Wednesday, September 16, 2009

So you don't have a door anymore...

This is a post I’ve been wanting to write for a while. A rather long time actually, since last year when my next door neighbor had her house broken into and was left with a busted front door.
Its an all too common situation, you get home, the front or back door is broken and everything is turned upside down inside. Money, jewelry, drugs and expensive electronics, all around the world that’s what most criminals go looking for.
In some cases when they know you’ll be out for a day or two, the house gets picked clean. I know of people that even had their toilets and faucets stolen.
But for the immediate problem: You arrive and there's no way to secure your house anymore. The door is busted and you’ve just been robbed so it doesn’t add much to feeling very safe.

I remember my wife gave the woman some tea (she was crying, very nervous) and after the cops left I looked at the busted solid wood door and thought “Now what?”.

100% Useless

The door and frame where busted, the lock itself smashed through the door. They must have used a crowbar, or maybe even a hammer. Point is, there was no way to secure that door.
In the end I used a big aluminum ladder I have, to block the door from the inside.
A commercial alternative would be something like the Katy Bar, or if you have the tools and materials, improvise something like that.

Now, the problem comes when the door panel is completely broken. Then what? How do you replace a door when you come back home after dinner and a movie and find the door busted in, all broken?

Folks that live in storm territory often have plywood panels ready.
This works for windows but can also help for improvising a quick door. Of course someone with minimum carpentry skills can make a rather nice and solid door using 2x6 or 2x4s, etc, but this will require more time.

Some spare material kept handy such as plywood and wood planks might be a good idea

Just something to keep in mind guys, maybe to remember next time you buy wood and other materials for a project or storm season. And of course, money in a reinforced security exterior door is money well spent.



CapnRick said...

Thanks - Great post on a subject often overlooked. What good is a house full of survival goodies if a hefty guy with a crowbar can invite his thug friends to join him in enjoying the fruits of your foresight?

Strong door designs abound with the infusion of narcotraficante money... all the drug dealers have them. Just about any hardware store or Home Depot can help. My Argentine wife will not let me armorplate the inside of our doors, but WILL let me reinforce our already substantial heavy wood door with a couple of bars horizontally placed across the entire door.

I have seen police in various countries defeat strong doors by tearing them out of the wall with truck-mounted battering rams... but, a lot of times they just need a pickax, a sledgehammer and some 1.5 - 2 minutes of grunt work to bust thru the walls, defeating the expensive door standing. If the walls are standard US construction, and NOT concrete block with steel reinforcing, they can shorten that time to 20-60 seconds.

Fortunately, we have 2 foot thick masonry/steel/concrete walls as most 5-10 story buildings in Mar del Plata were built like that in the 1940s-1950s.

I wanted inside-mounted (not visible from outside when not in use) solid steel shutters on all the windows... she insisted on outside rejas... decorative steel security bars. Adding insult to injury, she wouldn't let me pop for the hinged-plus-lock installation I really should have insisted upon. One cannot foretell the future, and escaping a home with immovable bars on all the window in an emergency is not easy.

PLEASE NOTE: I am a strong believer that the best defensive stronghold features are the ones that no one knows about. The thieves have friends that work in the security door business who will gladly give thieves your name for a piece of the take. Also, be aware that cops target homes with apparent strong doors and other security devices (including pit bulls) in some neighborhoods for surveillance.

On a further note, I am using a commercial storage area within walking distance, secured with my lock, to house my prep goodies overflow, as my phase one shtf plan is to survive in place in a medium sized apartment. I am, looking for a garden site not too far from the end of municipal bus service as well as a roof garden for growing food. Sorry if this part is too far off-topic, Suerte, ya'll! CapnRick

Bones said...

The problem with most security solutions is that wood can be broken fairly easily. The best security solution in my book are wrought iron doors and windows. They look very elegant but are far more secure than wood based doors. Criminals are looking for an easy score and the very presence of wrought iron is a major deterrent. I've seen houses that have gated 5 foot walls topped by 3' wrought iron fences, metal automatic garage doors, wrought iron doors and windows, motion sensor lighting and alarm systems. Fort Knox! Of course, this is all very expensive, but these are very long lasting additions that add to the value of your home - and far cheaper than getting cleaned out!

Anonymous said...

In the old days, people would drive lots of small nails around the door hardware in wooden doors, so prying would be more difficult to do, all of that little steel working in concert to strengthen the door. Made it harder to chop through too.

My answer (expsensive though) - commericial hollow metal doors. About $1500 American, plus $400 in good hardware (lockset, dead bolt, hinges). Grout the steel frame SOLID into door opening if masonry construction, makes quite a barrier (though lock picker can do it).

Basically persuades the BGs to just go to next house, just not worth the bother. That is the hope anyway.

I had to make a door for a custom opening at our family ranch house. It was standard 32" wide, but only 6'-6" high (used to be a screen patio door). We used 3/4" CDX plywood on exterior face, 1/2" CD on interior, treated 1 x 4s. Steel mending plates at frame corners and interior door stiles, than screwed and glued them all together with good wood screws. We were lucky - it worked the first time. Took about 1/2 a day, I thought it would take a much shorter time.


Anonymous said...

I know that here in the US you can get steel doors with steel doorjambs, so that it would be nearly impossible to kick in. Another option is the wrought iron security door that goes outside the main door.

I know that they are selling "steel" doors that are actually two thin sheets of steel surrounding a hollow wood door with a cheap pine doorjamb, which is what we ended up with when we built the house, so do your homework.

I lived in an apartment building in San Francisco that had solid steel doors for each unit, the building had been rehabbed in 1976 I think, so it is possible. Wood doors are pretty much useless, as you found out.

Anonymous said...

When I was a freshman in college I went home to visit my parents once. I managed to accidentally get myself locked out of the house with no keys while I had my niece and nephew in their car seats and everyone else had already driven away to a family gathering an hour away. This was before cellphones.

As a 135 lb "weakling" it took me one kick and all of 3 seconds to kick the steel door out of its frame. (I was a tae kwon do student once.) It took alot longer to reattach the door and frame to the wall.

Anonymous said...

Anon 7:52, if the doors are sold at the box stores and you can lift them easily, NOT THE DOORS you want to choose. The steel doors I mentioned above are extremely heavy, over 100 lbs. apiece easily and cost way over the $200- $400 with door panels and 'cutsy' window glazing inserts. Security doors don't have that stuff - you can order with peep hole, but the stuff is meant to keep people secure, not to look out.

These doors won't stop them cold, but it will take time and probably need some special equipment to defeat. As extra secure measure, you can drive wood wedges into the frame / door sides and door threshold at bottom (on the inside of course).