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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
The spat of home invasions recently has gotten me thinking more seriously about stopping the perps from even gaining access to my home.

I just bought and installed the "Garage Butler" (which I mentioned several weeks ago in another thread) and thought it was easy to install and well worth the ~$50. It just consists of a simple magnetic sensor you mount to the bottom of the garage door track, a long wire you route around your garage wall (or across the ceiling) and a fancy remote you can easily wire into your existing button (or you can remove your old button and just use the button on the Butler). There are 6 "timer" settings which control how long your door stays open after you've opened it (and forgotten to close it). After the specified time interval the thing beeps for 30sec and then closes. It has a "hold" button which allows you to work in your garage all day without being annoyed and it will still close when the sun sets. If you want to keep it open through the night for some reason you can just turn the Butler's power switch off. The thing seems to work great and is easy. Easily worth $50 IMO.

So, the next thing I am aiming to do is something I'm hoping someone here can give me feedback about. The GB helps keep the perps from gaining access through the garage, but it won't stop them from kicking in my front door. As I see it, no high-quality door meant for residential use can really stop a kick-in, mainly due to the design of the door (the fact that it opens inwards). I am thinking the best idea is to get one of those steel security "screen doors"... not the fly-stopper flimsy type but the heavy-duty ones with the perforated steel "mesh" which usually permits air-flow to pass through but limits visibility from the outside. Since these doors mount to open towards the outside and they are at least as strong as a regular metal door, it seems these doors would effectively stop a "kick-in" assault... mainly b/c as long as you lock it they would have to kick the security door inwards which it isn't even designed to open that way normally and also they would be kicking it in against your other internal door... just doesn't seem possible to force entry in this manner....

My "?" is: does anyone have any other input regarding these types of doors in regards to effectiveness???
 

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bane said:
I just bought and installed the "Garage Butler"
That sounds really cool. I need one of those for my regular doors -- not for security, but it would save me a fortune in heating and cooling costs. Danged kids can't shut a door to save their lives.

bane said:
As I see it, no high-quality door meant for residential use can really stop a kick-in, mainly due to the design of the door (the fact that it opens inwards).
I don't think the direction the door opens matters that much. What matters is what the door and frame are made of, and how well the frame is attached to the wall. Given a cheap wooden frame tacked in place with a handful of nails you can shove the whole frame out of place even with an outward-opening door (assuming the outward-opening door's hinges can't simply be dismantled -- that's why most doors open inward, to make the hinges inaccessible from outside).

On the other hand, a steel-core door with a good lock set in a steel frame bolted securely to the surrounding wall isn't going to be kicked in regardless of what direction the door opens. Particularly if you add a good deadbolt so the unhinged side of the door is anchored in two places to the frame. It's also a good idea to make sure that one or both of the locks are bump-proof (ideally, disk tumbler locks rather than pin tumbler locks -- about five times as expensive, but bumpable locks might as well not even be there if the burglar is well-equipped).

Another thing to pay attention to is windows next to doors. They look nice, but if an intruder can break a pane of glass and then reach in to unlock the door, then your door and lock are irrelevant. On that show "To Catch a Thief" they always install a security laminate on the windows. I'm going to look into that for my new house.
 

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All residential doors are easy to kick in, all have jambs that are made of wood (most modern 'paint grade' doorjambs are MDF, Medium Density Fiberboard that is weaker shear wise than pine but is a more stable product that paints better than whitewood). A relatively easy retrofit to do when installing a new door on your house follows.

Door jambs are 3/4" the average deadbolt "throws" 1" to 1-1/8", grab a piece of flat steel stock 1" x 1/8" - 6' drill it to accommodate the knob, deadbolt, and screws every 6" to 8". Using a router mortise into the doorjamb 1/4" to accommodate the flat steel stock. Then place the stock into mortise, securing with a lot of construction adhesive and screws. This creates not a kick proof door, but one that takes a lot more effort.

The closest thing to a 'kick proof' door is a commercial steel framed door. These are flat panel and boring to look at, but with a good paint job is ok looking. The one company locally that sale them that comes to mind is "Robert I Merrill Co." (I don't work for them, that is the only company I can come up with right now) Be sure to use a 'knock down' jamb, this will retrofit over existing siding making it much easier to install.

Out swing, doors are the best option, but you are swinging the door into people that are visiting... not very practical.

Hope this helps.
 

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One more thing. If someone wants in your house, they will get in. If you are willing to give time and love to a dog, big or small they are a great early warning system.
 

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rhinokrk said:
Out swing, doors are the best option, but you are swinging the door into people that are visiting... not very practical.
Doesn't that also place the hinges on the outside of the house? Or are there hinges that somehow resist disassembly?
 

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swillden said:
rhinokrk said:
Out swing, doors are the best option, but you are swinging the door into people that are visiting... not very practical.
Doesn't that also place the hinges on the outside of the house? Or are there hinges that somehow resist disassembly?
With pins on the door (by the hinges) that go into the metal frame when the door is closed, hinge disassembly won't facilitate entry.
 

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swillden said:
rhinokrk said:
Out swing, doors are the best option, but you are swinging the door into people that are visiting... not very practical.
Doesn't that also place the hinges on the outside of the house? Or are there hinges that somehow resist disassembly?
Outswing door hinges have 'set screws' that prevent the pins from being driven out. They can only be accessed when the door is open.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Here's a link to a door I am considering at Lowe's. Specifically this shows the hinges on the outside of the door but states "tamper proof hinges".

The problem with the other retro-fit ideas is that I am in a condo. To change the framing is likely going to mean that I will have to hire an insured and licensed pro. To install a non-normal door means I am going to have to convince the board that it's appearance is acceptable... a plan office-style door will likely not pass. (nor would it with my wife).

This security door option seems my best bet to satisfy everyone.
However, I don't want to waste the time and money if it's not going to improve my situation. I was thinking that most kick-ins don't involve the door frame being completely kicked-in (but it sounds like I am wrong in that assumption...????) but just the dead-bolt and handle-lock portion of the frame "giving way" since they are the weak-point and that the kick-in usually results in the door essentially swinging open (as opposed to blowing completely out)... is everyone here in agreement that my assumption is wrong and that most kick-ins actually ARE more violent and result in the door being completely knocked-down??? If so, I can see why a security door such as the one I am looking at, would be pointless.

As to the hinges, my thought was simply that someone staging a violent quick-assault, aren't going to risk the time involved in attempting to dis-assembled "resistant" hinges. Again, is my assumption on this wrong??? Even in regards to mere thieves, I doubt they are going to risk sitting in the open trying to remove the hinges... but perhaps this is a bad assumption too???

Honestly I don't know what the best solution is and I'm trying to figure it out. Essentially these are the weakest points of entry in my home:

* Front door (fairly busy and well-lit area)
* 2 front windows (same)
* Back door (fairly private, though well-lit... and fenced)
* 2 back windows (same)
* Garage door

I have solved the garage issue other than I am going to put an auto-locking fingerprint-entry lock on the door to the garage just in case the Butler fails to shut.

I am planning on installing simple noise-making alarms on the windows

So, what is the best way to strengthen my doors short of having to hire contractors and pay bribes to the HOA board... are there any good solutions???
 

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There is what I calll a NY door lock. I googled it and didn't find what I was looking for... It's a rod that tucks under the door knob and fits into a hole in the floor (inside). I'll look a little latter as I've got a few erands to run now.

As far as your windows go, forget about the stick on alarms. If your widows are locked, it's easier to kick in the door.

JMHO
 

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Pointless? I don't think so.

I think that a security door is a good idea and would work to protect against most attempts to force entry through that doorway.

Nothing will work against absolutely everything that could be used to force entry. Have you seen the videos of special forces using shaped explosives to blow a door down? Yikes! However, I don't think that you have to worry too much about that (unless you take hostages or something).

Incidentally, I don't pretend to be a home security expert, so I'm just stating my opinions.
 

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bane said:
I was thinking that most kick-ins don't involve the door frame being completely kicked-in (but it sounds like I am wrong in that assumption...????)
I don't think you're wrong. I think most door frames I've looked at could be kicked in, but it would certainly be harder than just busting out a piece of the jamb.

My comments were from a different perspective -- if you were a homeowner with the freedom to replace the door frame, or (like me) in the process of building a new house, then you could go with a steel frame and a steel-core door.

I wouldn't discourage you from adding the security door, since it will make entry more difficult.

bane said:
As to the hinges, my thought was simply that someone staging a violent quick-assault, aren't going to risk the time involved in attempting to dis-assembled "resistant" hinges. Again, is my assumption on this wrong???
I didn't even know that disassembly-resistant hinges existed :)

That said, I can envision the pin structure that rhinokrk and Ruger Collector mentioned, and I'd think it would be pretty time-consuming to use a hacksaw to cut through them.

bane said:
I have solved the garage issue other than I am going to put an auto-locking fingerprint-entry lock on the door to the garage just in case the Butler fails to shut.
I wouldn't necessarily recommend the fingerprint entry lock. It might not be a bad idea in your case, where it's just a backup to another security mechanism, but in general fingerprint matching systems are not very secure, and there's a good chance that once in a while the door won't open for you. The way most unattended-operation off-the-shelf fingerprint matchers are configured, there's about a one in one-hundred chance that the door will open for any random person, and about a one in a thousand chance that the door won't open for you, even after two or three acquisitions. About one time in thirty the door won't open for you on the first scan -- mostly when you're in a hurry and don't present in precisely the right way. Many devices can be reconfigured to be more permissive, so that false rejects are less likely, but only at the expense of increasing false accepts (i.e. better odds that someone who shouldn't get in, will).

Where your fingerprint device will just be a backup, it might be reasonable to install it and set it for permissive operation. The nice thing about fingerprint scanners is it's hard to lose your fingers -- though remember that cut, cracked or blistered skin will make you unable to use the door. With capacitive sensors a little dirt shouldn't matter. For this application I'd avoid optical sensors.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Thanks to all for the input so far! All very good input!

Swil, you seem very knowledgable about home-security, so let me ask you another point that I failed to bring up. I am absolutely PARANOID about locking myself out of the house... so, in addition to the Butler to help ensure the garage stays shut and the fingerprint lock to the door to the house to serve as both an auto-locker as a backup to the Butler, another thing I'm planning on installing is one of those wireless keypads to the garage in the event I wander out of the garage without setting the Butler to "HOLD" and forget to take my keys... do the wireless keypads represent a weak-spot that is greater than already having a wireless garage door opener???
 

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Something else that helps deter crime is a video surveillance system. If the cameras and alarm sirens don't change their minds, having good pictures of the criminals will greatly increase the odds of them being caught quickly. With a little creative wiring and an RF remote extender, you can hide a 4 channel DVR and a UPS someplace where it's not likely to be found (an inconspicuous box in your attic or crawlspace).
 

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bane said:
Swil, you seem very knowledgable about home-security
Actually, I'm not very knowledgeable about home security. I'm very knowledgeable about cryptology, biometrics, smart cards and other high-tech security tools. Designing high-security systems is part of my job. Home security... not so much, although the principles are the same.

bane said:
so let me ask you another point that I failed to bring up. I am absolutely PARANOID about locking myself out of the house... so, in addition to the Butler to help ensure the garage stays shut and the fingerprint lock to the door to the house to serve as both an auto-locker as a backup to the Butler, another thing I'm planning on installing is one of those wireless keypads to the garage in the event I wander out of the garage without setting the Butler to "HOLD" and forget to take my keys... do the wireless keypads represent a weak-spot that is greater than already having a wireless garage door opener???
Well, that depends on the specifics. I'll answer based on my analysis of how my system works (pretty standard Genie brand opener -- almost certainly much like yours).

My wireless keypad is essentially just the same as a wireless opener, with the difference that it won't transmit the appropriate rolling code unless the four-digit PIN has been entered. If several incorrect PINs are entered (five, I think), then the device locks out any more attempts until one minute has passed without any tries. Given the time it takes to try each PIN, that means at most you can try five PINs per 90 seconds. Given 10,000 PINs, that means on average it'll take 125 hours to randomly guess the PIN. No problem there. Even without the lockout feature, a brute-force search of the PIN space would take way too long to be practical.

There are also no DIP switches or anything else that can be used to read out the code established between device and opener during synchronization. To dig the correct code out of the keypad, the attacker would have to disassemble it, desolder the EEPROM from the circuit board, place it in another opener and then trigger the door opening. For high-security systems like the sorts I normal work on this would be a dealbreaker. For a home it's not an issue, IMO.

To be clear, your system is pretty easy for a skilled intruder to bypass. I could use your wireless keypad to break into your garage, and I could lift a fingerprint from an appropriate surface in the garage (the surface of the fingerprint scanner is an excellent one), create a gummi finger with your print on it and open that door as well. This kind of attack is out of the reach of a common thug, though. It's possible there are sophisticated burglars who would do this kind of stuff, but unlikely. And they probably wouldn't be going after your stuff, or mine.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Swil,

These are exactly my thoughts. I like to keep in mind WHO I AM to consider who REALISTICALLY would be coming after me or my stuff. Considering we live in a townhouse far away from almost any yuppy communities speaks volumes... pros aren't coming after me. Thugs... just thugs. And quite honestly it's most likely to just be teen-age juvi's. And wackos.

So, a wireless keypad, Butler, permissive biometrics (BTW, thanks for the tips!), security screen-doors, motion-activated spot-light in the backyard, and simple noise-makers on the windows all seem to serve my needs.
 

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bane said:
I like to keep in mind WHO I AM to consider who REALISTICALLY would be coming after me or my stuff
Yep. The security community likes to dress this up in fancy terms like "threat modeling", but it's a pretty commonsense idea, actually. Anyone who really cares about security, rather than just the feeling of security, should go through exactly that thought process. Figure out who might want in your house, and why and how. THEN figure out how to stop them.

bane said:
So, a wireless keypad, Butler, permissive biometrics (BTW, thanks for the tips!), security screen-doors, motion-activated spot-light in the backyard, and simple noise-makers on the windows all seem to serve my needs.
Sounds good to me. One other thing you might want to consider is how you'll get into your house when the power is out and neither the garage door nor the biometric lock will work.

BTW, what I'm doing with my new house design is:

1. All bedrooms are on the second floor. There's a steel-core door with steel frame at the bottom of the stairs. The door opens into a recess so it's out of the way when open. At night I'll close it, and lock the keyless deadbolt. Anybody that breaks into the house at night will still be a kickproof door away from my family and I.

2. The ground floor entrances also have steel doors in steel frames. I'm looking into security laminate for the windows near the doors.

3. The garage is not directly connected to the house. That's for aesthetic and convenience reasons (there is a "porte cochere" between garage and house), not security reasons, but it does mean I only have to secure the garage enough to protect the stuff inside it.

4. An alarm system on doors and windows. Just one that makes noise, and the real purpose for having it is to make it easy for me to check whether everything is locked up tight without having to walk around.

5. The dog kennel will be close to the house.

6. Motion-activated lights all around the property.

I'm also considering an electronically-controllable gate at the driveway entrance (the house is well back from the road, and the property is already fenced -- just barbed wire, but fenced). That may be overkill, though.

My threat model includes the facts that the house is nearly a mile from the nearest neighbor, and the police are at least 20 minutes away, maybe longer. The nearest neighbor is a nice guy, but he has a couple of adult sons who've had a lot of run-ins with the law and have in the past actually hid out from federal agents (tax evasion) on my land. I'm not so worried about protecting my things, but I want to make my family a hard target. I don't expect problems -- but better safe than sorry.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
swillden said:
One other thing you might want to consider is how you'll get into your house when the power is out and neither the garage door nor the biometric lock will work.
Yeah... the front and back doors will both have the security doors on them along with my already-existing metal doors w/ standard locks/deadbolts. So, as long as I have my keys with me when the power goes out, I'll be fine. The only real problem that I foresee is opening the garage door to take the trash out and during that brief period of time the door to the house closes and locks and the power goes out... leaving me to access my garage but not my house. It's pretty minimal odds. My understanding of biometrics is that they usually have a manual key that can unlock them (is that true?). In which case I would probably get really crafty in stowing the key within the garage somewhere as a back-up.

I'm also considering an electronically-controllable gate at the driveway entrance (the house is well back from the road, and the property is already fenced -- just barbed wire, but fenced). That may be overkill, though.
True... but think how KEWL it will be pretending to be a "Don" when family and friends come over!!! :lol3:

I really like your setup. If I were building I would be doing much the same... might as well at that point! You aren't forgetting house-wide CAT I hope. Have you given any thought to house-wide music wiring? What about radiant heating??? Just curious... I dream a lot about all of the kewl options that are available when building new. What about "smart" blinds that open and shut depending on temp??? Man... building new holds so many nice options!!! :drool:
 

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bane said:
My understanding of biometrics is that they usually have a manual key that can unlock them (is that true?).
Not necessarily. That's a good feature to look for in the device you buy, though.

bane said:
I'm also considering an electronically-controllable gate at the driveway entrance (the house is well back from the road, and the property is already fenced -- just barbed wire, but fenced). That may be overkill, though.
True... but think how KEWL it will be pretending to be a "Don" when family and friends come over!!! :lol3:
:lol:

Actually, that's the main reason I hesitate. It feels pretentious. Especially the intercom at the gate, even though in reality if you have a gate you keep closed all the time, you have to have an intercom or else how will you know when to open it?

bane said:
I really like your setup. If I were building I would be doing much the same... might as well at that point! You aren't forgetting house-wide CAT I hope. Have you given any thought to house-wide music wiring? What about radiant heating??? Just curious... I dream a lot about all of the kewl options that are available when building new. What about "smart" blinds that open and shut depending on temp??? Man... building new holds so many nice options!!! :drool:
I'm doing radiant heat. Not only do I really like the idea, my contractor says that it'll pay for itself right away. Costs more to install but MUCH more efficient, so it pays itself off even with natural gas, and I'll be on propane which costs three times what gas does. I'm also going to install a "ground loop" which pumps thermal fluid down through the ground to cool the house in the summer and, with the addition of a compressor, to generate cheap heat in the winter.

Also, I'm looking into whether or not I can get a boiler for the radiant heat system that includes a firebox for wood. If propane gets really expensive, maybe I can supplement the heat with wood.

Related to energy, I'm also going to make sure that the house wiring is configured to accept addition of a grid tie inverter fed by PV panels/film on the roof (which will face south). I also want to put the boiler on the south side of the house so I can easily hook in some direct heat solar panels to provide additional heat for the radiant system. Finally, I know there's geothermal heat on my land, so I may try to figure out how to use that. I'd love to be energy self-sufficient, or close to it.

As for low-voltage wiring, I think I'm just going to wire with CAT-5e, but I'm going to install conduit everywhere with pull strings so I can rewire easily, at need. On the main floor I'll run conduit around all the rooms at outlet height. For the upper floor I'll just run a large pipe (probably 4") up to the attic. It's easy enough to drop whatever you need down from above. All of the conduit will terminate in the "server room" in the basement.

As for smart blinds, smart windows, etc., what I'd REALLY like to do is to wire temperature sensors all over the house, including multiple locations outdoors and at least two in every room and run all of those leads back to the server room, and then also run control leads to all of the windows and connect them to electronic actuators on windows and blinds. Then I'd like to write my own control software to monitor temperatures from all of the sensors and control the blinds, windows, ground loop and radiant heat zone valves to manage the temperature, making maximum use of environmental heating/cooling. I'm even looking into going a step further to use active RFID badges and sensors so that the system not only knows which rooms are occupied, but who is in them and can adjust the temperature accordingly.

I'm not sure how practical that is, right now, but I'm definitely going to install the temperature sensors and run a Cat-5e line to each window. I figure four twisted pairs should give me all I need. Then in the future as it becomes practical to get the window actuators, etc., I have the wiring in place for the control system.

Yes, building a house is lots of fun. Lots of work, though, even when you're not actually swinging a hammer.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Oh man, you are doing the exact same thing that I have dreamt of... pretty much everything I have thought would be kewl you have on your plate... that is SO KEWL!!! When you get it all done, I'll have to invite myself over to admire it! :p

If you do everything you've mentioned, I imagine your heating/cooling needs will be VERY minimal and if you get the geothermal working your needs might very well be zero... how sweet would that be???

If I'm understanding the RFID idea correctly, I'm not thinking I'd be too keen on that... I mean, the concept makes sense but how annoying would it be to have to affix RFID tags to all of your clothes (I've never heard of this idea, so maybe I'm missing something???)

I wonder if you've considered building with some of the ultra-efficient techniques like building the walls out of really thick concrete or the new styrofoam overlaid with sprayable concrete??? My understanding is that that can lower your cooling needs so much that simple shade trees can keep a house tolerably cool even in harsh climates... ????

Now that I've hi-jacked my own thread... hahaha....
 

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bane said:
If I'm understanding the RFID idea correctly, I'm not thinking I'd be too keen on that... I mean, the concept makes sense but how annoying would it be to have to affix RFID tags to all of your clothes (I've never heard of this idea, so maybe I'm missing something???)
I'd just give each family member a tag on a chain or something. I don't generally like wearing stuff on my neck, but I think this would be worth it. My kids all like that kind of stuff anyway.

bane said:
I wonder if you've considered building with some of the ultra-efficient techniques like building the walls out of really thick concrete or the new styrofoam overlaid with sprayable concrete??? My understanding is that that can lower your cooling needs so much that simple shade trees can keep a house tolerably cool even in harsh climates...
The problem with those techniques is the up-front cost. Even if you reduce your heating and cooling costs to zero, that's a savings of, what, $200 per month? If it adds $100K in construction costs, you'll never recoup. You might not think it would cost that much more, and in terms of materials you'd be right, but I've found that any unfamiliar technique really makes the labor estimates skyrocket.

I think that solar, wind and other renewable power generation technologies are going to get dramatically cheaper, so I'm betting that moderate insulation coupled with cheap locally-generated power will be less expensive in the long run than extreme insulation.
 
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