A deadbolt lock gives a door good security because of how far it extends into the doorjamb.

A deadbolt lock gives a door good security because of how far it extends into the doorjamb.

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Shore up the first line of defense for a home — the front door

By: Kristyne E. Demske | C&G Newspapers | Published October 31, 2018

 Check the screws used to attach the door’s strike plate. They should be at least 3 inches in length to help guard against someone kicking in the door.

Check the screws used to attach the door’s strike plate. They should be at least 3 inches in length to help guard against someone kicking in the door.

Shutterstock image

METRO DETROIT — The front door is the first line of defense for a home, so how well a lock is installed and what other security features are in place can make the difference between a burglar getting into a home and staying out.

“Safety is everything. The lock you turn (on the doorknob) ... is nothing,” said Mike Morisette, of Michigan Living Home Improvement in Shelby Township.

What’s more important for keeping a front door secure is the deadbolt, because the bolt goes so much farther into the door frame. He said the screws keeping the strike plate on the doorjamb in place are also important for the security of the door.

Morisette recommends using screws at least 3 inches long to hold the plate in place because otherwise, he said, a burglar can just use a well-placed kick to knock in the door.

Checking the security of the front door can be as easy as unscrewing one of the screws to check its length, he said.

In addition, newer doors can be purchased with steel plates behind the jamb that the door fits into, making it less likely that someone can kick in the door, Morisette said at a presentation about front door safety held by the Macomb County Board of Commissioners at the Fraser Public Library Oct. 22.

To protect a home with a sliding glass door, Morisette said the best protection is a stick that will prevent someone from forcing open the door from the outside.

It’s also important to know who is at the door, on the porch or in the yard, even when a resident is not at home. Morisette said that doorbell cameras are a great new technology that can be inexpensive to install.

Paul Bukowski, of the Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office, said that although many scams occur over the phone these days, plenty of scams still start at the front door.

At the front door safety presentation, Bukowski said that as the population is aging, it is becoming more vulnerable to becoming a target for scam artists.

He stressed that it is important to never open the door for a stranger, as they could either talk their way into the home or enter it by force. Morisette said that having a camera on the doorbell can make it easier to know who is on the porch without opening a door or window.

“You are watching and hearing the person on your front porch. It’s as close to a policeman on the front porch, 24/7, as you’re going to get,” Morisette said.

With a camera lens in the actual doorbell, the cameras can start as low as $100-$200, he said, with the cheaper cameras letting the resident see just what is on the porch. More expensive models have a wider-angle lens that will also record what is in the front yard, as well as floodlights that will turn on when motion is activated to record video at all times of day or night, as well as the option for the homeowner to be able to speak through their phone or computer to the person on their porch.

Even the most secure door can still let in the cold drafting air of winter, though.

Morisette said to discover where cold air is drafting in, take a lighter or a lit match and hold it all around the door. Where the flame goes out is likely where a draft is located. Another way to check for drafts is to close a door or window on a sheet of paper. If the paper can be easily pulled back out of the shut window or door, there is likely energy loss or a draft.

Once a homeowner locates drafts around the door, there are a few options for keeping them out. Sweeps can be installed on the bottom of an outside door to stop air from getting in underneath the door, Morisette said.

Around the other three edges, weatherstripping will seal any gaps between the door and the jamb. There are many different options for weatherstripping, varying in cost and difficulty of installation, from self-sticking plastic vinyl or felt, which are relatively inexpensive and easy to install, to magnetic strips or reinforced silicone, which are more effective but more expensive and difficult to install.

To prevent air from leaking in around the casing, use caulk to seal the edges of window and door frames, both inside and outside the home. It forms a flexible seal for cracks and gaps less than a quarter-inch wide.

For more tips, visit www.energy.gov/energysaver/weatherize.