Cheap Home Security Tricks


In the comfort of your own home, it's easy to avoid thinking about how comfortable a burglar could get while you're away or even fast asleep. According to the FBI, the number of home burglaries ticked down a bit last year, but they're still frequent enough that the Bureau's one-burglary-every-15-seconds estimate holds. That means every home is at risk, especially those offering easy entry to crooks through the neglected details that lead to big losses.

If installing a top-of-the-line security system is beyond your budget, fear not -- there's a lot you can do on the cheap to keep your family and property secure:

Light It Up

- A well-lit home is much less likely to be broken into, so make sure the exterior of yours is fully illuminated with motion-detector spotlights and other strategic fixtures.

-When you're away, use timers on interior lights to give the impression of home life as usual. Manual and digital timers can be found at your local hardware store or home center for a few dollars a pop.

Keep the Landscape in Shape

- Tall trees can be accessories to crime when dense branches come close to your home and create pockets of darkness where burglars can hide. Keep trees well-trimmed to avoid giving thugs a place to hide.

- Dense shrubs can also create a hideout, so keep hedges low and plantings near doors and windows nice, neat and transparent.

Door Stops

- A door with just a handle lock is an easy mark for a crook armed with finesse and a plastic credit card, so add a good-quality deadbolt at each entry. The best require a key on the outside and incorporate a thumb latch on the inside. Further strengthen every installation by substituting long, heavy-duty screws for those provided by the manufacturer.

- No matter which lock you choose, it's only as strong as the door itself which is generally weakest around the lock. To make doors more secure, add a decorative door reinforcement plate (about $10) to make this zone more secure.

- Secure your patio door by adding a patio bar, which can stop the inside door from sliding open or being pried off if the lock is broken. A sturdy piece of wood strategically placed in the open track can also improve door security.

- When leaving home for day trips or longer, keep your garage closed to intruders by inserting a large stove bolt through one of the side track holes to prevent doors from being slid open.

- Install a wide-angle (200-degree) peep hole in your front door so that you can easily see who's come knocking.

Secure Your Keys

- Never hide spare keys in "secret" places outside your home, because smart snoops know which flowerpots to look under.

- Be smart about issuing spare keys. Even though you may be careful about who they're issued to, you can't control the paths they may cross or situations in which your key may be exposed to duplication.

Weak Windows

- Windows can be the weakest link in home security, especially if left open and unattended. Make sure all units are closed and locked before you leave home for even the shortest errand, and add window dressings and shades to discourage prying eyes.

- Modern windows include sash locks, but you can improve security by drilling a hole from front to back where the top and bottom windows overlap and installing a long nail in the hole. If the integrated window lock breaks, the nail will stop the window from sliding open. Security bars on ground-level windows are also an option, but make sure they're fitted with quick-release mechanisms that allow them to be opened from the inside in an emergency.

Self-Service Security Systems

- Low-cost, high-technology systems incorporating infrared motion detection, remote controls and easy-to-install door and window sensors are available for application in apartments and small homes. If you have pets, you can prevent false alarms by looking for systems that incorporate 'pet alley' settings that keep detection just above their usual paths. For more security with doors and windows, purchase individual alarms to supplement existing security measures.

Make a Thorough Inventory

- Perhaps the most important security measure of all is to document your home's contents, particularly the valuables. Get out the video camera and take a thorough tour of your home, then deliver a copy of the resulting tape and any other helpful documentation to your safe deposit box.

Note: Tom Kraeutler is the Home Improvement Editor for AOL and host of The Money Pit, a nationally syndicated home improvement radio program. To find a local radio station, download the show's podcast or sign-up for Tom's free weekly e-newsletter, visit the program's website.

AOL RealEstate on Facebook