it doesn’t withstand a wellplaced boot at the lock.”
McEvoy has been a locksmith for 40 years.
Since selling his business, he has managed operations for the architectural hardware division of ACME Future Security Controls in Ottawa.
Homeowners often rely on sophisticated technology, including alarm systems, to safeguard their home while giving short shrift to the nuts and bolts of door security, says the lock master. Especially the bolts. “People go into a store and see they can buy a deadbolt for 35 bucks.
“Well, you can buy a car for $1,000, but would you?” he asks.
Some inexpensive deadbolts scrimp on the length of the bolt, so when locked, almost all of the bolt extends into the wood frame, leaving little in the door itself.
To be effective, there should be at least 2.5 centimetres of bolt in the door and in the frame when engaged, he says.
Even so, a bolt is only as secure as the surrounding frame. Since most frames are made of softwood, that can be a problem, he says.
There are, however, highsecurity strike plates embedded in the frame and surrounding the deadbolt which distributes force aimed at the lock along the length of the frame, and successfully reducing the chance of forced entry.
That would be thieves trying to jackboot their way into your house.
This all assumes that the door itself won’t shatter under a well-directed kick. Preventing this requires the installation of a metal reinforcement sleeve around the lockset, an unsightly addition, McEvoy admits.
“I can give you a door that you can’t break into, but you certainly wouldn’t want to see it on the front of your house.”
This high-security hardware also drives up the cost of front doors.
And yet protecting against blunt force is more important than protecting against more sophisticated break-and-enter techniques, including lock picking, or bumping, which is the process or tripping lock tumblers by causing vibrations inside a cylinder, he says. These methods require special tools and expertise so the length of time needed to open a lock is unpredictable.
“You can predict how long it’s going to take to open the door with big, well-placed size 12 foot — about three seconds. Unless the door has been fortified to survive the attack.”
McEvoy is quick to repeat the cynical home security adage: “You should do what’s necessary to make your home a less attractive target than your neighbour’s.
“I was playing golf in South Carolina last month at Myrtle Beach, and we saw alligators on the course.
“The guy I was with asked if I thought I could outrun an alligator.
“I said I don’t have to outrun the alligator. I need to outrun you.
“It’s the same thing in security,” says the avid golfer. “I don’t have to have the (most secure) house in the city. I have to have the best house on the block.”