No one wants to deal with a home burglary. These 12 home security tips will not only make your home harder to break into – they’ll also help you make your home less tempting to burglars.
In addition to whatever major steps you can take – that is, living in a low-crime area and/or having a security system – there are many easy ways to make your home seem less of an easy target to burglars.
Many of these home security tips will be obvious to you homeowners who have been at this a while. But there are always new homeowners who are still learning, and I didn’t want to leave any helpful tips out. So it’s all here.
Burglars want easy targets. They are looking for homes they can break into easily without getting caught.
If your home doesn’t look like an easy target, most burglars will choose to move on and look for a lesser challenge.
So it’s important to understand what burglars are looking for. Once you do, you can take the first step of making your home less tempting to burglars.
What burglars are looking for
- No one’s home. Whether everyone’s away at work or school, or you’re all on vacation in another country, that’s what the burglar targets.
- Hidden access points. Burglars want a door that’s shadowed or out of view from the street and any neighbors. This gives them time to get that access point open without being seen by witnesses.
- Easy access points. Certain types of locks are easier to break into than others. Not all burglars are smart enough to look for those, but if you have a door or window that looks easy to open, that’s probably the one they’ll try.
Home Security Tips
What can you do to make your home look less tempting?
1. Keep windows closed and locked
It is actually safe to leave a second-floor window open during the night if there is absolutely no way a burglar could climb up to it. But all other windows should be shut and locked.
If your windows don’t have locks, you can buy quality locks for a decent price. You can probably also install them yourself.
If you want advice on choosing a window lock, go to a hardware store and ask the staff. They know which ones get complaints or returns and which ones customers keep.
You can also ask the police. Your local precinct probably has all the answers, and they’ll be happy to give them to you.
2. Home security inspection
Some police departments will give you a “home security inspection” with advice on what steps you need to take, if any. Their advice is reliable (because preventing crime reduces their workload) and shouldn’t be biased by trying to sell you on a particular product.
Some insurance agencies will provide a similar service, and even offer you a discount if you implement their recommendations.
3. Exterior lights
Make sure every door is lit when it’s dark, or at least when anyone moves past it. Cheap exterior lights can be rigged up for not much expense, and many of them are halogen or LED, so you have some very frugal and environmentally friendly options.
We used to recommend that you put your exterior lights on timers so they always come on and go off in the same routine whether you’re home or not. That helps disguise when you’re not home, and it’s still a good strategy.
But a better strategy is to invest in motion sensor activated lighting for your exterior. There are quite a few options under $40.
Solar-powered lights are also great for illuminating walkways to the home, and those narrow side yards that are so well-shaded. Just make sure you don’t have any lights positioned to point into anyone’s bedroom.
An area light is also a good option, especially if you’re in the country and far from any neighbors. You can get the electric company to install one, and then you pay for it like any other light on your bill (they’re not as pricey as you might think).
An area light can illuminate most of a big yard without lighting up any bedrooms – that makes approaching the home from any direction risky for a burglar.
4. Doors with hinges on the inside
This is a ridiculously simple tip. And if your home was built in the last 20-30 years, it was probably already done properly by the builder, but it’s good to check.
The easiest way to get through any door, if you have the time, is to simply take it off the hinges. No lock can defend against that.
Make sure your exterior doors have the hinges on the inside so a burglar can’t reach them from outside.
5. Install deadbolts on every exterior door
Deadbolts are still the hardest type of lock to pick. Make sure your exterior doors have them. This includes patio doors, kitchen doors, garage side doors, etc.
A door jammer is a cheaper way to make exterior doors extremely secure if deadbolts are out of your budget for now. But you can only use it while you’re home, whereas the deadbolt works all the time.
6. Secure French doors
Those double doors with glass panes in wood frames are beautiful, but it’s always possible to knock out the glass pane next to the deadbolt and lock, unlock it and walk right in.
Make sure your door positions the locks too far from the nearest glass panel for a hand to reach through and around to the locks.
Or confirm that the glass is tempered or impact-resistant. Both of these types are much stronger than normal glass.
While no glass is unbreakable, these types will slow down burglars and force them to make a louder, longer disturbance. And that means their risk of getting caught is higher.
With any luck, they will decide to move on to another home.
7. Sliding glass doors
Sliding doors pose similar problems to French doors. Make sure your doors have a good lock.
Also make sure they’re installed with the empty track to the inside. Sometimes builders install them backwards, and this makes it much easier for someone to break in.
Or for you to get locked outside by accident.
When the empty track at the bottom is on the inside, you can simply drop a sturdy dowel stick into the track. Make sure it’s long enough that you can’t open the door far enough to squeeze in without removing it.
If you want, you can cut the stick to leave enough room so you can open the window a little for ventilation and still have the dowel stick blocking anyone’s entry.
Or you can get an adjustable patio door steel security rod. It costs more than a dowel stick, but you won’t need to worry about getting the exact length.
This is such a simple, affordable trick, but now the burglar has to either break the glass – which is going to be loud and might be heard by neighbors – or lift the door out of its track.
There are also pin devices you can get at hardware stores that make lifting the door impossible.
8. Video Doorbells and Motion-Activated Cameras
While the Internet of Things has its own security issues to be aware of (everything is hackable), it also has some cool security options.
Since burglars don’t come knocking, you might think a video doorbell won’t protect your home from them. But most burglars do come through the front door, so a live-streamed motion-activated camera should deter them.
The other option is a motion-sensor camera. You can install these at as many doors or windows as you think might be easy targets.
Going on vacation
When your whole house is going to be empty for a few days, that’s when you really want to get the burglars thinking someone’s home. Take care of the dead giveaways first:
9. Stop the mail and newspaper
Mail bulging out of a mailbox or newspapers piling up on the porch are a clear indication no one’s home. Get them both stopped until the day you come back.
Also get a neighbor, family member, or friend you trust to make sure they actually do stop, and collect any mail or papers that arrive while you’re gone. You may get some local flyers even if you shut down all your other deliveries.
Make sure you don’t have any parcel deliveries coming up while you’re gone. Again, if you do, have a neighbor grab them and store them until you get back.
10. Outdoor maintenance
If snow or leaves are piling up, that could be a dead giveaway that you’re not home. Burglars actually look for signs like this.
It’s worth paying a neighbor or local kid to come shovel or rake for you while you’re away. Or you can volunteer to do the same for them sometime.
Some people believe that not putting your trash out is a dead giveaway that you’re not home, and recommend getting a neighbor to wheel it out for you.
But others note that people commonly forget to put the trash out, so it’s probably not a sign a burglar would rely on. If you’re doing most of the tips on this page, the trash is probably one you don’t need to worry about.
11. Put some lights (and maybe a TV) on a timer
Use a light switch timer to have some lights come on in the evenings until bedtime. This makes it look like someone is home and going about their usual business.
You can use these same timers to have a TV come on at the same time as some of the lights. This can add to the illusion that you’re home.
11. Park Somebody’s Car in the Driveway
If you normally park in a garage, no problem. But if your car is normally in the driveway, its absence could alert anyone casing your neighborhood that you’re not home.
Get a neighbor to park their car in your driveway while you’re gone. Even if a burglar knows it’s a different car, he won’t feel confident that the house is empty.
Notify a trusted neighbor when you’ll be out of town, asking them to keep an eye on things. Leave a contact number so they can check with you if they see anything that looks odd.
If anyone is actually supposed to come to your home while you’re gone, like a pet sitter, tell your neighbors how to recognize them. Otherwise, they might call the police on someone who’s done nothing wrong, and it might not be easy for them to convince police they’re just pet sitting.
You might also ask someone – or pay someone’s kid – to do some chores around your house, such as mowing the lawn. That also helps disguise the fact that you’re gone.