Handy tips to keep the home safe and secure
Your home should be a safe retreat - somewhere to feel happy and secure - so it makes good sense to keep it well protected.
And that's where we can help. Check out our 20 simple steps to give you peace of mind whether you’re home or away, night or day.
Home security tips
Light up the front drive and garden
Burglars like to operate under cover of darkness, so illuminating the garden when dark is a good way to keep them out. It can also make it safer for you to move around your property at night.
The most effective option is movement-activated floodlights, which can be installed at the front or the back of your home. Similarly, sensor lights detect movement and will turn on if someone is near your property. And why not consider installing a low-level path light that automatically switches on from dusk until dawn or when it senses movement?
As with all garden and outdoor lighting, check that your lights won't annoy neighbours or dazzle road users. And that the security lights are positioned in hard-to-reach spots and the bulbs difficult to tamper with.
Install a visual burglar alarm
Many home insurers offer a discount on premiums if you have a security alarm, and with several options to choose from it quickly becomes worth the investment.
Most alarm systems consist of an interior control panel and an exterior casing containing a bell or siren. Choose from standalone window alarms which activate when vibration or forced entry is detected, or consider a complete alarm kit with infrared movement detectors, known as PIRs (passive infrared sensors). Fitted high up in the corner of each room or into the ceiling, their alarm sounds if they sense a door opening or an intruder walking across the room. Alternatively, magnetic contact detectors can be installed on house or garage doors or windows and will trigger the alarm if the plates are disturbed.
Some alarm kits are expandable, allowing you to add extra devices depending on the size of your property. Or you could just add an exterior dummy alarm for a visual deterrent.
Increase gate and fence security
Don't give intruders an easy time thanks to an old gate or blown-over fencing.
We recommend that a garden gate is the same height as the adjoining walls or fences and securely constructed. Metal gates are more difficult to scale than solid wood alternatives and their open structure means they don’t provide cover for an intruder. Check that the hinges, bolt and padlock are secured on the garden side. And, if possible, install two different locks on a gate.
Ensure that all of your fencing is in good repair – damaged panels could allow thieves to scope out the area and even gain access. Consider fixing trellis panels to the top of the fence or wall, or look for ones that have it built-in. These will be strong enough to support a climbing plant but not a climbing intruder and the risk of breaking it, leading to injury or discovery, should make any interested burglars think twice. It will also make it more difficult for them to look into your garden.
Safely store keys outside
Say goodbye to leaving spare keys under a pot in the front garden. A wall-mounted key safe securely protects the keys, especially if it’s in a discreet location. They have a reinforced body that can withstand hammering and sawing, as well as a four digit combination code, so kids, carers and other trusted visitors can access your property without the need for additional sets of keys.
Secure your outdoor buildings
An outdoor building is often an easy target for petty thieves, so protect your shed, workshop, summerhouse and other outdoor structures with secure windows and strong locks.
All opening windows require good locks or screw them permanently shut if ventilation is not a concern. Secure the door with two sturdy padlocks on hasps and staples fixed through both door and frame where possible. And consider adding a battery-operated shed alarm – they're easy to install and ideal for protecting your shed, garage or outbuilding.
And don't forget the contents of your shed. It's easy to think that there's not much of value in there, but the tools stored inside could be used to break into your home. To guard against this, lock ladders and step ladders securely to a post or wall using a chain and padlock. And the same goes for your garden spade or shovel. These everyday garden tools can be used to force open doors and windows, so padlock them to a heavy bench or frame.
Protect your bikes
Keep your family's bicycles safe and protected by investing in a bike store. These require less space than a shed though are roomy enough to fit a couple of bikes and can be locked. For extra security, we recommend locking the bicycle up even when it’s in a locked bike shed with a heavy-duty D lock. Check that the lock goes through the frame as well as both wheels as this makes it harder for someone to wheel or cycle your bike away.
Lock down garden valuables
Large or expensive garden items may be of interest to a thief so it's a good idea to anchor any garden furniture or outdoor ornaments to a patio or hard surface with cables and padlocks. This can be especially important in the front garden where opportunistic thieves are more likely to pass by.
And hold onto your hanging baskets by fitting them with cable ties - these will deter any criminals that aren't carrying scissors with them.
Secure the car
With fewer and fewer of us using garages to store our cars, the driveway or front garden often becomes the home for parked cars. Here they're on show and so a more tempting offer to prospective thieves. Provide both a visual and physical deterrent with driveway security posts or bollards. Choose from simple lock up and down posts, which you remove when not in use, or retractable posts which can simply drop down into the ground when you need them out of the way.
Top-up gravel paths and driveways
Noisy to walk on, gravel can help alert you to people approaching your home before they arrive at your front door. If you have a gravelled front drive, garden or pathways, make sure to keep them topped up so that it provides as loud a crunch as possible when walked on. Or, do consider it as an option if re-working your space in the future.
Pick plants to deter intruders
Dense, thorny shrubs or hedges can be off-putting to intruders so consider planting them on, or around, your home's perimeter to keep people off your property. We recommend the following plants:
- Osmanthus – a family of very prickly evergreen shrubs and trees
- Pyracantha (Firethorn) – evergreen shrubs barbed with spiny thorns and complete with brightly-coloured autumn berries. Easy to grow and very effective as a hedge (pictured)
- Chaenomeles (Quince) – a deciduous thorny shrub with spring flowers that will also thrive as a hedge
- Crataegus monogyna (Common hawthorn) - this fast-growing shrub makes an impenetrable thorny hedge with white spring flowers and red berries in autumn
- Berberis (Barberry) – a dense, evergreen shrub with spiny stems that will form a bushy hedge
- Ilex (Holly) - prickly rather than spiny, choose from hundreds of species of holly trees and shrubs
Remember that low-hanging trees and large shrubs can provide cover for an intruder, so survey the property prior to planting. And as with all plants, they'll need care and maintenance - critically regular trimming and tidying if you think they could mask burglars gaining entry.
Talk to your neighbours
We all lead busy lives, and understandably it can be difficult to maintain a relationship with your neighbours that goes beyond a simple “hello” when crossing paths. However, keeping in contact with your neighbour and knowing each other’s whereabouts means that they will be able to let you know if something dodgy is going on.
If you’re going away for a prolonged amount of time, make sure that you let a trusted neighbour know so that they can keep an eye on your home. They can also pick up and parcels or post that may get left on the doorstep, and if you give them a spare key, they can open and close your curtains so that it looks like you’re at home.
Hide valuables from potential thieves
Before you leave the home for work, or go to bed for the night, make sure that any expensive items are safely tucked away. If you leave a twinkling necklace sat on your coffee table and your curtains are open just a twitch, burglars will be more likely to target your home.
Having expensive items on show can be a sign to thieves that you’re a wealthy household, and therefore more likely to have electrical items or other valuables worth stealing. Store jewellery, watches and electricals in a safe, or if you don’t have one, a cupboard or chest of drawers will do.
Pretend someone's home when the house is empty
Empty homes are more likely to be targeted by thieves, so it’s a good idea to make your home look like it’s occupied while you’re out.
Timers are ideal for letting you control appliances so that they automatically switch on and off after a set period of time. For example, they can activate lights during the evening, as well as turn on the radio to create some background noise. They can also save on energy bills by making it easier to switch off standby modes on your appliances.
Smart homes allow you to manage your home even more effectively. With a Wi-Fi or mobile internet connection, you can wirelessly control appliances, lights and devices when you're not at home by switching them on and off from your smartphone.
Check outside the home
Do you know who you’re opening the door to? Adding a few simple security measures will give you peace of mind before you let them in.
A door chain is a good way to check on your visitors before opening the door fully. It restricts the opening to a few inches, so you can see and speak to whoever is outside, while also helping to prevent an intruder from forcing their way inside.
Keep the door completely closed and still see outside with a door viewer. This features a small lens that is inserted into a front door allowing you to see who the caller is before you open it. It's a good solution if you don't have a front window to peek through.
Another option is an intercom system that enables you to communicate remotely with your visitors without having to leave the comfort of your sofa. Built-in speakers and microphones allow you to check who's at the gate or front door before you let them in. We recommend systems that incorporate security cameras so that you can see, as well as hear, your guests.
Upgrade your window and door locks
Some burglars can access your home in as little as a few minutes by targeting vulnerable doors and windows. Make it more difficult for them by improving the security of these openings.
The majority of forced entry burglaries are committed through the weakest point – this tends to be at the rear of the property, where passers-by are less likely to see what’s going on and French doors can be particularly vulnerable. Patlocks are easily fitted to these and are released in seconds without the need for keys or a code. They work by holding the handle position in place, so none of the catches can be opened even if the barrel lock is removed.
Many older French or patio doors don't have integral multi-point locking systems (which make the door especially secure). If this is the case, add a pair of key-operated locks to each door – the lock body is screwed to the doorframe or sill, and the bolt engages with a hole drilled into the door itself.
Another way that burglars quickly access your home is by using the lock snapping technique – this is where a door handle is removed and the cylinder lock snapped to allow them entry. Remove the risk of lock snapping by replacing locks with Kitemarked Anti-Snap security cylinders, which will provide maximum security against this method.
And don't forget to bolster protection of your windows. We offer a range of window locks and stops for wooden or uPVC windows. And as a final security measure, don't leave door or window keys in locks or in view.
Keep valuables safe
In the unfortunate event that someone does get into your home, safes are great for protecting documents and personal items and are available with either mechanical or electronic entry systems.
As well as the type of safe, it's also worth thinking about where to put yours - look for those provided with heavy-duty bolts that can secure them to suitable walls or floors. Or how about an underfloor safe designed to be fitted between the joists and hidden from view?
We also offer chests designed to protect your valuables, memory sticks and external hard drives from fire and water damage. So think about what your most precious items are and choose the best option for your home.
Keep an eye on your home
With our range of easy-to-use security cameras, you can see and hear what’s happening in your home or office when you’re not there. Some systems can be viewed on a TV or smartphone and you can even get alerts via a mobile app to your phone or tablet when something isn’t quite right.
Look out for additional features including motion-triggered recording, infrared night vision (so you can clearly see what’s going on in low-light levels) and a two-way audio communication capability so that you can see and talk to visitors at the front door without opening it first.
Protect the loft
Do you live in a top floor flat, semi-detached or terraced house? If so, you could be at risk from burglars breaking into your house or flat from your neighbour's adjoining property. Intruders take advantage by entering through the loft hatch – especially if there's no dividing wall in a shared loft.
Protect your home in a shared property by fitting bolts to your side of the loft trap door. And if your shared roof space hasn’t been divided up, consider doing this for security reasons, remembering that any work should be designed to prevent the spread of fire and smoke too.
Check for obvious flaws
You see your home every day, and it can be easy to overlook any weaknesses in your home security plan. Have a friend or neighbour look around the outside of the home and give them permission to try and break in. If they successfully get in, then you’ll know which areas of the home you need to improve. Whether that is reinforcing doors, fixing window locks or ensuring side gates are locked.
Stay alert and aware
Remind your children not to open the door to strangers, and make sure they know who to call in the event of an emergency. If someone at your door claims to be from your water or energy supplier, double check their identity by ringing the company, or by questioning them as to why they are there. Remember that the ‘water board’ no longer exists, this is an out-dated phrase used only by bogus callers.
It’s a good idea to sit down as a family and discuss what to do in the event of emergency, and to have an exit strategy in place. Set household rules for closing and locking doors and windows when leaving the house, and for using the security alarm system.