Your house can be your fortress, your retreat from the outside world, and a place to cozy up and be yourself. Too bad this fortress isn’t made of solid stone and didn’t come with a moat — you’ll need to take some different protective measures.
Thankfully, most people live in their house for years without it being broken into. Here are some quick and easy ways to prevent uninvited guests.
- Change the locks. If you don’t bring in a locksmith or visit a hardware store, you won’t know who has keys to your front door (the seller’s wacky houseguest from two years ago and several neighbors, perhaps).
- Add deadbolts. If your exterior doors have only regular, pushbutton locks or something similar, you could probably break into them yourself with a swift kick. Every exterior door should have a deadbolt. Call a locksmith or follow the instructions on a site like www.diynetwork.com.
- Prevent sliding doors from being forced open. Even with a lock, putting a dowel or bar in the tracks of sliding glass doors offers backup security.
- Reset the alarm code. If the house came with an alarm system, choose a new number you’ll remember, share it on a “need to know” basis, and keep the owners’ manual on hand in case of false alarms, dead batteries, and other issues.
- Consider buying an alarm system. Even the warning signs from the alarm company are a deterrent -- burglars are looking for an easy mark, not to break into Fort Knox. There’s a wide array of choices at different price points, from systems that simply make a loud noise to those that are monitored by a professional company. With more advanced systems, company representatives should help you with customized design -- speak up if, for example, you plan to leave certain windows cracked open at night or get a pet -- and they’ll likely do the installation, too. Tell your homeowners’ insurance company once the system is installed, which will probably lower your premium rates.
- Make a habit of locking your interior garage door. You don’t want a thief to gain entry to your garage and then have easy, hidden access to your house.
- Talk to the neighbors. Ask what security measures they’ve found useful or necessary, and whether a neighborhood watch group is in place. Even without formally creating such a group (in which you register with the city and it puts up signs warning criminals away) many neighbors find it useful to exchange daytime and evening phone numbers, so that you can call each other if you see something strange going on.
- Evaluate the need for additional changes. Take a walk around your house to see what should go on your longer-term to-do list. Pretend you’re a burglar, and think about how you’d break in and how easily you’d be seen by others doing so. Make sure the outside of your property is well-lit at night and doesn’t contain obvious hiding places or trees whose branches can be used to climb in through windows. Planting holly, roses, and other prickly or thorny plants is also a recommended burglar deterrent. But don't forget about the possibility of daytime burglaries -- they're actually the most common, because the criminals know that most people are at work.
Taking all those steps won’t completely remove the risk of a crime at your home. However, you will at least be able to rest easier, knowing that anyone who intrudes won’t get very far or have the chance to take much.