Easy Security Upgrades Any Homeowner Can Do

Doing your own home renovations can seem daunting. So any professional will tell you to start small and see how you feel. If it goes well, you can take on bigger projects. Or, find someone else to do the heavy lifting.

I have compiled a short of three small home security projects that any homeowner can do with a basic set of hand tools. You will also probably want at least an impact drill to save your hands and screw heads.

As always, if you have any questions or comments, please call/text me at 604-363-2760 or email me at alex@locksmithvancouver.com. Or just drop by our Downtown Vancouver Key Store Located at 555 W Hastings St. We are located on the bottom floor of the SFU/Harbour Centre next to the BC Liquor Store.

Quick reminder, our Port Coquitlam location at 2345 Rindall Ave is a mobile only location. So we do not cut or copy keys at this site. If you are looking for professional key copying services, please call or text me and I would be happy to refer you to an appropriate location.

Project #1: Installing a Door Guardian

Did you know that most home invasions involve the culprits simply kicking down the doors of a home? Very little skill is involved, just brute force. This is possible really only in North America due to our preferred building material – wood.

Unlike our Old World counterparts, most homes in Canada and in the U.S. are built using wood framing techniques. This is a method that was developed in Chicago during the 1830’s. In Europe, it’s more common to see material like concrete, brick, and masonry being used as the Old World lacks the abundant forests of the New World.

Wood framing really became popular and the de facto standard after World War 2 when the Baby Boomers required massive quantities of cheap affordable housing that can be built quickly. While the lush forests of the the Pacific Northwest supplied cheap affordable building materials, wood has some critical flaws:

  • It’s not a durable as concrete or masonry
  • It’s flammable
  • It’s vulnerable to moisture and decay

Our wood frame houses were never meant to last a hundred years. The rapidly expanding population needed lots of housing and quickly. This is why it is not uncommon to see buildings centuries old still going strong in parts of Europe. In Vancouver, anything over a hundred years old is basically falling apart.

This is one of the reasons why our door and door frames tend to be a bit flimsy. So do you need a Door Guardian? First, check to see if you have a metal door and a metal frame. If so, kudos to you as you do not need a Door Guardian nor can you install one.

Second, do you have a wood door and a metal frame? If so, a Door Guardian can be useful, but you would be better skipping down to the next section of the article about Wrap Around Plates. Plus this product could be very difficult to install on a metal frame. Not impossible, but not ideal.

Third, do you have a wood door and a wood frame? If so, a Door Guardian can be very useful. However, you should first make sure you have a solid core door. If you tap around the door and you hear hollow sounds, there’s a good chance you have a hollow core door. In such a case, installing a Door Guardian is still a good idea but you would be better off replacing your door first with a solid core door.

What is a Door Guardian?

So the next obvious question is, what is a Door Guardian? A Door Guardian is a name brand of a type of inside-only spring-loaded flip lock that effectively disables the external key.

Upgrades Any Homeowner Can Do

Due to their popularity, there are now many different versions of the Door Guardian being sold under different names. I generally find that the quality is about the same regardless of the brand. However, I prefer the original Door Guardian as I believe the finish is a bit better and the screws are of better quality.

These devices are marketed as being 5 to 10 times stronger than a deadbolt. Having never tested the veracity of these claims, I cannot say whether that is true or not. Nevertheless, a properly installed Door Guardian attached to the wall stud next to the door frame will make it very difficult to kick down the door even for emergency services.

Installing the Door Guardian

You should begin installation by first picking one up from your local Home Depot Store. If you live near our Downtown Vancouver store, they are in stock at the Home Depot at 900 Terminal Ave. Likewise, if you live near our Port Coquitlam location, they are in stock at the Home Depot located at 1069 Nicola Dr

Next, determine when you wish to place the lock. I generally recommend a bit below waist height as most door kicks are to this area. The only time I would recommend installing a Door Guardian near the top of the door is 1) You are installing one at the top and another at the bottom of the door; or 2) You are using the Door Guardian to child-proof your home.

The final step should be fairly straightforward, mark out the holes and use an impact drill to drive in the 3” wood screws to the wall stud next to your door frame. If you don’t use the 3” screws provided, then there is really no point to installing the Door Guardian or similar lock.

When to Call a Professional Locksmith

I would recommend calling a professional locksmith if you:

  • Don’t have an impact drill 
  • If the door frame is metal
  • If the clearance between the door and the door frame is less or greater than ⅛”

By the BC Building Code, there should be a ⅛” gap between the door and the door frame on all 4 sides. The thickness of the mounting plate is just under ⅛” so it should allow the door to swing freely once installed. However, for various reasons, the Door Guardian may need to be mortised into the wood door frame. In this situation, unless you are handy with a wood chisel and hammer, I recommend engaging the services of a Professional Vancouver Locksmith to make your life easier.

Project #2: Reinforcing Wood Doors with Wrap Around Plates

For the same reasons above, metal doors are generally hardier and more secure than wood doors. However, retrofitting a metal door is probably an expensive proposition. In that case, you can reinforce your wood door with a wrap around plate.

Wrap Around Plates are usually made of Stainless Steel and provide exceptional security against door kicks and prying attacks by essentially turning your wood door to a metal door at certain points of vulnerability.

Upgrades Any Homeowner Can Do

They come in several configurations to fit onto exterior doors, interior doors, doors with deadbolts, doors with lever/knobs, and doors with both deadbolts and lever/knobs. Wrap Around Plates also come either in polished brass or satin stainless steel finishes. However, specialty finishes can also be custom ordered.

Another useful application of these plates is to fix or to cover up damaged doors. I use these quite often in situations where Emergency Services were forced to kick or chop down a door to gain entry. Depending on the level of damage, we can use Wrap Around Plates to make the door usable until insurance pays for a new door.

These plates are also great when I have to retrofit a door to accept a different type of lock then there was previously. It will cover up the extraneous holes and give me an almost blank slate to install the new lock onto.

Installing Wrap Around Plates

First, go to your local Home Depot Store located at either 900 Terminal Ave or 1069 Nicola Drive and select the plates that match your door and locks. Unlike the wide variety of sizes and shapes we stock in our work van or at our Key Store at 555 W Hastings St, your choices may be limited to the most popular ones at Home Depot.

If you don’t see what you need, please give me a call/text at 604-363-2760 or email me at alex@locksmithvancouver.com to discuss. 

Once you have the right plate for your door, it is as simple as slipping it onto your door and securing it with the 4 screws provided.

When to Call a Vancouver Locksmith

If you are interested in installing Wrap Around Plates but cannot seem to find the right size and shape for your needs, you probably should contact your local Vancouver Locksmith like myself.

Also, there are generally two types of Wrap Around Plates. One, is a type that slips on and sits on top of your latches. The other needs to be mortised into the door and the latches sit inside specially formed grooves. The latter is more secure as the plate is then integrated with the locks.

If your plates need to be mortised in, it is probably a good idea to contact your local Professional Port Coquitlam Locksmith.

Project #3: Reinforcing Your Deadbolt Strike

Most people have a cylindrical deadbolt on their doors as the primary provider of security. If you have a long metal rectangular plate 1” x 8” that covers the entire latch area, you most likely have a mortise lock and this will not apply to you.

If you have a cylindrical deadbolt, examine the strike plate on the door frame. Most deadbolts these days come standard with two plates. As per the picture below, the yellow plate is a thicker piece of metal made of hardened or tempered steel. It should be impact driven into the wall stud next to the door frame with 3” screws. Then the decorative plate is placed on top and surface mounted with shorter screws.

Upgrades Any Homeowner Can Do

This setup is to make it harder to kick the door down or pry it open. In order to bypass this protection, enough force to rip the 2 screws out from the wall studs must be applied. I have been a Port Coquitlam locksmith long enough to see this being done, but it’s not easy. Since most thieves did not become thieves by enjoying hard work, they will move onto easier targets.

Higher Grades of locks will come with fancier types of these security strike plates. Some come with a strike box that encases the deadbolt to provide additional protection. Others even come with a spring-loaded ball mechanism that “locks” the deadbolt in place for even more protection.

There are even a series of aftermarket strike plates literally called Super Strikes. They are much larger and thicker to accommodate four to eight 3” wood screws. They can withstand more impact as they will spread the force over a wider area. The intruder is likely to hurt him/herself trying to break in.

You can also install plates that cover the entire door jamb. They are often sold as a package with hinge reinforcement plates. While I agree they provide a higher level of protection, I find them a bit aesthetically displeasing. I generally avoid installing full length security plates unless the client has been targeted by thieves several times or the door is located in a vulnerable area.

Installing a security strike plate

If you don’t have one already, you can find these at the Home Depot Store located at 900 Terminal Ave in Vancouver or the Home Depot Store located at 1069 Nicola Drive in Port Coquitlam.

Depending on the make and the model of your deadbolt, your local Port Coquitlam locksmith may have a few spares lying around. Not all door frames can accommodate these security strike plates so we always have some extras floating around somewhere. If you are interested, you can drop by our Key Store in Downtown Vancouver located at 555 W Hastings St. Better yet, you can call/text me at 604-363-2760 or email me at alex@locksmithvancouver.com. I would be happy to check my spare parts bin to see if I have one stashed away somewhere.

For a standard residential deadbolt, the only thing you may need to do is mortise out a little more wood to make the strike plate hole a bit deeper. Not much, just another ⅛” or so. If you have a really tight fitting door, you may need to cut out 3/16”. 

Then take a self-centering Vix bit and drill a couple of pilot holes – making sure the 3” screw holes are on the side facing the exterior. Then just impact drive them into the wall stud.

When not to install a security strike plate

There are some situations where installing a security strike plate is not only a bad idea, but impossible. For example, you cannot install them on metal door frames unless the gap between the door and door frame is exceedingly wide. In that case, the door’s width was probably cut too short and you need the security strike as a necessity.

If you live in a concrete building, your wall studs are probably made of metal and the 3” wood screws will not work. You may need to call a Professional Port Coquitlam Locksmith.

You also should not install them on door frames that have glass or windows on the other side. The 3” screws need a wall stud to drive into. Older houses with decorative or viewing windows next to the doors will not work. Your screws will end up poking out the other side. Worst yet, they might shatter the window.

If you are not sure, please do not hesitate to contact me. Pictures will be very helpful.

Final Thoughts on Easy Security Upgrades

As any Security Professional will tell you that security should be layered like an onion. The further the intruder goes against your physical hardening measures, the more tears (and possibly blood) they will shed.

So instead of doing just one, I recommend you do all three mini projects. With the right tools on hand, even a budding amateur should be able to finish all of them in 2 to 3 hours. 

If you are worried about the quality of the work, you should always contact your local Professional Port Coquitlam Locksmith like yours truly. I specialize in servicing the Downtown Vancouver Area, Port Coquitlam, and everything in between! I look forward to talking with you.

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