How to Secure Your Home Windows Against Break-ins
Adequate home security involves more than just your doors. While most break-ins occur through front, back, and garage entry ways, nearly a quarter of break-ins occur through windows. Most window lock systems, especially on older homes, were designed to protect against the elements of the outdoors–not an intruder–so improving the security of your windows is important.
Despite the very basic fact that windows are made of glass (which can be broken), there are a number of ways to increase the security of your windows to deter would-be thieves from gaining entry.
There are 3 Ways to Improve Window Security:
- Installing Window Film on all ground-level window – especially windows within doors
- Installing pin locks on both sides of the window for slider or slash windows OR installing window folding latch locks on both sides of the window on casement or awning windows
- Installing motion sensing, solar outdoor lighting to light windows
Do them all, or just the ones within our budget.
Let’s discuss all of the options you have to protect your home against a window-based invasion.
How do Burglars Break in through Windows?
There are two techniques burglars use to break into a home window: breaking the window or sliding the window open in order to crawl through. Each of these methods has a specific and unique way to address and protect the window. You can also make your home less attractive to a would-be burglar as a deterrent.
There are four main concerns with window security. They are:
- How to stop windows from breaking – preventing window break-ins. The primary way to stop windows from breaking is the use of window film, but there are other options to protect the window glass.
- How to secure a window frame – secure the sliding window from opening. Securing windows with locking devices to prevent them from opening
- Stopping access through windows by limiting the area – preventing someone from crawling in through the window. Prevent access through windows using bars, grills, or grates.
- Adding visual deterrents to stop burglars from targeting your home. How to make your home less attractive to a would-be thief.
Understanding Window Styles
There are several different types of windows you will find in a typical home, each has its own concerns when it comes to securing them. We will refer to these styles throughout this article on window security. Briefly, you have:
Casement Windows: those which have hinges on the sides. They usually have a crank that turns to open or close the windows.
Awning Windows: Similar to casements, except the hinges are on the top of the window. These are common for basement windows and bathrooms, but have fallen out of favor.
Slider Windows: are windows encased in their own frame. They slide open horizontally left or right on tracks within a bigger frame that holds them in place. Often there is a ‘static’ window which doesn’t move. Many homes have glass patio doors, which in essence can be considered a very large slider window.
How To Stop Windows from Breaking? Use Window Security Film
Security film for windows is a relatively new option that can greatly enhance your home window security. When standard glass breaks, it usually does so in long, sharp shards, but a talented thief can break a window with minimal noise created in just a portion of the glass to gain access inside.
Security film, though, adheres to the glass throughout the entire glass surface. The glass can still break, but the film makes it MUCH harder to break which requires considerable force and noise. Once broken, the glass does not separate from the window and a burglar still cannot gain access to the home through the window.
Window film acts to prevent window glass from shattering. Damage is limited to a smaller area, which means to do further damage, more force is needed. More force equates to more noise, more time, and more difficulty gaining access—all of which adds up to increased security for your home.
Window film also helps with other things. If a storm caused something to break a window, the sharp glass will not be all over the floor, it will be adhered to the film. In an earthquake, window security film will keep the glass shards from falling. These films can literally slow the speed of a bullet coming through the window (while also keeping the entire window from shattering), which means the bullet becomes a less effective projectile. These additional safety factors make window security film one of the best options to stopping a burglary by breaking a window.
Window security films come in a wide range of options, such as thermal insulators, tints, UV blocks, and specialty application products, and costs vary dramatically between the many products offered. We like the BDF product found on Amazon.
The BDF product can be installed by a home owner with just a little bit of patience and practice. Follow instructions carefully and take the time to do it well. If you are more comfortable you can hire your local locksmith or window contractor.
Locksmith Tip: Start installing security window film with the smallest and least-seen windows, follow instruction guides carefully, and take the time to do it as well as possible.
Some products, such as those by 3M, are not generally available online and require professional installation.
How to Prevent a Window from Being Slid Open– Window Security Locks
If a thief can gain access by jimmying or prying open a window, the film won’t stop them from getting in through a window. Most ‘factory’ locking systems are not designed against theft, but rather to protect against the weather.
There are many after market security lock that can help keep a window from being opened by a burglar.
The Window Security Rod
A window security rod (or bar) is a product designed to keep a window from being slid open. It is for sliding windows and sash windows. These rods (available on Amazon) extend the length of an unopened window and prevent the window physically from opening.
One downside to these bars is that they prevent a window from sliding open, but they may not prevent a window from being lifted out of its tracks. This may be a concern for older windows and Arcadia doors.
Inspect your windows to see if it can be lifted out of the frame while in the closed position. If so, that issue must be addressed.
Locksmith Tip: Some windows are designed to only be removed from an open or semi-open position; if yours has this feature, the rod is going to work great.
Sliding Window Clamps
A sliding window clamp lock is a simple device that clamps onto the edge of a sliding window’s track, preventing the window from opening. These are very affordable (see on Amazon), and they make higher quality ones that will work well with vinyl and wood windows without marring them as the less expensive kinds may do.
Locksmith Tip: Secure these tight. When they are not tight enough, someone can slide the window forcefully into them a few times to move them and the window will then be open.
As with window rods, these often do nothing to prevent a sliding window from being lifted out of its frame. This usually will not be an issue with sash windows, for which these simple devices are ideal, as a sash window cannot be removed without the windows being positioned for it.
With the pin inserted, the windows cannot move. These locks offer the additional advantage that the window cannot be lifted out of the window frame.
Additionally, extra holes can be drilled to allow the window to be ‘locked’ in a somewhat ‘open’ position while still securing the door. So sometimes these are called ‘ventilation locking pins’. You simple move the pin to the hole you want to use to secure the window.
Locksmith Tip: Drill the holes at a light downward angle. This will ensure that the pins cannot jiggle out of the window frame/sill.
Another type of pin lock secures to the frame of the window with screws. They operate the same as the basic pin type but because they are secured by screws to the window they are a bit more secure.
Hinged wedge locks can be surface mounted or mortised into a track, and work by having a ‘stop’ lifted up to prevent movement, or recessed back down to allow the window to open. These can work well with many sash window styles, and some sliders.
The most common type stick within the track of the window and are meant to be semi-permanent (not removed at will so the window can open). Check them out on Amazon here. The main benefit is that these are very easy installed without any tools.
If your main concern is child safety, i.e. preventing windows from being opened by little ones unbeknownst to you, with security being secondary, these are a good option.
Casement Window Locks And Latches
These window locks are designed for casement and awning windows. These are usually in two parts, a ‘receiver’ that mounts to the frame, and a latch mounted to the window that fits into it. They come in hundreds of styles and can be installed in some slider and sash style windows as well, suitable for most applications. Additionally, more than one can be mounted on a window for added security. Some specialty casement locks work well for slider (arcadia and patio) doors.
You can view several popular options for casement window locks on Amazon.
Used to secure casement and awning style windows. These mount to a window frame and fold over a mounted receiver when the window is closed. These can also be used multiple times on a window for added security.
A Word About Keyed Window Locks
Many of the lock types described above have styles that are operated with keys. Sometimes keyed security is the only way to go (as anyone who has experience with a 3-year old is aware). But keep in mind, keyed security can also work against one’s self.
In case of emergency, those keys may need to be readily available to exit a window in an emergency. Everyone who has access to the home (other than perhaps the 3-year old) needs to know where those keys are, if needed. Copies of these keys need to be safely kept in multiple is locations where anyone who may need them can access them from any room which has them installed. It ALWAYS important to balance security with safety in your home.
Window Bars and Grilles to Protect from Theft
You can install metal security bars on the exterior or interior of your home’s windows. These can be made to fit any style home, and come in many designs or you can customize. Economically, you can also get very basic bars that will suffice to prevent entry through a window, which are available in standard sizes, many of which can be adjusted to fit.
This is one of the best ways to prevent a window intrusion but they come with several disadvantages.
- They are unsightly. This can be a good thing though. If you are in a high crime area, they will be noticed by anything thinking of a window break in.
- Some will prevent emergency egress out of the window. What can keep a thief out can also keep someone in. Certainly, this is desirable in some situations (a home with kids in a multi-story building for example). Where it is not, such as in case of fire, many companies produce security grates and bars that have mechanisms to allow for their release from the inside. If you are looking into getting these for your home, you will want to consult your local building authority as these types of releasable features may be required by building code.
- Cost. They can be expensive and will most-likely need to be professionally installed.
Glass Substitutes for Window Security
There are a number of materials that can be substituted for standard glass in windows. Options include annealed glass (this is basically glass sandwiched with a plastic film inside, a more robust version than the films discussed above), tempered glass (even stronger, by several times, than annealed), plexiglass and polycarbonates.
The costs vary on these materials, and the process of replacing your home windows is not one for the do-it-yourself type person. But the options are there; contact your local glass and window companies to learn more about them if interested.
Products that Visually Deter Burglars from breaking in through a Window
If you don’t have an installed alarm system, these are an affordable alarm deterrent to prevent burglars from entering a window. When a window is jarred or broken, the vibration of the action will sound an audible alarm.
It’s the only product in this article that will sound when the window is broken. I had these installed in my last home. They are battery run, so I only enabled them when I left town and I got good battery life from them. The ones I bought on Amazon are here.
Place Outdoor Motion-Activated Lighting Around Windows
Do-it-yourself outdoor lighting kits are available that can make this an easy home project at a reasonable cost. With LEDs, many solar options are available with good lighting (Price on Amazon). Motion sensors will trigger the lights should someone arrive onsite.
An electrician can help for more robust installations.
Place Home Security Cameras Around the Home
Even better, home security camera systems are available at a fraction of the costs of just a few years ago. The advent of phone application technology brought about a revolution in camera security, allowing a home owner to install high-quality cameras that can be viewed from your own phone any time and anywhere.
Affordable, camera-only systems can be found on Amazon.
ACME Locksmith has also evaluated The Best DIY Home Security Systems. You can read our blog to see the one we recommend. These systems will alert you if someone is in your home and allow you to see a live camera feed of the inside of the home.
Create a Clear Line of Sight Around Windows and Plant Thorns
Keep plants and bushes around windows trim to eliminate blocked views. Below your windows, you might also plant bushes that have a lot of thorns, and keep them trimmed. Thorns can be a great deterrent; especially in today’s world, where a drop of blood can provide DNA evidence that no criminal would want to leave.
The goal is to make your home less appealing than the homes around it, and any combination of some or all of these things can work toward that objective. Roses, cacti, bougainvillea, and firethorns are some good examples.
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