False Sense of Security


Recently there have been a rash of break-ins in my area and the thieves are simply kicking in the doors to gain entry. It is a shame because some of these break-ins are preventable. So I thought I would share with you some of my 30 years of experience installing doors and hardware in various applications from residential to commercial. For the first 15 years of my career I was a door installer, often being asked to replace a door that had been kicked in by burglars, leaving a homeowner with a serious sense of insecurity. They would usually comment “Wow I had no idea it was so easy to just kick in the door” or “Is that all that holds the strike plate on is those two small screws?”Strike plate comparison

(Be sure to click on the images to see larger version)



Reality check
First off, let me put to rest one of the biggest myths that exist about deadbolt locks. Modern day deadbolts are extremely strong and very difficult to defeat IF INSTALLED PROPERLY. The truth is most are not installed completely and correctly. While you may have deadbolts installed on every door in your house, the actual part of the lock that you stick the key into is not the weak link, it’s the strike plate and the door jamb. The strike plate is the plate which is installed on the door jamb that the deadbolt actually goes into. When the burglar kicks in the door, the lock doesn’t have a scratch on it, but the door jamb and the strike plate are simply exploded. The fact that the door jamb is made from very soft Pine wood and the strike plate was being held on by two tiny screws make the door so easy to kick in that your karate student could earn his Black Belt with one kick.

baldwin strike mounted thumb

The solution

Almost all new deadbolt locks now come with a reinforcement plate that is installed behind the thin decorative strike plate. It is a very heavy, thick piece of steel and is installed with very large 3 inch long wood screws. Unfortunately, most builders simply throw the reinforcement plates away because they take more time to install. If you have ever seen the aftermath of a kicked in door and the expense, you would probably agree that it would be time well spent to install the reinforcement plate.

So just how hard are the reinforcement plates to install?

Actually not that much harder than a installing a regular trim plate. The problem is that most “prehung” door units are not mortised out for the thicker strike plate and therefore the carpenters typically just ignore them and throw them away. Big mistake. The carpenter that was installing that door doesn’t have to live in your unsecure house. And, like me, he probably has the plates installed in his own home. To install a thicker reinforced strike plate is something that simply requires a little time and some careful chisel work. This is nothing new to a qualified carpenter or locksmith. The reinforced strike plate also requires installing two very large screws that screw directly through the jamb trim and into the 2x4 framing behind the jamb.


So if you want to avoid being on the 10 o’clock news as a break-in victim and possibly having your household possessions loaded into the back of a car and sold at a pawn shop, consider paying a professional carpenter or locksmith and having the plates installed on all of your doors. Trust me it’s much cheaper than replacing an entire door unit which can easily cost $500-$900.00 or more. You will sleep better and your karate kid can just stick to breaking boards over his head.


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