Help us buy a new front door.
May 19, 2014 8:18 PM   Subscribe

We need a new front door that can't get kicked in but we don't know what to look for.

Our house was broken into on Saturday. They kicked in the front door. The jam cracked a little by the lower latch, the door buckled a bit, and the deadbolt twisted in it's mount. These things combined to allow the bolt to slide out of the strike plate and allow them entry to the house. Everyone is okay (the dog was home at the time but she is fine), they didn't steal a lot of stuff and not much was damaged.

I added a reinforcement to the front door, a slightly better strike plate, and rigged up a brace that should keep the door secure until we get it replaced but have decided that we need to replace the door and the frame.

We're having some trouble figuring out what to look for. We plan on upgrading the frame and locks with these sorts of things and they are cheap enough but we're have some trouble when it comes to the door and the locks.

The goal is the make the door strong enough so that if someone attempts to break in again, they'll break their leg before they break down the door.

This is the door we have now (though with more dents in it, from the criminally motivated kicking). Is something like this good enough when combined with the other upgrades? Similar fiberglass doors aren't that much more expensive, are they stronger or just more resistant to corrosion? Do we really need to go all the way up to a solid wood door to get that kind of security?

What about locks? From what I can gather, Medeco are great deadbolts. Are there other (cheaper) options that would be good enough? Are there any other cheap solutions that I'm overlooking?

We're not freaking out too much about this and we're pretty frugal so I'm not prepared to throw money at the problem until we've passed the point of reason but we'd like to feel like my home is secure when we're not there.
posted by VTX to Home & Garden (11 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: When I founded a tech startup, we bought a bunch of grey market lockpicking tools and challenged our engineers to learn how to pick locks. A couple of them became pretty good at it. It's amazing how easy it is to open normal commercial locks with just a few days of practice. Our guys were opening locks with traditional rakes and levers, hand filing bump keys, opening padlocks with shims, etc. It was pretty fun actually.

After plenty of hands-on research, we ended up buying Schlage Primus.
posted by ryanrs at 8:45 PM on May 19, 2014 [5 favorites]

Best answer: When you install the new hardware, use 3" or longer deck screws that will connect into the house framing on every screw hole that holds the security metal and especially the lock mechanisms and the hinges. Make sure you have high quality steel hinges as well.

Deck screws tend to be very high quality, strong and will not rust.

The door you show looks fine, the strongest door I every had was one I made. I took a regular solid wood door (and old one from a home materials recycling place that was the right size) and then bolted a 3/4" sheet of plywood to each size that was cut to fit the door opening all around the perimeter with carriage screws so the door itself was sandwiched between the plywood. That door was a frigging bank vault, with a dead bolt at the top and bottom on the opening side and then one in the middle on the hinge side (it had two hinges-top and bottom). It would have been easier to go through the wall beside the door. This was to secure a basement apartment in the back of a house in a sketchy part of El Paso. It wasn't an attractive door, but our house never got broken into, unlike most of the houses around their.
posted by bartonlong at 10:01 PM on May 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

As bartonlong pointed out, longer screws. Doors fail because of the frame in most situations, rather than the door itself. Hinges, and poor depth of the lock into the frame. Before bothering with Medeco (which is pickable), I'd simply look for a standard Class 1 lock from KwikSet, or another major manufacturer.

Your door doesn't have to be perfect; it just has to be better than your neighbors.
posted by petrilli at 10:17 PM on May 19, 2014

Some thoughts from me here. The link in that comment broke, but I was saying that I've (now) basically bought a package like this. Very easy to install.
posted by slidell at 10:20 PM on May 19, 2014

Best answer: On closer read, you already bought a similar package to reinforce all the weak points of a door: hinges, door jam, door knob, etc. Your door material itself is probably fine. I cut through a cheap exterior door once. I can't confirm it was the same gauge of steel, but it was a steel door filled with foam and probably the cheapest exterior door that our contractor could buy. It took me some pretty serious effort with a sawzall. It wasn't that it was that hard to get through the steel itself, but the foam filled up space in a solid way that made it hard to peel back the steel or poke through to the other side.
posted by slidell at 10:35 PM on May 19, 2014

A commercial grade steel door set in a steel frame would be your best bet but they are available only as flat slabs so no windows or anything fancy. These doors have full steel internal framing in contrast with a residential "steel" door which is two light weight steel skins separated by some wood and expanding foam. You can use construction adhesive to stick wood panels to the outside (or inside for that matter) of the door to make it look like a wood door. The weakness then becomes the strength of the lockset.

This installation will greatly reduce the possibility of someone kicking in the door. It won't make your house impenetrable; there are too many other easy access methods like busting windows. And the proliferation high power battery operated tools means any motivated thief with a couple hundred bucks is going to be able to zip disk their way through your door or lockset in less than a minute.
posted by Mitheral at 12:01 AM on May 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

A metal clad door might reduce your fire insurance. I have seen metal cladding on solid core wooden doors. But the truth is as noted above: the door rarely breaks, the locking mechanism and framing do.
posted by Cranberry at 12:12 AM on May 20, 2014

It's not the door, it's the frame. See here.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:04 AM on May 20, 2014

Before bothering with Medeco (which is pickable), I'd simply look for a standard Class 1 lock from KwikSet.

KwikSet is the shittiest lock manufacturer I know of. Anyone who spends an afternoon practicing can open a KwikSet with a bump key faster than you could using the real key.

ANSI lock grades are pretty useless since they don't rate resistance to picking and bumping.

Lock bumping is not some theoretical vulnerability. It's how burglars open locks. Go watch some videos on youtube.

I actually caught a guy trying to bump the the lock on my company's suite at 3 AM one morning. This was after we had installed Schlage Primus cylinders. He did not get in. (I know he was trying to bump the lock because I flung the door open and caught him in the act.)
posted by ryanrs at 6:56 AM on May 20, 2014

Make sure all of your hinges are well-anchored with wood screws, even if you find yourself thinking "each of these hinges has 8 screws in it, how can that be a problem?

I owned a house where the back door had been kicked in while it was vacant, so when I moved in I reinforced the latch side of the door with 2x4s screwed directly into the wall studs, thinking that someone would break their foot before the deadbolt would punch through the 2x4.

Came home to find the place burgled after all 3 hinges were kicked through. The force was enough to tear 2 studs in either direction out from the door off of the sill plates as well, so the whole exterior wall shifted back and forth. So make sure everything around the door is reinforced.

Finally, consider the old saw "every time God closes a door he opens a window." A fully-armored door doesn't do you much good when you have a ground-floor window that can be easily smashed and entered -- it's not any louder or more obvious than kicking in a door.
posted by craven_morhead at 9:05 AM on May 20, 2014

Response by poster: It looks like we'll be going with the fiberglass version of our old door. The hope being that, since it should be at least as strong as our old door, it won't dent if someone tries to kick it down and fails.

To that, I've added the Strikemaster II Pro, and wrap around reinforcement plate on the door, and an upgraded deadbolt. The hinges already had 3" screws in them so we're good there and we'll make sure and use similar screws on the new door. Later on, we'll be adding this door handle/lock with built-in alarm.

The windows and other doors were already pretty well secured so the front door really was the weak point.

We have everything except for the alarm/door handle installed on the old door now and after testing it out I feel a lot more confident about leaving the house alone.

Thanks for all the help everyone!
posted by VTX at 2:50 PM on May 24, 2014

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