10 steps to making your home physically secure

10 steps to making your home physically secure

Your home is your castle. It’s where you and the people that matter most to you live. So, it makes sense to make sure your home has a reasonable standard of physical security to help protect the people and things you love.

1. Identify the areas you need to protect

  • Focus mainly on the areas of your home you and your family live in.

  • However, don’t ignore any garage, shed or other outbuilding, especially if it contains items attractive to thieves or ladders/tools they could use to break into the rest of your home.

2.  Consider doors and opening windows an intruder could use to gain access

  • Pay attention to the security of all exterior doors, and all windows an intruder can easily access, usually ones someone can reach from ground level or by climbing.

    • Basement or ground floor windows will nearly always be more vulnerable than upper storey windows.

    • Pay particular attention to upper storey windows that overlook a porch, flat roof or are near to a tree shed, fence or pipe.

  • Don’t forget about the security of doors or windows at your home that lead into integral garages, outbuildings or even another person’s home.

  • If you live in a block of flats, also think about the security of any doors and windows leading into shared corridors, lobbies or balconies.

3. Check your existing security 

  • Check the general type of locks you have – mortice locks/bolts fit within a door or window while a rim lock/bolt will fix to a door or window’s surface.

  • Check if door locks have a mark to show they meet an applicable test standard. For example, British Standard (BS) 3621 for single point locks or PAS 3621 for multi-point locks. Window locks don’t have a test standard, so look instead for general robustness.

  • Make sure any lock cylinder in a door doesn’t stick out on the external side, as an intruder could then grip it with a wrench and snap it off. Choosing a shorter cylinder – ideally one with proven snap resistance – can significantly reduce this risk.

  • Ask a professional locksmith for help if you’re unsure about existing lock security.

  • Check whether the glass in your doors and windows is secure – laminated glass is more secure than toughened and ordinary float glass.

  • To help identify the type of glass, look for a manufacturer’s name/logo, any manufacturing standard and, ideally, a safety or security classification code.

  • Ask a professional glazier for help if you’re unsure about how safe and secure your window and any door glass is.

4. Decide if you home is secure enough

  • Check your insurance policy to find out if the level of security in your home meets any standards your insurer expects. You could also compare your security to some impartial advice, such as that provided by The RISC Authority’s S24 guide.

  • If you’re worried about your home’s security, give serious thought to upgrading it. If you’re not sure what to do, ask a professional locksmith or professional glazier.

5. Look for new security products of proven quality

  • Any manufacturer can say their product is good, but wherever practical look for a product with a recognised independent security certification.

  • The British Standards Institution offers the most common door lock certification scheme. Look for its well known Kitemark symbol on packaging/products, together with details of the standard they meet.

  • Another indicator of product security is Sold Secure or Secured by Design approval.

6. Buying new doors and windows

  • If you’re buying new doors or windows, look for those certified as meeting the PAS 24 security test standard.

  • If you’re not buying a PAS 24 door or window and it has a lock you can open from inside without using a key, check it has laminated glass. You should also make sure your letterbox has an access restrictor. These measures will stop thieves easily breaking the glass or putting their hands inside to release locks, reach keys or steal nearby belongings.

7. Buying new security devices

  • If you’re buying new/replacement security devices for existing doors or windows, look for the most suitable security devices for the type of opening you want to protect.

  • Wherever possible, buy door locks certified as meeting a relevant security standard, for example BS or PAS 3621.

  • Think about how you would escape in an emergency, especially if you only have one entrance/exit door to your home (typical of many flats). In these cases, UK building regulations usually require you to have a lock type (BS or PAS 8621) you can always open from inside without using a key.

  • There are no British Standards for window locks, so look instead for a robust design from a reputable supplier. 

8. Make sure you fit new security devices correctly

  • Always follow the manufacturer’s advice when fitting a security device. If you don’t have any advice to follow, fit the device in a conventional position. For example, for a single point door lock, put it at or near the mid-point of a door’s opening edge. 

  • If you’re not sure how to fit a device, hire a professional locksmith, especially if you want to fit a lock to plastic or metal doors or windows.

  • Fitting a security device incorrectly can damage doors or windows or weaken your existing security.

9. Use your security devices properly

  • Always leave your home secure even if you’re only leaving it for a short time.

  • Make sure you close and lock doors and windows every night when you go to bed.

  • If you want to leave windows open to let some air in, think about fitting a device (a limiter) to restrict how far the window will open.

10. Think about key security

  • Don’t leave keys in door and window locks. Put them in a safe place (but where you can easily find them in an emergency). Don’t leave them within sight or reach of exterior glazing or a letterbox as otherwise a thief could reach them by breaking a window or fishing them out through the flap.

  • Take keys to exterior entry/exit doors with you when you leave your home – don’t hide them under nearby plant pots and the like.

  • If you move home, consider who might still have any spare/copy keys, especially to exterior entry/exit door locks. If in any doubt, change the locks to vulnerable doors.

  • We’ve based this information on the comprehensive advice on this subject in a RISCAuthority publication called S24: Physical security for homes – Guidance for occupiers. The guide has a more detailed set of 10 steps guidance, a model minimum home security standard for various types of doors and windows and further useful background information.  You can download the free guide.

If your Aviva home insurance policy doesn’t have any stated requirements for home security, we recommend you follow the RISCAuthority’s advice.

The security of your home depends on more than its physical door and window locks. Read more in our information sheet on more general home security measures.

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