# Why is a steel security door safe if they can break the glass, slide their hand in, and unlock the door?

OK I had a hard time thinking of a good title but here's the gist of the problem/concern I have which I can't find an answer to anywhere online. Please note that this is a very specific but common circumstance so please read every detail of the post.

Many front doors have glass. That glass can be knocked in or shattered. From there the burglar can either squeeze through the hole where the glass once was, if it's a large enough hole, or the burglar can slide his or her hand in and unlock the door giving them access to the house. I am affected by this scenario because I have a wooden door with a large glass oval in the center and I don't feel safe with it.

I've been looking at steel door cages and steel window cages (since I don't technically need to cage the entire door I just need to cage the window part of the door). You can find examples here, http://www.homedepot.com/b/Doors-Windows-Doors-Security-Doors/N-5yc1vZaqqe.

The Problem:

Now yes, these steel cages will prevent the burglar from knocking out the glass and squeezing through the hole but it will still not prevent the burglar from knocking out the glass and sliding his or her hand through one of the gaps in the steel cage and unlocking the door. I can't imagine that I'm the first one to think of that flaw so what is the answer to that problem? Ultimately I'm looking for any suggestions someone may have. I understand that I could just buy a new door without any glass but that's my last resort because I love the look of having glass and I like the fact that it brings in more sun light. I also understand that I could get a mesh design steel cage but I honestly think that would look horrible and it would not match the neighborhood I live in. I'm actually in a very nice neighborhood and the house is pretty nice so I probably have no reason to be this secure but I feel like you can never be too safe.

Thanks to Bib's answer below I just purchased two of these Schlage B62621 Distressed Nickel B-Series Double Cylinder Grade 1 Deadbolt from the B-Series B62 from Amazon, http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B004L1UD4M?psc=1&redirect=true&ref_=od_aui_detailpages00. I like this solution because it's simple and all I have to do is replace the existing Deadlock Bolt. I am a bit concerned about fire safety e.g., if there is a fire and I cannot find the key I will have to jump out the window from the second floor. I decided however that I can screw in a 12 inch chain to the wall and pin the other end to the key. This will ensure that the key is always present but that it's far enough away so that even if the glass is busted in the intruder will not be able to reach it.

I'm still open to other solutions and I think more solutions will benefit the community so please share!

• As long as you're being paranoid, all an intruder needs a is a metal coat hanger to fish your key chain into his grasp. – Dan Is Fiddling By Firelight Jan 18 '16 at 15:16
• Terrible idea, send them back. It's a fire hazard, keep in mind in an emergency the power may be out, and you're fumbling for that key in the pitch black. Also, think how a houseguest will feel when you lock...them...in... – Harper - Reinstate Monica Jan 18 '16 at 19:36
• The security grid over my back door's window would not let anyone reach through; they do exist if that's what you want. – keshlam Jan 18 '16 at 20:16
• You guys thanks for your concern. My garage door does not have a window so I will be putting my existing deadbolt lock on that door and then installing the two new double cylinder deadbolt locks on my front and back door. I still have to figure out what to do with my sliding glass door though...but the point is if there is a fire I can use the garage door or the sliding glass door. Heck I'll even dive out the window. But you are right about making my guests feel uncomfortable. I just won't use it when guests are here. – Kyle Bridenstine Jan 18 '16 at 20:37
• Remember that while burglars can smash the glass on your front door, they likely won't. For starters, it makes a lot of noise. And why go through the trouble of making all that noise at the front of your house near the street? If they're willing to make that kind of noise, they'll try a more inconspicuous entry point. – DA01 Jan 20 '16 at 7:45

You could consider attaching a thick acrylic or other plastic panel that covers the interior of the glass and is firmly screwed to the door. The edges can then be covered with molding.

Such plastics are shatter resistant. While they can be broken, they will not yield to the tools of most casual home intruders (unless they carry sledge hammers or blow torches).

No entry is totally burglarproof, but this would substantially reduce the risk (although many would consider it overkill).

An alternative is the use of double cylinder deadbolt. This replaces the interior deadbolt thumb turn with a keyed cylinder.

While this increases security, it poses a significant risk in case of emergency such as fire. If the key is removed from the interior cylinder, the occupants cannot get out of the house through that exit quickly. Some people using double cylinders leave the key in the cylinder when at home and remove it when they are away. Some also hang a key near the lock, but out of reach of the door window.

 Images and links are illustrative only, not an endorsement of goods or sources.

• A burglar won't realize this lock is a double-cylinder until they've already broken the window and reached in. At this point, they've already committed a felony, so there's a good chance that they're just going to continue trying. The point is: if you are looking for deterrence, this isn't it. If you are looking for actual safety, this is one step of many that you'd have to take to actually seriously harden your house. – gregmac Jan 18 '16 at 1:17
• @gregmac True, but much crime is opportunistic. Once it becomes hard, the thief often moves on to the next house hoping it will be easier. Further, any delay or impediment to the intruder gives the home owner or attentive neighbors more time to notice the intrusion and seek police help. – bib Jan 18 '16 at 1:25
• I can't believe double cylinder deadbolts are legal on egress doors. – Tester101 Jan 18 '16 at 15:41
• @Tester101 There is a serious risk and some inspectors might object. But most such locks are installed long after an inspection is done. Having a key in the lock (good) or very handy (much riskier) when folks are home is essential. – bib Jan 18 '16 at 16:13
• After hitting the door, why would I bother if it didn't budge? I'd just find a window. In my mind this increment in security comes at a high cost in fire safety. Acrylic over the window is good, A keyed deadbolt is not. Even Acrylic can be popped out with enough force, but again, in most homes the windows are the weaknesses, not the doors. – Edwin Buck Jan 18 '16 at 18:55

You could just chill out. Putting up bars or plastic on that door is truly ghetto.

Doors like this are not inherently unsafe at all. Your door is appropriate for your neighborhood. Your door would be unsafe or inappropriate for a bad neighborhood or an apartment building. Having this glass probably does not effect your chances of burglary by .0000000001%. Having a fake security sign in your front yard would probably be a better deterant by 1000000 times vs bars over the glass.

The fact is glass next to a door is hardly ever the easiest and most elusive way for a burglar to open a door. If you are in a nice neighborhood breaking into a house the last thing you want to do is break glass as that screams call the cops on me. For your door I would simply kick it in if I were not going in a window or something like that. Even with a decent deadbolt (less than 2 inches) it would be faster to kick in the door vs break glass as I can shut door after kicking it in and it looks "normal" vs what the hell is on the other side of the glass.

The point is spend your time on something else. You can get really good deadbolts, plastic your windows, stuff like that but that doesn't deter. A little 6" security sign, motion activated spot lights, getting rid of bushes and limbs that hide your house, not throwing away boxes for flat screen TVs at the curb, watching who you let in your house, not leaving a spare key in your yard, and so on are far more important than your door issue. You aren't the first person to think of this, it just isn't that important compared to everything else.

• That was motivating :( but good points. I guess another concern is not letting cops bust my door or if we have a zombie apocalypse I could be safe in my home :) – Kyle Bridenstine Jan 18 '16 at 18:06
• You will not stop cops from busting down your door if they wanna get in your house. I'll ask again: what is your actual concern? – iLikeDirt Jan 18 '16 at 20:10
• @Mr. Tea the zombies might smash the window but they won't figure out how to turn the lock, so no worries about them. – Grant Jan 18 '16 at 23:13
• If all else fails, the cops will just drive their MRAP through your wall. Maybe spend the money on cameras with automatic upload? – DocSalvager Feb 9 '16 at 6:37

Nearly any door can be broken with minimal effort. The vulnerabilities are numerous. You are correct in identifying glass as one of them, but even with no glass, kicking in the door at the lock is another easy method unless the strike plate has been replaced with a special thick steel high-security model. Hinges can be another vulnerability if they're only screwed into the jamb, not all the way into the studs. Locked doors are mostly to keep honest people honest, and a heavily reinforced high security door will simply be ignored in favor of the next weakest method of entry for a home invader.

What problem are you looking to solve? Making your front door "secure enough" may be sufficient.

• I spent the day today replacing every screw in the door and locks with three inch steel screws. I then reinforced the door frame with the same screws. I got that advice from a police officer. So the window is the next step. – Kyle Bridenstine Jan 18 '16 at 0:04
• @Mr.Tea - What makes this window different from any other window in the house? Breaking glass is about as subtle as kicking in the door. I don't break into houses, but making a noise that everyone on the block can hear (shattering glass) isn't the way I'd go about it if I did... – Comintern Jan 18 '16 at 0:13
• That's a good point but my house surprisingly doesn't have a single window that you can get to without a ladder. It has a concrete brick foundation that rises up about ten ft. So think of the downstairs as a basement that's on ground level if that makes sense. So they would need to be standing on a ladder to break into the house through the windows. I'll take that chance. And as for the noise, my neighbor is a church and there aren't people there and night. I'm also the only person inside the house. Please don't criticize the intention I'm looking for a solution. – Kyle Bridenstine Jan 18 '16 at 1:01
• @Comintern A few years ago, I lived in good residential neighborhood and had sidelight panels next to my front door. At midday, a thief broke the side panel, reached in to open the lock and entered. He fled when my alarm went off. The police said this was very common and recommended a double cylinder lock. – bib Jan 18 '16 at 16:11
• @Mr.Tea If it is true that you have no ground level windows, and this door is one of the ground level exit points, deeply consider what you would do during a fire if the key broke off in the cylinder. As long as there is a viable plan, there won't be a tragedy. – Edwin Buck Jan 18 '16 at 19:43

Lots of over-thinking for your solution.

Glass: Talk to your local window retailer about installing a shatter-resistant film on the glass. 3M and BurglarGARD films can prevent an intruder from breaking out the glass easily. Proper installation is a must. It's not as easy as adding window tint film. And an FYI: modern tempered glass for residential windows doesn't make the classic "breaking glass" noise. It breaks like autoglass into small pieces. You don't get the ringing sound of plain glass breaking.

Very good on adding longer screws to your doors. These need to be in the hinges as well as the strike plates on the jamb. Better is to install the steel reinforcing kits for the door jamb. When you do that, also add a brass shield around the door knob's bolt and deadbolt if you can. The weakest portion of the door is where the bolt protrudes into the jamb. At that point your security rests on about 1/4-3/8" thick bit of wood covering the bolt of the lock. The brass shields prevent this part of the door from breaking away and letting the door open. Kicking the front door is the most common form of entry in many places and these steps will make it much harder (and noisier) to kick it in. If you have a back door with a window or sliding glass doors in the back of the house, the shatter resistant film is highly recommended there too.

According to the above mentioned IRC(Emphasis mine):

R310.1.4 Operational constraints:

Emergency escape and rescue openings shall be operational from the inside of the room without the use of keys, tools or special knowledge.

Source

But who even listens to these codes, anyway?

They exist as a minimum safety standard to keep you, your family, your dog, your goldfish, and everyone else you care about alive and intact.

but the point is if there is a fire I can use the garage door...

Unless the fire starts in the garage. This is especially problematic if you store fuels in your garage, like Gasoline, Butane, Paint thinners, Linseed oil, Turpentine, and so on.

What I'm saying is, relying on being able to get out of your house in the event of a fire through the garage is a dangerous assumption.

Heck I'll even dive out the window.

After doing some reading here, as well as elsewhere online, it would seem as if it's not so much a question of "how high", as it is "how hard of a surface are you landing on", "what position you are in at the moment of impact", as well as other factors that can't be determined beforehand. In a nutshell, a very risky move.

Although it's anecdotal, I feel compelled to share; I've jumped from heights close to seven feet and emerged unscathed, while my brother stepped off the sidewalk (less than 6 inches) and broke a bone in his foot. Jumping out a window that's at least ten feet above the ground could leave you unscathed, stuck in a wheelchair for the rest of your life, or anywhere in between.

As far as your safety is concerned, be it burglars or a house fire, I would seriously not recommend the double-cylinder deadbolt. Perhaps instead, a floor deadbolt?

Image source

Online images suggest that there are some floor bolts available with cotter pins in them, to prevent the bolts from being lifted by a crafty thief armed with a grabby-claw-on-a-stick.

Image source, in case you just can't live without one of these.

• Very funny post :D but what if I just get an emergency foldable window ladder :p And I also plan on keeping the key on a key chain near the door that will hang down the wall. – Kyle Bridenstine Feb 7 '16 at 19:35
• Still would be in violation of R310.1.4 as I mentioned above. It's a tradeoff between secuity and safety. You will have to make the call as to which you value more. – Gabe Evans Feb 8 '16 at 0:24

Polycarbonate is used for bulletproof glass in passenger trains. You don't have to worry about cinder blocks coming at you at 125 mph, so you don't need it 7/16” thick. Does the door have a normal glass panel in addition to the stained glass? If so, replace with polycarbonate. If not, alter the window molding to fit it. Nobody but you will even know it's been done. If you want a thicker panel than the door can handle, you can use a router to mill the edges down - that's what railroads do for retrofits.

• I'll babe to look more into that but thanks for the additional option! – Kyle Bridenstine Jan 18 '16 at 20:39

There is shatterproof film for glass, 3m makes one that increased break in time on a sliding door from 10 sec to 160sec.

You can also purchase ez armor for doors. Several commented on kicking a door in. Your deadbolt is only contacting thin wood. You can attach a steel strip the length of the 2x4s making up your door frame. Use 3 inch screws. Noe, instead of half or 1/4 inch thick wood to kick theu, they have a steel strip anchored by 6 feet of door frame.

The glass oval insert on my front door is large. Breaking the glass would allow a person to just enter and exit through the oval. A double deadbolt useless in that scenario. I considered the Armor Door reinforcement on jamb, hinges and around knob. But if kick breaks glass insert, all that armor useless.

My concern is not a burglar breaking glass oval door insert. It is a home invasion by thay means while I am home.

My backdoor has glass panes about 6" square. Breaking one pane by knob allows a hand to unlock deadbolt. But I am not willing to risk being unable to exit in case of fire with double cylinder deadbolt.

And those who keep key on inside of deadbolt while home allows easy entrance for home invaders after breaking glass and reaching in to turn key. Not what you want to happen while sleeping.

BTW. International building code doesn't say the egress in case of fire must be a door. Windows that open for exit fulfill that requirement.

My solution will be glass-breaking sensor on glass insert and windows with DIY wireless home security system. And sensors to detect opening of a door or window.

If your concern is so great that you consider bars over glass insert, you probably need to buy new door without glass inserts or door with small 6" diameter inserts at top panels of the door to allow some sunlight in. Or just add security door with iron bars in front of your fancy oval glass insert door. (your neighbors won't like it).

Burglars don't usually enter home at front door where easily seen from street. They prefer a door or window out of sight of the street like backyard or side of house camouflaged by bush/tree.

• If you're concerned about a home invasion while you are home, you should get a firearm and practice using it at a range until you're comfortable keeping a round in the chamber and a full magazine at all times. It's safe to assume someone breaking in while you're home is going to hurt you unless you stop them first. Learn your local laws. In most states it is legal and lawful to stop an intruder with your firearm the first moment it is clear they are attempting unauthorized entry into your home. In some states the police aren't even allowed to interrogate the homeowner afterwards. – Billy C. Oct 8 '17 at 6:06

I know it's been a while since someone has posted in here, but my husband and I have a semi-simple solution that I don't believe was mentioned (although, I did not read every post in detail).

We live in Washington, DC and it is common practice to have an exterior security door with your standard wooden door. Ours wooden door is very similar to yours, but as far as the security door goes, ours has no glass. My husband thought about it and paid a welder to actually weld a steel cylinder over the dead bolt lock (the kind with the switch on it, not the fire hazard kind) on the inside of the security door, which butts all the way up against the wooden door. That way, the intruder can reach in between the metal bars, reach for the dead bolt lock, but find that it is not accessible because it is completely covered up and welded shut. Problem solved!

• I'd love to see a picture of this – Machavity Sep 1 '17 at 12:12

I have the same door and same concern. I use door armor with the night lock kick plate. Intruders can unlock the door but not reach down to remove the plate. All doors are are blocked in this manner when we are home. One is left unblocked but locked and deadbolted when we are not. A good alarm will determine most intruders or at least make it easier to articulate why you felt threatened and put two rounds center mass. If you aren't home, your home owners insurance will cover it provided you have kept appropriate records. Take sensible precautions but don't stress over it. Just my two cents. Good luck.