My front door has a mailbox slot which makes it really easy to operate the inside door handle from outside with a long object. One solution I'm considering would be a mailbox secured to the door over the mailbox slot. Another option I'm considering (possibly both) is always locking the door from the inside. However, for fire safety reasons I would need a thumbturn, which would lead to the same issues. Hence I was wondering if there is such a thing as a security thumbturn that's a bit harder to open with burglar's tools?

Of course everything can be opened with sufficiently advanced tools, but I was hoping there were thumbturns that were designed to at least be slightly trickier to open than the default design, e.g. by requiring some finger dexterity that burglar's tools are unlikely to have. Is there such a thing and does it have a generic name? "Security thumbturn" isn't giving me a lot of results.

  • 1
    "Childproof" tends to be a term to look for when trying to thwart basic grasping tools. Oct 5 at 12:40

You, without realizing it, kind of answered your own question about the "security thumbturn" not giving a lot of results, FIRE SAFETY. Any type of thumb turn that would be "tricky" to turn could be a real problem for children and elderly persons to operate in an emergency. We have fire inspectors routinely give home safety lectures and this is one subject that always comes up.

Your best bet would be to secure your mail box or disable it and install a mail box somewhere else. I'm actually surprised the Post Office hasn't approached you about this because they don't like to get out of their trucks now.

  • Not just children and the elderly, but fully capable adults in their mid-20s in full panic mode are often incapable of performing the most basic functions that even a low functioning adult would do without second thought when there's no pressure on.
    – FreeMan
    Oct 5 at 12:47
  • Perfect is the enemy of good. At this point, our door is often locked completely with no way to open it if you don't have a key with you. I'm looking for a solution that's reasonably secure against burglary and reasonably safe in case of fire. Not sure what the post office thing is supposed to mean. I obviously can't put a mailbox in the middle of the street where a postman could access it without leaving his car. I've also never seen a postman using a car in the first place. They usually ride a bicycle. Oct 5 at 13:21
  • In the US, big city mailmen may walk their rounds, but even in a city of 1 million, they'll drive. In my rural town of 750, we don't even get to have our mailbox in front of our house - they're in groups at the end of the road so the mailman drives up one road and delivers mail for everyone on the cross street. We have to walk to the end of the road to get the mail from the mailbox.
    – FreeMan
    Oct 5 at 13:30
  • @FrederikVds The post office thing was meant to say that in many areas they have required mail boxes to be relocated to front property lines so they don't have to walk so far or get to stay in their little trucks. Then you could disable your mail slot in the door and get a regular thumb turn for a lock.
    – JACK
    Oct 5 at 16:14

Rhetorical questions that bring amazement:

  1. Can an adult actually get his arm through the mail slot up to the elbow to reach the doorknob without getting his arm stuck? If so, that's a massive fail in the mail slot design and someone should have his knuckles smacked with a ruler for that!

  2. Did someone actually install (or was it purchased that way) the mail slot that close to the doorknob? If so, that's a massive fail in the mail slot installation and someone should have his knuckles smacked with a ruler for that!

Suggested Answer:

  1. Have you considered a simple guard installed above the slot to, effectively, make the door "thicker" in that spot, requiring more arm through the slot before the elbow can bend upward to reach for the handle? It might look something like this lovely bit of ASCII art. (Looking at the narrow edge of the door)
Inside         Outside

      |   |    This is the door
   ---|---|    This is the top of the slot with a guard above it
      |   |    This is the slot
      |---|    This is the bottom of the slot
      |   |    The rest of the door

Make the guard bit (--- in the drawing), extend toward the inside as much as necessary. A would-be thief would have to get his arm far enough through the slot to get his elbow past the inside edge of the guard before bending it up to reach for the doorknob. This means that the bicep/upper arm has to fit through the mail slot. Most adults, with arms long enough to reach from the mail slot to the knob, would have arms too big to fit that far through the slot.

Of course, you could hang a basket for the mail from the guard so that the mail moves with the door, or even a full-on mail box there, too. Do remember, the basket/box needs to be tall enough that someone can't reach through the slot to steal the mail - that'd be almost as bad! (And is probably why mail is simply allowed to fall to the floor).

Alternate suggested answer:

In response to the desire to make it difficult to turn the deadbolt (thumb turn) with a coat hanger or other object stuck through the mail slot, I'd suggest a "child safety door knob cover" that would be placed over the thumb turn. Something along the lines of this item (image sourced from Amazon)

Child safety door knob cover

While ugly, any such cover, would, if sized correctly make it nearly impossible to operate the latch with a simple tool being wielded blindly through the mail slot, yet allow for easy operation of the deadbolt by nearly anyone (except, of course, for a small child, against whom it's designed to protect in the first place) if/when it comes time for an emergency egress.

These are usually soft rubber that are easily squeezed to enable anyone from the age of 6 (or so) on up to grab, squeeze, and turn the knob underneath, while preventing simple operation by something unable to provide the necessary leverage to do the squeezing.

  • 1) An adult couldn't fit through the slot, a child could maybe do it. But that's irrelevant as you can open the door with a simple coat hanger. 2) The mail slot is that close to the door knob yes. I have no idea who installed it that way. Oct 5 at 13:24
  • The mail slot is to the side of the handle, not below the handle. But yes, I have considered installing a guard, but decided against it because it would be ugly. Oct 5 at 13:25
  • And that, @FrederikVds is the failing with lever-style handles. (Yes, I understand they have other advantages.)
    – FreeMan
    Oct 5 at 13:26
  • The handle is basically irrelevant, it only operates one tiny latch bolt which is way too easy to shim anyway. The only way to engage the dead bolts is with the lock itself. That's why I want a thumbturn to operate those from the inside to make the door easy to lock properly and not as trivial to open through the mailbox slot as the handle. Oct 5 at 13:30
  • 1
    Note update, @FrederikVds
    – FreeMan
    Oct 5 at 13:38

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.