Have you ever taken a look at your patio door and wondered, “How can I make my sliding glass door more secure?” I know I have. It is essentially a huge window after all. If you have one, without the proper precautions taken, it is easily one of - if not the - biggest security holes in your home. It was one of the first security points I addressed after moving into my home. In this article, I will give you a few tips on how to increase the security of your sliding glass door.
Why Sliding Patio Doors Are a Huge Security Hole
There are a number of reasons why sliding glass doors are a pain when it comes to security. The obvious one is because they are nothing more than huge sheets of glass placed between you and the outside world.
This makes them easy to see through, if not prevented, allowing potential burglars to peer inside to see what kind of goodies you have for stealing. It also makes it a poor physical barrier.
To further complicate things, because of their easy view into your home, sliding doors are usually placed in vulnerable, low-visibility areas - like the side or rear of the house.
This gives bad guys more time to plan and execute bad things as there is more cover from passing eyes on the street.
Also, because the doors are designed to slide, they are built with tolerances large enough to overcome any dirt or debri that is likely to accumulate within the tracks, so that they can roll over it.
These same tolerances can be used against you, unfortunately, allowing enough play for a burglar to dislodge the door from its tracks.
Topping it all off - they tend to come with poor locking mechanisms that are easy to defeat.
How Do Burglars Break in Through Sliding Doors?
As alluded to in the previous section, it is pretty easy to break into one of these doors.
A lot of these doors come with simple, spring-loaded locking mechanisms. The easiest way to get past one of these doors is by placing your hands on the sliding section and pushing on the glass in an up and down jerking motion. Eventually the spring-loaded lock just disengages.
It’s not at all hard to do and only takes a few seconds, as demonstrated by this one homeowner.
The locks on these doors, which are usually nothing more than an L-shaped latch that hooks onto the bracket in the frame, are easy to defeat. If the sliding panel of your door is on the outside, it is especially easy to pry open and disengage with a screwdriver.
Another common way for burglars to get in is by simply lifting or prying the sliding door completely off of its track using a crowbar or another tool.
If all else fails, a bold crook could gain entrance to your home with the help of a brick. A simple smash-and-grab.
Because they can peer in and identify valuables, it’s not much risk for them to choose a loud entrance, as they can be in and out within seconds.
Glass Door Security Options
Hopefully, by now you have come to understand the importance of concealment. You don’t want to advertise what kind of valuables you have to thieves.
Every sliding glass door should have curtains or blinds, and they should be veiled when unattended. This will give at least some pause to someone thinking about breaking in, as they have less data to gauge their own risk.
Another option to consider is mirrored security film. Mirrored security film is applied to the glass panels of the door and allows you to see outside, while preventing others from seeing inside.
The downside is that the mirroring effect only works during the daytime. At night, it has no effect. So you will have to combine this option with curtains or blinds at night.
However, with this security film applied, you can keep your blinds open all day to enjoy sunlight without having to lose any privacy.
A security bar is anything from a piece of wood to a telescopic bar that is used to block the patio door from sliding open.
This is a good stopgap to securing your door against wannabe thieves until better measures can be taken.
I say that it is a stopgap, because while it does a great job at preventing unwanted persons from sliding the door open, it still does not address the lifting of the door off of its tracks.
Nevertheless, there are a number of options here from bars designed to sit inside the tracks on the floor to those designed to be deployed at waist level.
A simple block of wood from the nearest Home Depot should suffice here until you are able to apply better countermeasures.
A lot of the security troubles with these types of doors stems from their spring-loaded, latching locks. These locks tend to fail when enough up-and-down motion is applied to the sliding panel.
Your goal is to prevent this vertical movement of the door.
A secure locking mechanism will prevent both horizontal and vertical motion of the sliding door. There are a number of secondary locks meant for sliding glass doors on the market that meet these criteria.
Most function by adding deadbolts to either the handle side or top or bottom of the sliding panel to prevent it from being moved.
You can watch the same homeowner from before try to break back into his home after installing one of these types of locks. It successfully prevents him from entering.
Another option is to install a security pin that runs through the frames of the two panels.
The pin stops movement in both the horizontal and vertical axes and can be easily pulled out in order to make use of the door.
To install, you simply drill a hole for the pin that goes all the way through the frame of the internal panel and half-way through the frame of the outside panel. Drilling all the way through to the outside makes it easy for burglars to push the pin out.
You have to remember that there is a decent chance that you can shatter the glass of your patio door if you are not careful. This is because the glass of the panel extends into the frame for at least half an inch.
Because of this risk, I do not recommend this approach when you have access to auxiliary locks that do not come with any installation risks.
However, this option is an efficient way to secure a sliding glass door where both panels slide on the tracks, as it should prevent both from moving when the pin is inserted.
Glass Break Sensor
Even if you conceal the view inside your house and reinforce the security of your sliding panel, the door is still made completely out of glass. If a burglar is serious about getting into your home, they will just smash it open.
You should hopefully have some form of security system installed. If you don’t, I would look into one. But make sure you get one that comes with glass break sensors.
Placing one of these on your sliding glass door will at least sound off your alarm and give the burglar less time to steal your stuff.
Reinforce the Glass
There are also a couple of ways that you can reinforce the glass of your sliding door.
The cheap way is to attach shatterproof security film to the glass panels. This will not completely prevent someone from breaking in, but it will slow them down a bit. It will also force them to make a considerable amount of noise as many strikes will be needed to get through.
Another option is to have the glass panels replaced with laminated or impact resistant glass. This would provide the ultimate shatterproof security for your sliding glass door by making it near impenetrable. However, this will be an expensive project.
Below is a video showing the effectiveness of security film attached glass vs laminated glass.
If you live in a particularly bad neighborhood or are seriously worried about being a victim of smash-and-grab robberies, then consider installing a security gate.
A security gate is a metal gate that is installed over your sliding glass door. Although they come in many designs, it is typically not very aesthetically pleasing, but if you are in a dangerous area, it could potentially save you from a break in.
How to Secure Outside Track Sliding Glass Doors
Outside track sliding doors present a greater security challenge than their inside track variants, as they are far more easily pried open and lifted off of their tracks.
When the sliding panel is on the inside, it is a lot harder to get tools between the panel and its tracks for prying. If you ever have the choice between the two styles, always go for an inside track sliding door.
However, many of the tips described above will work with an outside track patio door. You will not be able to use a security bar effectively, but you can still replace the weak latching lock on the door and should use more than one auxiliary lock to prevent both horizontal and vertical movement.
I would double or triple up on auxiliary locks because the door will be exposed to prying tools like crowbars, which can exert a lot more force than someone without tools.
Sliding glass door security is hard due it being such a weak entry point, but it is not impossible. There are many things to consider and steps to take when going about a security plan for these types of doors. Remember to first obscure the view into your home. Do not entice intruders by giving them reasons to target your home. Take note that your latching lock on the door is weak and that sliding doors move both horizontally and vertically. Get secondary locks in place to help bolt down the door and consider reinforcing the glass. Setup glass break sensors for your alarm system. Do all these things and you will have a pretty secure sliding glass door.