These simple tips will help to beef up security inside and outside your home and protect your property when it is at its most-vulnerable, namely when you’re out at work or on vacation.
You can protect your home and most precious possessions without breaking the bank. Although home security is more of a challenge if your budget is small, it’s still possible to make a burglar’s life more difficult if you make some simple changes, carry out some easy security jobs, and get to know your neighbours. It’s fair to say that these simple tips won’t necessarily deter seasoned burglars, but what they will do is act as a deterrent to opportunistic thieves.
Table of Contents
Exterior Home Security
1. Identify the weak spots
If you want to find any weaknesses in your home security set-up, the best place to start is with the exterior boundaries of your home. Walk around the exterior of your home and look for any weaknesses and vulnerabilities. Approach the task as if you’re a would-be burglar, and make a note of which areas you would choose to target if you were planning on breaking in. Do any of the windows look like they could be forced opens? Do the locks on doors and windows look old or flimsy? If you suspect they are vulnerable, then that very same thought will be going through a burglar’s head.
If you’re struggling to get a grip of this task, then why not have a word with the local police force? Many forces have dedicated officers whose job it is to advise homeowners about home security. If you contact the police, they’ll generally send round an officer who will carry out a courtesy home security assessment, free of charge. They’ll be happy to help you identify the weak spots in your external home security; after all, it’s in their interest too as the fewer break-ins they have to deal with, the better.
2. What can potential burglars can see through windows?
What can thieves see from outside your house? You might have a prized painting that you’re extremely fond of, proudly displayed on full show in your living room, or you might even have all sorts of expensive electronic equipment dotted around the house. The problem is if this stuff is on show and easily viewed from the kerb, then you are putting temptation in a thief’s path. No-one is suggesting for one moment that you have to hide away everything of value or redecorate your home so that it looks like you have very little of any worth, but it doesn’t hurt to make some small adjustments. Display the picture you’re so proud of, and keep on playing games on your consoles and music on your top-end hi-fi system, but just keep them out of sight of passing strangers. There’s no point tempting fate, and hoping you get lucky. Prevention is always better than cure.
3. Keep the garden tidy
If you’re lucky enough to have a garden in your new home, then keep it tidy. Why’s that important you may wonder? Well, the messier a garden, the more potential hiding places there are for burglars. So, keep shrubbery around entrances and walkways trimmed, and eliminate a thief options for hiding places. It might not take a burglar long to break into a property, but in the seconds or minutes when they’re forcing entry they’ll need somewhere to hide, or at least not be on public view.
Cut back trees and shrubs near windows and doors so that there are no places for an intruder to hide. If you ensure there’s a clear line of sight from the road, potential thieves no that there are no hiding places for them should their attempted break-in go wrong. By keeping the sight lines clear, you’ll sow seeds of doubt in the burglar’s mind about how they might struggle to make a safe escape.
If you’ve got neighbours living either side of you, then you’ll be safer and more secure if you can see their properties clearly, and they can see yours. Don’t let the garden borders or hedges get out of control. Keep plants trimmed and pruned so that there are no hiding places and you still have a clear line of sight. By doing that you can see if someone is hanging around your garden at night, and more importantly so can your neighbours.
4. Spiky plants and foliage are a burglar’s worst nightmare: so, plant some
No-one, not even the most determined intruder, wants to have to climb through cotoneaster or Berberis to claim their ill-gotten gains. Nobody likes pain if they can avoid it. Burglars always chose the path of least resistance, so make entry very difficult, and if they do manage to get in, then make their journey as uncomfortable as possible. Remember, the spinier and more-painful the plant: the better.
5. Prune trees that abut the property
If you live in a two-storey home and have mature trees growing close to the boundary walls, then keep the trees pruned. A determined thief can scale a tree and break into an upstairs window if branches are long enough to give him/her access.
6. Keep your outside space free from clutter
Keep your outside spaces free of toys, tools, and ladders. A garden littered with toys might suggest to a potential thief that to your house may also be filled with equally interesting and tempting valuables, like game consoles, tablets, or laptops. A ladder or toolbox left out even briefly for an afternoon can give an opportunistic thief help in gaining access to your house.
7. Invest in the best most-secure fencing you can afford
If your property doesn’t have a fence but is accessible from the road, then either invest in, or build a fence. Fencing will deter burglars and make entry more difficult. What sort of fence? Well, that depends on your preferences and the aesthetics of your neighbourhood. Open chain-link fencing might be the only option if you live in a neighbourhood where solid fencing is frowned upon, Chain-link fencing is fine as long as it is secured into concreate posts and footings to prevent lifting. Solid fencing is probably more secure and stable and does afford extra privacy and noise reduction: however, it is also easier to climb, and offers a thief a better place to hide once they’ve scaled the fence. Ideally, a solid fence with a sharp or pointed top would work best, but many local authorities have by-laws which preclude their use. So always check with the authorities before running barbed wire along the top of your fencing.
8. Put gates at entrances to drives and pathways
Is it better to deal with someone once they’ve entered your property, or to stop them entering in the first place until you can verify their identity? The answer’s simple. Don’t let them in until you can be sure of their intentions. So, install gates on pathways and drives. If they want to come onto your property, they’ll have to come through the gates, and someone, somewhere, will see them doing this.
Keep fences and gates locked. It’s worth investing in a quality padlock for each outside entrance, even if you only lock it at night. However, as most friends and family won’t mind calling ahead to let you know they’re visiting, maybe it’s preferable to leave them locked at all times. Never leave your garage door open if you aren’t in it or outside and able to keep an eye on it.
9. Keep your garage/shed doors locked at all times
You should always lock everything, as it’s better to be safe rather than sorry. However, it pays to keep garage and shed doors locked all the time. If you leave the doors open during the day, anyone driving by can see what you store in there and earmark what they might like to have. Lots of professional thieves undertake drive-by surveillance. If you show them what you own willingly, they don’t have to break in to find out. By keeping the doors open you’re making their job much easier than needs be.
Always stow expensive items like grills, cars, and bikes in the garage, and use blinds or curtains on windows to avert prying eyes. Though it may seem like an inconvenience to have to bring out the grill for every barbecue, leaving it out makes it an easy target for thieves. They don’t even have to enter your home to grab it, and if it’s got wheels, even better: they can just roll it away. If your home does not have a drive, and you have to park on the street, then always lock your vehicle and be sure to park in a well-lit area, and remove all phones, GPS devices, purses, wallets and other valuables from the vehicle when parking up.
10. External lighting
Burglars like the dark. They like to be able to creep around properties under the cloak of darkness, safe in the knowledge that no-one will be able to see what mischief they’re getting up to. Well, it’s easy to put a stop to that and to foil their plans. Install an outside light near to the entrance/ exit of your home. If burglars run the risk of being seen, they’ll think twice about attempting to break in.
Install motion sensor lighting around your home, especially at entrances. Shine a spotlight on a potential intruder before he can even touch your doors or windows by adding extra lighting with motion detectors at entrances and especially dark corners of your home. If you live in an apartment, ask your landlord to install enough lighting in walkways and halls to eliminate dark corners.
11. Make use of free solar power for external lighting
Installing an external light is always advisable as mentioned, but what happens if there isn’t an electricity supply near-by your outbuildings or there’s a power outage? Well, unless you’ve thought it through, if there’s a power out the outside of your property will be in total darkness and that’s a burglar’s dream. So, invest in a couple of solar lights for the garden and near the entrance. They’ll work even if the power goes down, and best of all you won’t have to pay for the power: mother nature will provide that free of charge.
12. Join your local Neighbourhood Watch scheme and touch base with those living closest to you
Get to know your neighbours as soon as you can, but that doesn’t mean you have to bare your soul to the world or live in other people’s pockets to get peace of mind. Crime tends to be lower in tight-knit communities because neighbours are far more likely to look out for each other and tend to spot strangers roaming the streets. Being neighbourly can be beneficial. Join a scheme if you can spare the time, or at least speak to your neighbours every now and then. If your neighbours warm to your approach, they’re far more likely to take an interest in you and what goes on at your property: especially if you offer to reciprocate and keep an eye on their place when they’re away. Remember, another pair of watchful eyes is always useful when burglars are on the prowl.
If your neighbourhood looks worn down and neglected, have a word with your immediate neighbours and try to do something about it. A run-down, graffiti-lined, littered street can send the message to criminals that the residents of your area don’t care about the neighbourhood or each other. That could make it a prime location for theft. Speak to the police and the local authority and they might even be able to offer some assistance with the clean-up.
13. Make sure your house is easily-identifiable
Install large, reflective numbers on your house or mailbox. This makes it easier for police to identify your home in the event of an emergency. Burglars prefer dark houses difficult to identify by address as it can buy them crucial spare moments in the event they’re caught in the act.
Interior Home Security
14. If you love it: lock it
The best way of deterring any intruder is to keep your doors and windows firmly locked. Yet a significant number of people fail to do this; whether that’s simply through oversight, or maybe they just have more faith in the goodness of human nature than the rest of us. Whatever the reasons might be, there’s no escaping the fact that by leaving your property unlocked, you’re giving the green light to potential burglars and asking for trouble. If you don’t lock your doors and windows, not only do you risk losing some of things you treasure, but you’ll probably also invalidate the terms and conditions of your home insurance policy, and that could be doubly costly because you’ll face a double whammy. Locking your doors and windows is a simple task, it won’t cost you a penny, but at the end of the day it will probably save you plenty.
Make sure all exterior doors have deadbolt locks. Sliding doors should have vertical bolts and a metal or wooden rod in the track to prevent being forced open or doors being lifted off the track. Never leave your home without locking the front door, no matter how brief your trip. Even if it’s pouring with rain, don’t forget to take the extra moment to lock up. Burglars don’t take days off due to weather
15. Always change the locks when moving into a new home
Always change the locks when moving into a new house. If you’re in a rented property, ask the landlord to change them if they haven’t already done so. Even if an old tenant returned all the keys originally issued, there’s no way of knowing for sure if there weren’t other copies made and distributed. It’s better to be safe than sorry, especially when it comes to a stranger being able to walk into your locked home.
16. Key security
Don’t label your personal keys or hide spares outside. If your keys are labelled and get lost or stolen you could be in trouble, especially if your wallet with your ID and address are lost with them. Don’t hide keys under doormats or under rocks – real or fake – close to the entrance door. Thieves always search these places for spares. Only leave spare keys with a trusted neighbour, or if you live somewhere isolated put the spares in a combination lockbox hidden somewhere discreet within the boundary of your home.
17. Make a secure storage area within the home but out of sight
If you have to keep valuable possessions or documents on the premises, it’s probably worth investing in a safe, or a safe store. You can keep your treasures here, but make sure the safe store is well hidden. The point is to make a burglar’s life as difficult as possible, so don’t store your valuables in plain sight, even if they secured by lock and key. If your valuables are protected by a passcode or combination, only give share that information with a trusted loved one in case of emergencies. Don’t leave that information visible in your home so it is easily accessible to an intruder.
18. Re-enforce vulnerable glass
Add privacy film to decorative glass on and around exterior doors. Stained and decorative glass displays can be a beautiful addition to any entrance, but they can present a bit of a security issue, especially leaded lights as these can be easily forced apart. Line these windows with privacy film to distort the view from the outside and reduce the chances of window shopping or alerting an unwanted visitor to your presence – or lack of. This can be especially sound advice for anyone who lives alone or lives in a house with children old enough to be left on their own.
19. Window security
Reinforce windows with safety glass or metal bars. It may seem an extreme step, but burglars will often break a small window to gain entry. Make it impossible for them to break through by installing safety glass or tightly-spaced metal re-enforcing bars. Although this may seem extreme and perhaps not too aesthetically pleasing, there plenty of decorative options for metal grilles that can make the adjustment both practical and pleasing on the eye.
20. Hang something over the door that will make a noise when disturbed at night
No-one is overly keen on wind chimes, but they can serve a very useful purpose when it comes to home security. They’ll make a noise when disturbed and alert you to someone’s presence. The only thing you need to do is keep it out of direct winds, or you’ll be up and down all night unnecessarily.
21. Make forced entry as hard as possible for burglars
Burglars may prowl the streets at night looking for properties to steal from, but they’re essentially lazy. They’ll look for the easiest targets and will always take the path of least resistance. So, make their life more difficult. Re-enforce all entrance doors with additional locks. Fix window locks on all points of entry on all floors, and fix additional window stops, so that if they do manage to break the glass, (which they would prefer not to) the movement of the remaining window frame is severely restricted. You can even add safety glass film to windows for extra protection as long as it doesn’t look too bad or interfere with the aesthetics.
22. If you can afford it, but a home security system
If you have the cash to spare, you should definitely consider buying a home security system. There are countless security features with most security system, particularly valuable ones being outdoor motion detectors, sensors at exterior doors, windows, and the door attached to the garage, an outdoor alarm to alert other neighbours to an intrusion, and security cameras. Select the features that best fit your needs and be sure to go with a well-known, reputable company. Once it’s installed, make sure you get into the habit of using it regularly. It might feel inconvenient having to arm the system every time you leave the house, but burglars are aware that the responsibility is often neglected and may not be deterred by window stickers or yard signs warning of home protection.
23. If you can’t afford a home security system, install a dummy box
You may wonder what’s the point of having a dummy alarm box? Well, the simple answer is it’s a deterrent, albeit a hoax one. The same applies to security signage. A professional burglar might be able to spot a dummy a mile off, but a casual burglar isn’t quite as savvy. If they’re fooled into thinking your property is protected by a security system, they’ll probably think twice and move onto a property that clearly isn’t alarmed.
24. Get yourself a dog, or at least get a pretend one
If you see a ‘Beware of the dog’ sign on a property, it’s only natural that you’ll be wary when entering the house. Nobody wants to risk being attacked or mauled. Burglars are no different. If they see a sign, they don’t know it isn’t real. They’ve no idea whether you’ve got a Rottweiler or not, but maybe they’d think twice before taking the gamble. I would, so why should they be any different.
25. Keep a list of your valuables, serial numbers and photos of all that you hold dear and value and email it to yourself
It always pays to keep important information like this to hand, even if you aren’t burgled. Should the worst happen whilst you’re out of the property, at least you’ll have something definitive to show to the authorities. It will also help to speed up the insurance claim process if you can provide them with this important information.
26. If you must keep cash in the house, only keep small denominations
That advice is the same as you’ll often receive when you travel abroad. Only carry a few coins and notes and leave the rest of your money in the hotel. If you’re going to be mugged, don’t put up a fight, just let the thieves take the small amount of cash you’re carrying. It’s the safest option, and generally speaking they’ll be happy enough to take it as they assume that’s all you have.
The same logic applies to home burglaries. If you must keep cash in the home, just keep small denominations, and leave these in an obvious place. If you leave cash in a place where it can be easily found, burglars may think that’s all you have, and they won’t go searching further.
Protecting your home when you’re not there
27. Don’t leave the home looking empty
If you have to leave the house to go to work, or are going away on vacation, make sure you double – no – triple-check – all doors and windows before you leave. Make sure your house is as locked-up and secure as it can be in your absence., and don’t neglect the door leading to the garage. Be sure to leave some curtains and blinds open to give the illusion that someone is around. Thieves tend to take note of a house that’s clearly been closed up.
28. If you plan on being away from home for a while, have your mail redirected
Unopened post in letter boxes or lying on door mats offer the clearest indication that the occupier is absent. They’re a red rag, and just say to intruders, ‘come inside and help yourselves cos no-one’s home’. So, to avoid that happening, either get a friend or neighbour to call around regularly and collect the mail or get a temporary redirection from the postal service to a mailbox. You can then pick up your post on your return. If you’re taking an extended summer vacation, pay someone to cut your grass and keep the outside tidy so it likes someone’s in residence.
29. Make better use of timed lighting and TV/radio noise
Two of the clearest signals to a burglar that a house is empty are darkness and silence. Nobody stays at home in the dark. Nobody sits in the house in silence either. But if you’re not going to be at home what can you do? Well, if you’ve got money the answer’s simple: invest in smart technology so that lights are switched on and curtains/blinds drawn automatically. Sadly, most of us don’t have the funds to do that. So, what you can do instead is to make better use of timers. Programme your timers so that the lights come on when you’re not at home and do the same with the TV or radio. If you can afford it, invest in a 7-day timer, and vary the hours that both the lights and appliances are turned on. If the hours are the same every day, then anyone watching the house will soon twig that the property is unoccupied.
Lock your garage door and disconnect any automatic opener. This is an easy, but often forgotten step to keep your home safe whilst you’re away. Garage doors seem like impenetrable forces so it’s easy to forget to secure them. But if you’re going to be gone for a week and won’t need the automatic opener anyway, why not disconnect it?
31. Careless talk can cost, so don’t advertise your extended absence
The worst thing you can do is to openly brag about the expensive item you’ve just bought, or where you’ll be jetting off to soon, either in person or online. Somebody, somewhere, will pay attention to what you say, and that could potentially make you vulnerable. Seasoned burglars monitor Facebook and Instagram, and they keep their ears open in local stores. They listen for information about when someone is going on holiday and like to find out when, and for how long they’ll be away. So, keep your business to yourself and don’t bare your soul on social media channels. Careless talk could potentially cost you plenty.
The best advice for new homeowners and the best tip for preventing future burglaries is to stay alert and to stay safe. If you’re vigilant, take all the necessary precautions and keep your eyes and ears open, the chances of your home, or your neighbours’ home being burgled will be drastically reduced. When it comes to home security, deterring thieves is mission-critical. So be aware and be forewarned.