5 Cheap Ways to Secure Your Home or Business

As a professional Vancouver locksmith, I spend a lot of time advising clients on how to secure their homes. Unfortunately, due to inflation, good quality locks and door hardware have gotten very expensive. Homeowners have been affected, but business owners have been particularly hard hit as commercial hardware has increased in price by 25% to 75% in the past 12 months.

So here are 5 cheap ways to upgrade the security of your home or business. Most of the following can be done by yourself with the right tools available online. If you don’t want the bother, please give me a call.

  1. Minor landscaping to improve visibility from the street
  2. Light up the dark areas
  3. Make it annoying for thieves and burglars
  4. Basic lock accessories to increase security
  5. Broken window theory

Minor Landscaping to Improve Street Visibility

Years ago, I volunteered quite a bit with the North Vancouver RCMP Community Policing Program. Through the RCMP, I had a chance to gain my Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) Level 1 certification. If you are in the security or property management field, I would highly recommend the course.

One of the basic principles of CPTED involves increasing the visibility of your property – by the public- through minor landscaping. Basically, people generally do not like to commit crimes in the full view of the public. Essentially, high shrubs and unkempt trees can provide criminals with the privacy they desire to commit crimes.

Landscaping to Secure Your Home

Make things uncomfortable for criminals by increasing visibility of your doors and windows to members of the public from the street and to your neighbours.  While CPTED provides actual numbers, a good rule of thumb is to walk around your property and see which access points are covered by shrubbery. If you live in a strata-managed building, make sure to include a strata council member or the property manager.

A couple of hours of cutting, trimming, and pruning will drastically increase your security. In addition, if someone did break into your property, would you not want a member of the public or a neighbour to call emergency services on your behalf?

Improved Lighting to Reduce Darkened Areas

One of the other principles of CPTED I learned about was that lighting can drastically affect which homes or businesses thieves will target. Imagine you are a thief. If you had to choose between a property that was well-lit at night vs one that has a lot of shadows to hide in, which one would you choose? The dimly lit one, right?

If you have a side of your building which has no lights, I would recommend installing one or as many as you feel comfortable. Especially if there are windows or doors on that side. 

It is very important that this be done by a licensed electrician according to your local building code. There are some things a DIYer should not mess with. Electricity and electrical work is definitely one of them. In my professional opinion, electrocution and electrical fires are not worth the risk of saving a few bucks by doing it yourself.

Otherwise, a cheap way to increase security through lighting is to upgrade your light bulbs. A lot of homes and commercial buildings still use the old Sodium Vapour lights bulbs with the classic dim yellow light. These were first developed in the 1920s and are cheap as dirt and last a long time.

While a bright LED bulb would be ideal, they tend to cost quite a bit. Halogen light bulbs can be purchased at Home Depot at a reasonable price particularly if bought in bulk.

You may also want to also consider installing a motion-activated flood light. These often have 3 bulbs pointing in 3 different directions to illuminate a wide area once a person or object enters its detection range. Some versions even come with a wifi enabled camera. However, these advanced versions can be a bit pricey.

If you already have a motion-activated light, make sure the sensor works. You can check even during the daytime by running your hand across the sensor. While the lights should not turn on during the day, you should still hear an audible ‘click’ as the sensor is triggered.

Make it annoying for criminals

Making life difficult for criminals is one of the basic tenets of securing your home and business. Depending on your neighbourhood or country, the following suggestions may not be feasible or legal. If you are not sure, consult with your local police department first.

  • Wind fly paper around your shrubs. Thieves will not enjoy having this sweet sticky tape stuck to their skin and clothes. Make sure it’s at face height just to make it more annoying, especially at night. Don’t like fly paper? Try a transparent monofilament fishing line strung at face and waist height.
  • Plant some blackberry bushes around your property line. Not only will you get delicious blackberries in the summer but also less thieves. If you live in an area with bears, rose bushes may be the better choice.
  • Glue broken glass shards on top of walls and fences. Very common in the developing world, not so common (or legal?) in North America.
  • Replace grass with gravel or river stones. It’s easy to walk silently on grass. It’s not so easy on crunchy gravel or shifting smooth river stones.
  • Got a problem with graffiti or public urination? Paint problem surfaces with hydrophobic paint. It’s hilarious to see paint or urine bounce back onto the perpetrators.
  • Anti-climb paint on walls, fences, and other climbable surfaces. This is a thick petroleum based paint that never dries or makes surfaces very slippery. Think Vaseline, but much thicker in consistency and very hard to get off. Since it’s hard to get off a vandal’s skin and clothes, police can more readily identify the intruder.
Anti-climb paint to Secure Your Home or Business

Basic Lock Accessories to Increase Security

The next few items all cost under $100 online. However, you may need a Vancouver locksmith to install them for you. Here are a few basic lock accessories that can immediately improve the security of your home and business.

  • Cylinder guards. If you have a commercial storefront or a condo with a mortise lock, a basic cylinder guard ring is an absolute must. 
  • NRP Hinges. If your hinges are exposed on the exterior side, make sure you have Non-Removable Pin Hinges. Otherwise, thieves could just lift your door out of the frame.
  • Security/Mushroom Pins. You can make lockpicking significantly more difficult by replacing your standard cylinder pins with security/mushroom pins. You will probably want a locksmith to do this, or you can do it yourself with a couple of the right tools.
  • Reinforcement and Cover Plates. You can probably purchase a set reinforcement plate for your hinges and strike for under $100. A steel cover plate for your deadbolt may be ugly, but necessary depending on your neighbourhood.

Pretty much all of the above items can be purchased online or locally through a locksmith. However, you may wish to engage the services of a professional Port Coquitlam locksmith for installation. If something goes wrong, at least you will have someone to blame.

As a professional locksmith in Vancouver, I do get the occasional client who purchases something online then wishes me to install it for them. I am generally happy to do so unless I think it’s a bad idea. However, I will not provide a warranty as it is not a part that I provided. Actually, most of my locksmith colleagues will flat out refuse to install client-supplied parts for various reasons.

Broken Window Theory

One of the simplest ways to increase the security of your home or business is to maintain the property as if someone cares about it. The Broken Window Theory basically states that if there is a broken window in a building and it doesn’t get fixed, criminals will assume that people don’t care about the property and it’s an invitation to commit property crime.

Just like in the movies and tv, criminals will cruise through a neighbourhood looking for potential targets. If a home or business has overgrown grass, piled up mail, overflowing garbage bins, etc, it is a signal/invitation for the criminal element to take a closer look. So don’t invite criminals to your home by taking care of your home or business property.

Final Thoughts

This is not meant to be an exhaustive list by any means. If you have any questions or ideas you would like to discuss, please call or text me at 604-363-2760 or email me at alex@locksmithvancouver.com. It will be my pleasure to serve you.

I am always interested to hear about new ways to make life miserable for criminals by increasing security albeit at a reasonable cost.

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