3 Cheap Ways to Improve Home Security

Ever been robbed or have been a victim of a home burglary?

I grew up on the North Shore of Vancouver, and in this somewhat insular community, I felt safe from the rampant property crime that was a problem over the bridges. 

Nowadays, I’m told property crime on the North Shore is just as bad as anywhere else. So wherever you live, here are 3 Cheap Ways to Improve Home Security that you can do yourself or via a Professional Locksmith near you.

Tip #1: Securing your Sliding Patio Doors and Windows

Older sliding patio doors and windows do not have the greatest security built into their designs. By older ones, I mean the older single-pane aluminum frame patio doors and windows. Since they no longer meet the BC Building Code, newer developments will not have them.

It’s fairly easy to open them even when these patio doors and windows are locked. My old townhouse rental in North Vancouver had windows like these and I could open them even without any tools. Just a little know-how and determination are all you need. 

The easiest and cheapest way to secure these entry points was to block the sliding mechanism with a wood stick. Most people I know used old hockey sticks. This method has been around as long as I’ve been alive. Regardless, here are a few security improvements to make it even harder for thieves:

  • Use dowel rods as they come in different diameters. You want to choose one that fits as snugly as possible into the groove.
  • Paint the hockey stick or dowel rod to match the frame to conceal the impairment
  • If possible, use a heavier steel rod cut to length.

You basically want to make it harder for someone to flip the rod or stick out of the groove using a wire or similar tool. A tight fit or a heavy steel rod will make it that much harder.

Unfortunately, this method will not work if your slide track is on the outside. For Windows, this is never an issue as the slide track is almost always on the inside. For patio doors, I’ve seen both older and newer patio doors with an exterior slide track.

In this case, you may need to purchase a keyed locking bar. You can find them usually on Amazon or at the local DIY stores. They are like a vehicle steering wheel locking bar. You extend the locking bar to fit your outside sliding track and lock it into place with a key. Obviously, you can also use this on the inside as well.

The downside to such a device is that:

  1. It’s on the outside so it is vulnerable to sawing, grinding, or prying attacks.
  2. It may not be a perfect fit into the space which reduces its effectiveness.
  3. You can only secure it or remove it from the outside.

From a security point of view, I generally despise exterior sliding track patio doors. They greatly limit the security options for my clients. Have had some customers who were so concerned that they contracted a glazing company to switch their outside slide-track patio doors to an inside slide-track. 

Depending on your setup, it can be fairly straightforward to require completely new patio doors. However, with the current BC Hydro Rebate on improving home energy efficiencies, it can be quite cost-effective especially if you live in an older home.

Generally, newer patio doors and windows that have come out in the past 5 or 10 years are better built to prevent energy loss and provide somewhat better security due to their thermal barrier design. Nevertheless, if you can, install a bar on the inside track to greatly improve your security.

Swinging Patio Doors

For my swinging patio door clients, you are basically out of luck. Most of these patio doors are made of vinyl and/or aluminum with matching door frames. They usually cannot be modified to accept any different type of lock than the one they came with. 

I have installed barrel or sliding bolts for clients who are okay with us drilling holes into their frames or floors, but people rarely want holes like that because it can ruin the aesthetics and create avenues for dirt and moisture to accumulate. Moisture in these holes can lead to cracking or rot. 

Cheap Ways to Improve Home Security

If you are fortunate to have a normal wood or metal door as your patio door you can increase its security as much or as little as any other door. Most newer developments in Vancouver require the patio doors to have Euro-style multi-point locks. 

The Trouble with Multi-Point Locks

Multi-point locks or MPLs usually have around 8 locking points around the top, bottom and edge of the door. They provide excellent security and “suck” the door into the frame for maximum energy retention. Just good luck trying to find a Vancouver Locksmith to service such a lock down the road. Multi-point locks are very popular in the UK and Europe but very few Vancouver Locksmiths have the training and experience to service or to replace this type of lock.

It doesn’t help that Vancouver Developers often use cheap Chinese brands that provide no technical support to Locksmiths nor have a local distributor for replacement parts.

As a Professional Locksmith specializing in the Vancouver area, I have some experience dealing with multi-point locks as many luxury homes and condos have them installed or retrofitted during a renovation. 

However, I would recommend you stay away from these Multi-point Locks as much as possible. There is just not enough depth of experience in the Vancouver area as of yet. Plus almost no distributor carries replacement parts for even the well-known European brands like AGF and Hoppe. Everything will need to be custom ordered and will take 8 to 12 weeks to arrive if it’s even possible at all.

Cheap Ways to Improve Home Security

If you watch YouTube videos by UK or Irish Locksmiths, you will find a lot of examples of MPLs and Euro Profile Cylinders. Due to their European popularity, most locksmiths in that region will keep a large stock of them in their vehicles. Unfortunately, that is not the case in Vancouver, so if your General Contractor wants to install an MPL in your home, don’t do it unless absolutely necessary.

Tip #2: Replacing your Weiser Smartkey Locks

Depending on the number of locks you have in your home, this security improvement may be cheap or not so cheap. Our advice is to throw out all, if any, Weiser Smartkey Locks you have and replace it with something else. Smartkey locks are identifiable by the small rectangular slip to the left of the keyhole. Plus, your key will be embossed with the Smartkey brand or say something like KW1/WR6.

There are a number of good reasons why no Locksmith I know will install or sell a Smartkey system to a client.

  1. None of the locksmith distributors even carry it, so I can’t even buy them wholesale.
  2. It’s deceptively difficult to rekey. So many clients follow the instructions and still “break” the lock.
  3. It’s basically an aluminum soda can in the shape of a lock. Its metal components are very cheap and soft. It doesn’t take much to damage it (or drill through it).
  4. There’s a method to drill the lock open without any visible sign of damage. You would not know how you were robbed unless you disassembled the lock.
  5. There’s also a method to force the lock open without visible signs of damage. You will never know why or how you are being robbed.

This is one of the very few brands that offer a Lifetime Warranty on their locks. This is just how cheap their products are. If it breaks, they will send you a replacement as long as you pay for the shipping and handling. Unfortunately, the shipping fee costs more than what the lock is worth.

Just as a point of comparison, most commercial grade mortise locks from Schlage are under a 7-year warranty and similar products from Sargent are under a 10-year warranty. If some of the highest-quality locks in the industry do not have lifetime warranties, how can Weiser Smartkey have a lifetime warranty?

Because they are so cheap to make. Do the “smart” thing and get something else. Talk to your local locksmith about the best locks that maximize the value of your budget.

Tip #3: Getting advice from your Local Locksmith

This brings us to the last tip to improve home security cheaply: talk to your local locksmith for the best advice. We can provide you with relevant and up-to-date info on the current trends in the industry. In addition, we can advise on what are good ideas and what are horrible ideas.

Your local Professional Locksmith will be happy to chat about the security solutions that best meet your needs and stay within your budget. If you want something cheap, we have cheap solutions. If you want the highest quality, we can match you with the best products money can buy. If you want something cheap and of the highest quality, we won’t be able to help you but happy to have a conversation nonetheless.

When selecting a Professional Locksmith to form a relationship with, try to find one with a brick-and-mortar shop. It’s a way to make sure that it is a legitimate business with ties to the local community. 

Unfortunately, there are a lot of call-centre-type Locksmiths who operate strictly online and are difficult to vet. It’s sometimes easy to identify them as they are usually not interested in anything beyond a transactional conversation. Plus the call-centre staff are not Locksmiths with any real knowledge or experience in the field. All they want to do is get your personal info to send to a subcontractor they use and take the next phone call.

If you contact a Locksmith without a physical address, here are a few things you should watch out for:

  • They don’t ask in-depth questions nor ask for photos to make the situation clearer. Locksmiths love photos as what you describe verbally can differ greatly from what we imagine in our heads. The more photos/videos, the better!
  • They are super vague on the fee schedule or on how much something will cost. If you have an unusual situation or need a very expensive part, we may need to confirm pricing and availability with the distributor. Otherwise, we can at least ballpark a figure for you.
  • They don’t want to send estimates/invoices/receipts via pdf or paper. There is no reason why any professional contractor won’t do this unless they are up to no good.
  • They don’t provide a labour warranty. Parts normally come with a 1-year warranty anyway from the manufacturer. It’s the labour warranty you will need should something go wrong.

Also, the best thing about a brick-and-mortar Locksmith Business is that you can just drop by for a quick chat. We are happy to meet new people and make their lives easier.

Final Thoughts

Today, we covered 3 ways to improve your home security without breaking the bank. Just remember to use some common sense and you will most likely be fine. For everything else, please feel free to call or text us at 604-363-2760 or email us at alex@locksmithvancouver.com. We would be happy to see which security products best meet your needs.

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