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Increase security of windows

My daughters house was broken into recently. The house is new (6 years) in a new subdivision. She was not home. The kids were caught, one of them at least, they had broken into 5 other homes that day/evening in the neighborhood.

Over the last two years, I had painted her house and in the process, removed the doors and frames and reinstalled them my way. The kids broke down the doors on the other houses with a prybar, but not her doors, so they smashed a window and got in that way. They did tear off a storm door, but I didn't install that for security, just to keep water off her back door.

The windows are contractor grade, aluminum framed, double pane, single hung. The house is brick siding. The windows are about the cheapest grade the contractor could get away with. I want to increase the security of the windows. My daughter is going to plant Rose bushes at the base of each window but I don't think that is the answer. It might help but I want to do more.

I could replace all the panes with double strength glass at about $200 per pane for a total cost of $4400. That won't really slow them down much. I am looking at security screens and have contacted a company that makes them. These are stainless steel mesh screens that are very cut resistant. It is very difficult to get a hole in one of them large enough to get your hand through to unlock a window latch. Has anyone here used these or seen them? Cost? DIY?

Any other suggestions? My daughter does not feel safe in her own house now and I want to restore that for her. I don't expect to stop a well equipped thief, but then a well equipped thief would be going for higher value targets. I also do not want to use iron bars because I do not want to attract attention. I just want to stop a bunch of teenagers who have gone astray.

Edit, I am also looking into security storm windows but they don't seem to be holding much promise.

Re: Increase security of windows

Reinforcing the door jambs to resist a prybar or kick in.
High quality door locks and dead bolts that can resist locking pliers that twist and break the lock. (i've seen it done)
Security system. An alarm and monitoring can make a thief look for easier targets.
A dog. Large or small as long as it can bark.
Training with a firearm and something your daughter can handle. What if she was home sick that day. I have 3 daughters and they all know how to handle weapons.

Re: Increase security of windows

Sorry to hear of this happening to one of our own here. I know nothing of the screens but I'd be highly surprised if I couldn't defeat then (or security storms) in under a minute. Better windows (not just the glass) might work if the de-glazed openings are small and tough to get through. Perhaps you could add a few bars to her sashes to accomplish this, nor quite 'burglar bar' but enough to make it a pain to get through. Secure with square-drive or Torx screws (especially security types) and do something hidden to lock the sash. Keep in mind that you don't want to hinder emergency egress. I work on some rentals in bad areas and we secure doors and windows with a mix of screw types and so far it has proven to be a good system. They may get the outside HVAC unit but they don't get into the house itself. They could break the glass but they generally don't want to draw attention doing that. They've got cordless drills but rarely do they have every bit we use. Makes it a pain for us to go in but that's the price you pay for security!

Have y'all considered a dog? There are several family-loyal and family-friendly breeds that can be trained for home security. And nobody, teens or pro crooks, wants to tangle with a dog they think will chew them up. My pit bull is my main security here and a great friend too- nobody gets in here unless I want them to. Dogs are a time-commitment and expense but IMHO nobody should be without one. The right one is the best wireless cordless always-charged crook deterrent there is. Just a thought.

To be honest, you can't stop a committed person from entering your home- the best you can do is slow them down in hopes that they will give up and go elsewhere. The internet will show ways to defeat or circumvent any security that is devised as soon as it hits the market. And these days, even the bad people are on-line. The odds are that this won't happen again- the teens curiosity is satisfied and they will be looking for another target instead , something giving them a better 'haul' or something more challenging perhaps.

Hoping you can find a good way to ease your daughter's mind and secure her home safely!

Re: Increase security of windows

Of ed21 suggestions, a barking dog or a simple "Beware of dog" sign is the most effective. Thieves get annoyed with dogs' noise and may leave. They are here to conduct their business, fast and easy, so a dog is a distraction.

A central security system with monitoring will work too. Police shows up in minutes. Put signs in the front.

These kids don't net a lot of cash but cause a lot of damage. Trouble is that when the police lets them go, they usually improve their way of doing business.

I don't believe in having a gun in a house with small children, because of unthinkable accidents. Too risky for them.

Re: Increase security of windows

I would temper any alterrations to the window openings with the caveate that such alterrations can also hinder your loved ones from getting out during a fire or other emergency. For instance, many jurisdictions forbid double cylinder locks on entry doors. It is really difficult to find that inside key and get it in the lock when the room is smoke filled and the inhabitant is panicked!

Fact of the matter is, if someone is willing to make noise, nothing can keep them out! You would be better advised to get a good security system and a dog. I have been told that small yappy dogs are actually more of a deterent than larger dogs.

Re: Increase security of windows

Thanks for the input so far. Just to be clear, the doors are reinforced, they were not able to open the door with a crowbar. They did tear up the storm door, but it was not a security storm door, it was a regular storm door to keep rain off the back door. Storm doors attach to the brickmold so even a security storm door can be ripped off pretty easily.

They did not open the shash either. The windows are tall windows that are low to the ground, they went through the broken glass. The security screens that I am looking at have a latch for egress in an emergency. You can operate the latch from the inside, but from the outside, you have to go through the screen, which is difficult to do. I have heard that they can be removed with a screwdriver though, that is a concern but I suppose that if there are enough screws, that could be a deterrent to a casual thief.

I agree that nothing is going to stop a determined thief. I am only trying to stop the thief who is looking for easy targets. A determined thief will usually only go after something of value that he knows is there. Something has to attract his attention and that is why I do not want to put on burglar bars.

We once lived in a neighborhood where an elderly woman put burglar bars on her windows. That started a rumor that she had a lot of cash hidden in the house somewhere. A gang broke in and killed her because she could not give up the loot that she didn't have.

Re: Increase security of windows

Update here. She has not made a decision yet but she is looking into getting these screens. I still have a few questions for them but they look like the best choice.


She has 6 windows across the back of her house and one on the side behind the fence. Most of the windows are about 26"x54" and it will cost around $2k for them. She has 5 more windows, three on the side outside the fence and two in front.

She also called a 3M rep about the security film for all 11 windows plus the glass in the back door, $4700. ouch! The film does not keep the glass from being broken, it just keeps anyone from going through the window or reaching in after it is broken. It seems to work quite well.


The issue with the window film as I see it is that after an attempt, the window glass has to be replaced, that cost her $260 and took three weeks to get a replacement, then to apply a film to just one pane of glass, it runs another $500.

The screens stand proud of the window by an inch and they don't flex very far so they may prevent the window from being broken. It depends on how big the hammer is. The quote was based on only one window with the escape latch. The issues with the screens mostly is that the windows are single hung so with out the escape latch, she won't be able to clean the upper panes. Even worse will be the bathroom window because it doesn't even open, its a fixed pane window.

The screens can be attached with either torx screws so they can be removed for cleaning, and by any burglar with a torx screw driver. The other way is to use one way screws which require drilling and an easy out to remove.

I guess it doesn't matter that much as we are only trying to keep out the opportunist thief who doesn't usually come fully equipped to remove these screens no matter which type screw is used. A determined thief would be equipped, but she doesn't have anything that would attract that type of thief's attention.

But of course it's not the thieves and burglars that I am most concerned about, its her personal safety. She has one bathroom that is a completely interior room, I'll be looking to make that double as a safe room both for this and for tornados.

Re: Increase security of windows

I find it interesting that burglars always seem to attack the strongest point of entry first: the front door. In many modern houses, especially those with vinyl siding over OSB and sheetrock on the inside, going straight through the wall may be easier! But most burglars are lazy (if they weren't lazy, they wouldn't have to steal) and don't take the time to learn about home construction.

As for a safe room, the walls would need to be reinforced concrete or hardened steel. Bullets and hurricane-driven debris can penetrate just about anything else. If there is a basement or crawl space, the room needs to be supported independently of the rest of the structure so it doesn't collapse with the rest of the house.

Ask TOH had an episode on disaster preparedness a while back that featured a testing lab. They shot a 2x4 at various materials at 20 MPH. It went through a sheet of 7/16" OSB like it wasn't even there. Plywood fared much better.

Re: Increase security of windows

You are right about a lot of houses, hers is brick. Most burglars go through the back door or the garage. The garage door is real easy to open on most new houses because there is a release rope used to disconnect the linkage from the chain or drive screw to the door itself. This is so the door can be opened in an emergency if power is out and the garage is the only exit, like in a fire.

All a thief has to do is shove a coat hanger or anything else he can fashion into a hook, up the top of the door near the center and hook the handle at the end of the rope and pull. Then the door can be lifted easily. It can be done in about 10 seconds. I removed the handle. Some people put a small nylon tie wrap at the link to make it more difficult to pull the rope.


They may try the front door if it kicks in easily, hers won't. They pried off the storm door but could not kick in the back door. The back door has a large window but for some reason, they did not try to break it, instead they went to a bedroom window.

I did consider a security type storm door like the ones sold at Lowes, but while the door and its frame looked plenty sturdy, it seemed to only attach to the brickmold and that didn't look to secure to me. I could not see a way to attach it to the framing of the house like the entry door. When the thieves pried open the storm door, they basically pulled the brickmold off the house, just as I suspected would happen if I had installed the security type door.

The security type door I was looking at looks like a regular storm door but has laminated glass and the stainless steel screens in a strong frame.

BTW, she lives in a good neighborhood. It should be safe, but you never know.

There are different levels of safe rooms. Just putting a solid core door with a sturdy lock will provide some level of protection until the police can arrive. For more protection against tornados, you can get protection from a cat 3 tornado inside an interior room of a brick house by replacing the sheetrock with 3/4" plywood and a sub ceiling attached to the walls with metal straps. This area doesn't usually get cat 4 or higher although a couple years ago, a cat 4 missed her house by about a mile.

Re: Increase security of windows
keith3267 wrote:

For more protection against tornados, you can get protection from a cat 3 tornado inside an interior room of a brick house by replacing the sheetrock with 3/4" plywood and a sub ceiling attached to the walls with metal straps.

Don't count on that. It's better than sheetrock but it will do you no good when the house comes off the foundation, or the walls separate from the floor system, and these are common failure modes. A real safe room for storms is costly, even for a totally DIY job, but they work while improvised methods may not. While brick seems stronger, it's usually a veneer attached to the walls and when the framing goes the brick goes with it. A well-constructed wood sided homes is almost it's equal and won't cover you in a pile of bricks when things go wrong. While I don't build safe rooms I have researched the subject deeply and I have extensive NWS Training regarding severe weather. If your house is going to make it through a storm intact, just being in a closet in the center of the house away from fenestration is pretty darn good for protection; if the house goes anything short of a real storm designed safe room will likely go with it.

If you are in a place where severe storms are possible, do your research. Plan, prepare, and practice getting to you haven in time for may have just seconds to react.

Security is an important subject for everybody but it's relative, and you must decide what level of risk is acceptable because there is nothing 100% secure. You can get pretty close with enough money ;)


Re: Increase security of windows
Mastercarpentry wrote:

Security is an important subject for everybody but it's relative, and you must decide what level of risk is acceptable because there is nothing 100% secure. You can get pretty close with enough money ;)

Keep in mind that security and liberty are mutually exclusive paradigms. The more secure you are, the less liberty you have, and vice-versa. Even if you supply that security yourself.

For example, if you put a lock on your door, you have placed restrictions on your own entry: you must have a key to unlock the door before you can enter. You have surrendered some liberty in order to achieve some security.

If you are completely secure, you have no liberty. If you are completely free, you have no security.


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