How To Secure A Sliding Glass Door

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By Bryan Rucker •  10 min read

Is your home completely safe?  It’s a question we have all asked ourselves from time to time—and for good reason.  Last year there were nearly 9 million home break-ins and property crimes in the United States alone; and only a small percentage of these crimes ever get solved.  What’s more, items taken during these property crimes are very rarely recovered, and unless the victim has the utmost in homeowner’s or renter’s insurance, there are a scare number of avenues for recourse or recovery, forcing the homeowner or renter to replenish their “stuff” out of their own pocket.

When it comes to home security, there are many steps people can take to avoid being a victim.  And one of the first priorities people should consider is securing their sliding glass doors. Although there are many people who place so-called impenetrable locks on their front doors—even add cameras and motion detectors to deter would-be thieves and hooligans—a good majority of these homeowners and renters tend to neglect one of the biggest security risks in the home in terms of access:  the sliding glass door.

To help you avoid falling victim to shady individuals bent on taking your hard-earned property—or worse—here we will provide several tips for securing your sliding glass door—expert tips designed to keep you and your family safe.

Weaknesses in Sliding Glass Doors (And How To Fix Them)

Sliding glass doors present a number of security risks.  Although seldom thought about, these beautiful doors, which allow people to see outside and fill their living room, den, bedroom or kitchen with natural sunlight, are actually one of the first entry points would-be thieves tend to target.  This is because there are many easy ways to breach these doors, making them very attractive to bad guys bent on theft, destruction or worse.

There are essentially four areas or categories that make sliding glass doors susceptible to illegal entry.  These weaknesses include:

In the following four sections we will cover each of these sliding glass door weaknesses in much greater detail.  We will also provide several solutions or strategies for overcoming these weaknesses—strategies that can help keep the bad guys out and you and your family safe from any illegal intrusion.

Weakness One:  Easy-to Manipulate Latches

Most sliding glass doors have a fairly simple locking mechanism.  Sliding glass door locks usually consist of a rotating plate of metal that fixes itself into a pre-made hole—a hole that may or may not be reinforced with metal.  The problem with these types of locks is that they are very easy to pick.  Whether using a credit card to dislodge the plate, or merely jiggling the plate loose, most thieves are not deterred by these simple locking mechanisms.

Of course, there is no reason to replace your current lock, even if it is a simple latching system.  Instead, you can add an extra layer of security to reinforce the door against potential bad guys.  Heavy-duty, loop-style locks can be a great addition to any sliding glass door.  Looping between the glass and the metal frame, these locks can be installed at either the top or bottom of the glass door.  These mechanisms tend to lock all the pieces of the door together, making it near impossible for someone to jimmy the lock loose.

There are also many key-based locks on the market today that can help substantially in securing sliding glass doors.  These locks are typically bolted directly to the metal framework of the door, and include a pin-style mechanism that locks into a base plate on the frame.  Extremely secure, these locks can prevent anyone (without a key) from entering through these doors.  Just remember to keep the key handy when using one of these types of locks—just in case you need to make a quick exit.

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Weakness Number Two:  Sliding Glass Doors Tend to Be Out of View

When building homes, it is extremely rare that a contractor would build a sliding glass door that looks out onto the front of the house.  Instead, most of these doors are installed toward the back and toward the side of a home.  This construction configuration prevents people/strangers from peering into your front rooms.  Most people prefer their sliding glass doors to look out onto their back and side yards (instead of the front), which ensures a level of privacy from potential prying eyes.  However, because these doors are out of view, they tend to be very inviting to would-be thieves—giving them a fairly secluded entry point through which they can break in and take your “stuff.”

People who spend a lot of time away from the house—or in their front rooms exclusively—may be underestimating the risk a hidden sliding glass door can pose.  After all, it only takes a few seconds for an experienced thief to enter through these doors—often completely undetected.

To combat the problems a hidden-from-view sliding glass door can cause to the renter or homeowner, there are a number of products that can serve as major deterrents.  Many companies, for example, make an alarm system that is specifically designed for sliding glass doors.  These alarms can alert homeowners when someone is trying to break or jimmy the lock, creating a loud sound that is sure to have thieves running away the moment it goes off.  These alarms, some with a hair trigger, and can be set independently of other in-home security systems to alert residents of a breach to that door only.  Some even sync up with the user’s smart phone for easy activation and deactivation.  And a few even have cameras which can catch a potential perpetrator in the act.

In addition to traditional alarm systems designed to protect out-of-sight sliding glass doors, there are many companies that now sell motion based alarm systems.  Due to the fact that many sliding glass doors have easy-to-manipulate locks and a thin glass makeup, these motion-based alarms can be very useful.  With these burglar prevention systems, the alarm will sound any time the glass or lock is tampered with.  Moreover, most of these systems include a visible “colored light” that informs potential intruders that the door is alarmed and secured—a light that can serve as a deterrent before the break-in is even attempted.  With these systems, any movement that represents lock tampering—or any breaking of the glass—will produce a piercingly loud sound that will have perpetrators running for the hills.

Weakness Number Three:  Sliding Glass Doors Allow People to See In

Sliding glass doors, by their very nature, are attractive to residents because they allow the sun to come shining into the house, and because they provide a view to the outside without ever having to leave the comfort of one’s favorite couch or recliner.  However, because sliding glass doors enable us to “gaze out,” they also give potential thieves the opportunity to “gaze in,” thus giving them full visual access to the people and contents of the home.  How you choose to deal with this weakness depends largely on your level of commitment; or how much you are willing to give up in order to gain your privacy.

Curtains and blinds are what most people use to gain a measure of privacy, but these items do not really fully address the issue of security.  Fortunately, there are many other options—temporary and permanent options that can ensure you are not showcasing your personal possessions when you are away.

Many companies today manufacture sliding glass doors with frosted glass—doors that will sacrifice your outside view but will still allow the natural sunlight to fill the room.  There are also plastic-based frosted panels that fit perfectly with any sliding glass door; as well as wood, simulated wood and plastic shutters that can keep prying eyes away.  These products range in price from very affordable to exceedingly expensive, and all will help ensure that strangers are not permitted an unobstructed view of your belongings.

Weakness Number Four:  Sliding Glass Doors Can Be Dislocated

As you know, sliding glass doors run on a track system, sliding back and forth to let people in and out of your home.  Unfortunately, this track system can be easily manipulated, leaving your home, condo or apartment very vulnerable to potential thieves.  Fortunately, this problem, too, can be easily remedied.

To prevent people from shaking your sliding glass door off of its rail system, a simple wooden dowel could be the perfect answer.  Whether you elect to cut your own dowel to size—cut it to fit on the track snugly when the door is closed—or purchase a specially made wooden dowel for your kind of door, this simple piece of equipment may be the ultimate form of security.  When placing a wooden dowel on the bottom track of your sliding glass door you will need to keep two factors in mind:  width and length.

In addition to wooden dowels, there are aluminum-based products that can be affixed to the top or bottom rail that essentially do the same job as a rounded wooden dowel, but these tend to be much more expensive and a hassle to use.

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Finally, while most sliding glass doors today are made from double-paned, heard-to-break tempered glass, if you happen to live in an older house with a single-panel sliding glass door, we strongly recommend you opt for a shatter-proof door that thieves will find impossible to penetrate.

image credit: gsagi/Deposit Photos

Bryan Rucker

Brian Rucker has spent his entire life participating in essentially all things wildlife. His concern grew astronomically during the previous tensions between the United States and other nations. He also has grown a substantial interest in survival and sustainability due to the current shape of the world over the years. He believes that preparation triumphs all things.