At risk. How do I prevent my door from being kicked down during the day?
July 28, 2013 2:20 AM   Subscribe

Is there a relatively easy, inexpensive way to reinforce my apartment door so that it cannot be kicked in during the day? Something very strong and secure but that is easily removable with minimal damage from the inside so that my security deposit won't go towards replacing the door?

I live in an apartment complex split up into 4 unit buildings. My particular building is way in the back of the complex facing the woods and far out of sight of the road or any of the other buildings. The security in place is abysmal. There is no lock installed in the door to the building. My unit security comes down to a single deadbolt and a flimsy door. Furthermore, all my neighbors work during the day. It would be so easy for someone to kick in my door with a single try, take their time going through my things, torture my cat, and leave without being noticed.

I recently moved into a decent apartment complex in a bad part of a medium-crime city. I have a confession to make: I did something very stupid a couple months ago. I invited someone I did not know very well into my home to hang out. Yes, I know. It was a moment of weakness. He was very friendly and I was desperately lonely. When my back was turned, he stole something (not very valuable, but there you go). Later found out that he's a serious junkie. He knows I have nice things. And worse, he knows the hours I work.

I'm not as worried about anyone breaking into my apartment at night. While I really hope I never have to face that, I've taken measures to ensure that I will almost certainly not be on the losing side of that confrontation.

What I'm worried about is coming home and my door swinging open before I unlock it. Stepping into find everything I've worked so hard for either trashed or missing. My pet dead or missing. I can't get it out of my head; it's almost like a type of rape.

What are my best options? I live on the second floor and my windows are secured. Are there some security bar type options to make my door impervious, because right now it's weaksauce. Fake ADT type stickers? I'm currently bugging my landlord to install locks on the buildings themselves but I'm not holding my breath.
posted by WhitenoisE to Home & Garden (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Honestly i'd replace the entire damn door with a steel one and throw the original in a closet, or in the storage room/garage area(possibly even the laundry room if it's cavernous or has an odd corner/nook). If it's the right size it should bolt right on to the existing frame requiring very little modification allowing you to put the old one right back on.

Regardless though, I would much rather lose some portion of my deposit then have my house robbed.

Which is why, at two places i've lived where i had similar issues(one was a set of french doors you could literally lean on and pop open, the other a junkie infested shitty "single room occupancy" type place). i just got large brackets to medieval-style put a big ass 2x4(or larger!) chunk of wood across the door. I screwed them directly in to the framing/studs around the door with large bolts designed for wood. You'll want to predrill the holes(look up the formula for predrilling if you're not familiar too. you want the hole to be the size of the shaft of the bolt minus the threads, essentially)

You can create a system that allows you to bar the door with a piece of wood like this, but also allows you to "arm and disarm" the wood from the outside. One of the brackets will be a complete [ shape, the other one is L shaped. On the L shaped side you drill a hole in the board and thread a thin piece of rope or thick fishing line through it and tie it off, the other end goes over your front door. When you're leaving, you knock the board down a bit and squeeze out the door and loop the line over the top. To get in when you get home, you just unlock the door and open it the tiny bit you can, then pull the string to yank the board up at the L-bracket end and out of the way so you can get in.

I'd just spackle over the bolt holes when i moved out, and put the old door back on if it was still around. Because seriously, fuck having your place robbed.

My old apartment from less than six months ago was robbed by drugheads who got in by smashing a flimsy door. Fuck everything about that.
posted by emptythought at 2:47 AM on July 28, 2013 [4 favorites]

You can replace the wood door with a steel door (and check with your landlord by I have no idea why that would cost your deposit...), but the real point of weakness is the door frame. See this video. Instructions for re-inforcing an already installed door begin at 4:21.

Also, get renter's insurance.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:49 AM on July 28, 2013 [13 favorites]

If it brings you peace of mind, it might also be worth it to invest in an alarm with a motion detector. A local alarm company is sometimes willing to move the contract over to your next place when you move.
posted by third rail at 4:56 AM on July 28, 2013

A steel door means nothing without a steel frame.

I've had some experience with this (someone tried to kick down my door for about 2 years. That also means your door will last longer than you expect.).

DarlingBri is right, though. Insure what you have or move the hell out of there.
posted by converge at 5:10 AM on July 28, 2013

Ok, so the junkie theft stuff seems like a legit fear. I would be worrying about that. Maybe you can get another door, or hire someone to install a deadbolt? If you get renters insurance, take pictures of all of your valuables.

The cat torture though? How the hell does torturing a cat support a drug habit? The more likely scenario is the cat running out after the door is kicked down, so I would address that if you can't move out anytime soon.
posted by oceanjesse at 6:48 AM on July 28, 2013

You may wish to try reenforcing your door such as with this product.

I would suggest that you move, but I assume that you moved into the best neighborhood that you could afford. If I am incorrect in my assumption, please move to the best neighborhood you can afford.
posted by Tanizaki at 6:51 AM on July 28, 2013 [4 favorites]

I came to give the same link as in Tanizaki's link. Armor Concepts, They reinforce the hinges, the deadbolts and all points of weakness.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:09 AM on July 28, 2013

I wouldn't worry so much about your cat being tortured; as oceanjesse suggested, junkies won't be interested in harming your cat so much as grabbing portable items that are easy to sell. The cat will likely hide, or run out the open door. Make sure she's tattooed and microchipped, and has a collar and tags if she'll wear them.

But yeah, moving out of there asap is my advice. In the meantime, is there a local tenants union you could talk to about pressuring your landlord to put locks on the freakin' building doors? because that. is. bullshit. And if you must stay, definitely get renter's insurance and make a video of every room of your apartment.
posted by Koko at 7:15 AM on July 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

> What I'm worried about is coming home and my door swinging open before I unlock it. Stepping into find everything I've worked so hard for either trashed or missing. My pet dead or missing. I can't get it out of my head; it's almost like a type of rape.

It sounds like you're a little ways into freakout territory here. I'd start dealing with this on that level. If you reinforce the door, is that actually going to allow you to quit worrying and relax when you're at work? Or will you just start worrying about your window getting busted in, or someone coming around with a sledgehammer or a set of lockpicks?

I'd sort that out in your head before installing security gear. Maybe you're mostly rattled about this one guy, in which case moving to a different crappy apartment might solve the problem. But if this is about being in a bad part of town, I think you'll need to find a way to either accept the risk, or GTFO. I'm not sure marginal measures like door reinforcement are going to fix the ugly pictures that are filling your head.
posted by mattu at 7:30 AM on July 28, 2013 [8 favorites]

There's a big difference between pocketing something when the opportunity presents itself and smashing down someone's door in the middle of the day. I would not be overly concerned about the guy coming back to rob your place.
posted by empath at 7:40 AM on July 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

You could have a security door installed. Last time i fid it for a tenant the cost was about $400 (including install.) I second renters insurance.
posted by vespabelle at 8:44 AM on July 28, 2013

A standard steel door in a steel frame will give you about 30 seconds of protection against a criminal who doesn't mind making some noise, has a $50 used 12 gauge pump shotgun, and $20 worth of door breaching ammunition. You can stop that with blast resistant door technology, but you're getting well into 4 figures, minimum, to even start down that route.

Were I you, I'd put any very nice, irreplaceable things I had in secure storage, insure everything else for replacement cost, and move as soon as I could.
posted by paulsc at 10:07 AM on July 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

I wrote a comment about reinforcing doors here.

The comment from fake about layers of defense here is great.
posted by slidell at 10:17 AM on July 28, 2013

Since you're not looking to deter a professional burglar, I recommend a fake security sticker on the door combined with an inexpensive alarm. Example here.
posted by parakeetdog at 11:51 AM on July 28, 2013

Protection of assets as a civilian is a futile endeavor, realistically. What you want is protection from crimes of opportunity. You experienced that with your junkie dinner guest. The door & deadbolt go pretty far in accomplishing that (any improvements you make are not going to stop a determined burglar, the reality of professional crime). The good news is: the advanced, determined criminals have no interest in your apt and it's collection of needful things.

Crimes of opportunity outside your apt are usually minimized through:

additional deadbolting, a constant, bright light in front of door, piercing alarm sound, indication of dog inside, the presence of police officer(s), male presence, understanding that local townsfolk are generally armed.
posted by Kruger5 at 12:29 PM on July 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

I did something very stupid a couple months ago.

A few months and the person you are worried will rob you hasn't come back? They would have broken in by now if they were going to.

If you really feel that this one person still represents a serious threat, YOU NEED TO MOVE so they don't know where you live anymore.

Maybe you want to improve your security for other reasons, if so that's fine.
posted by yohko at 2:33 PM on July 28, 2013

>I have a confession to make: I did something very stupid a couple months ago.

It's not stupid to invite someone home to hang out! You were just unlucky that this guy was desperate to score some cash. Sounds like you're feeling a lot of shame about it.... but go easy on yourself. You didn't know he was a user or thief- it isn't always obvious. It's good to be cautious, I guess, but life is a series of risks and leaps of faith, and while they don't always work, personally I'd rather be the type who trusts a new friend and gets burned sometimes rather than a wary, guarded, suspicious person who only behaves conservatively and minimizes risk at all times. (Obviously there's a middle ground too, but you know what I mean.) He could just have easily been a totally awesome, kind human and a new best friend, you were just unlucky this time. Rather than a horrible mistake you made, consider reframing this as an unlucky occurrence and a good learning opportunity.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 2:43 PM on July 28, 2013 [3 favorites]

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