Mod My House! Home Security for new home owner

Topics in this category pertain to planning. Discussions include how to prepare yourself, your family and your community for catastrophes and what you plan to do when they hit you.

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Mod My House! Home Security for new home owner

Post by Qasim » Sat Jan 15, 2011 9:02 pm

Mrs. Qasim and I are under contract for a house. It will be our first. It is a single family home in a suburban environment with no garage. I am interested in home security measures, including alarm systems, but I don't know where to start. I am interested in modifying it for sustainability as well but I think that needs to go on another topic. I have searched past topics and found some references to alarms and security, but I would really appreciate specific insights on what people think are effective home security measures, especially from people with LEO, and alarm company experience. I'm familiar with the basics:

1. good lighting
2. keep hedges trimmed
3. don't be an idiot and keep windows/door locked; don't let random people into the house
4. Cancel newspapers/mail when away on trips

So I am looking for intermediate/advanced advice, specifically:

Should I get an alarm system?
If so, what features should I get?
how else would I mod a new (to me) home?

Thanks in advance for the counsel,

Qasim

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Re: Mod My House! Home Security for new home owner

Post by Stercutus » Sat Jan 15, 2011 9:22 pm

When considering a security system the first thing you need to consider is price. You can spend little to nothing or thousands and anywhere in between.
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Re: Mod My House! Home Security for new home owner

Post by Qasim » Sat Jan 15, 2011 9:47 pm

So . . ,I am prepared to spend thousands, but I'm interested in the value I will get from the expenditure. Spending money alone won't make me feel safe.

Assuming you had the resources, what would you get?

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Re: Mod My House! Home Security for new home owner

Post by ei8htx » Sat Jan 15, 2011 9:49 pm

If you like them, there's always a dog as an option.

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Re: Mod My House! Home Security for new home owner

Post by Shep45 » Sat Jan 15, 2011 9:51 pm

ei8htx wrote:If you like them, there's always a dog as an option.
I second the dog. Its a really good idea, and great burgler/no-good sort deterent.
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Re: Mod My House! Home Security for new home owner

Post by tireiron » Sat Jan 15, 2011 9:56 pm

Motion sensor lights all around. Consider having both interior AND exterior lights added, or re-wired to a single panel of switches in YOUR bedroom. Bump in the night? Instant daytime.

REAL locksets on the doors. (Strikeplate should have 4 inch hardened screws into the jamb. Replace one screw of every four on either side of every hinge with a three or four inch deck screw).

Know that anything in your front yard that gives you privacy (solid fence, rock wall, hedges) also gives a burglar (or worse) something to hide behind. If you have a second floor that offers a commanding view, this may not be an issue.

Front doors should neither have glass in them or sidelights.

Don't advertise your flatscreen. Keep your blinds/curtains closed in the TV room. If you want daylight in there, hang sheer curtains rather than applying forsting film or spray to the glass. Sheers allow lots of light, and you move the aside to look out.

If you intend to do any major remodeling, consider putting a layer of plywood over your studs (on the inside of rooms) before sheetrocking over it. This is popular in kitchens and bathrooms because you can hang shelves/cabinets/towel bars without having to find studs. Doing it to your bedrooms and 'prep closet' makes them harder to get into. While your at it, consider upping the thickness of your sheetrock in key areas- bedrooms/prep closet/ maybe kitchen- this adds extra fire protection as well as sound barrier. (Double rocking is common with recording studios, for both reasons.)

Tough steel exterior doors can be used as interior doors. Consider this.

INSULATE. However insulated you think your house is, look again. Attic? There's always room for more in the attic. Under the floors? Not applicable if you're on a slab. If any windows need replacing, spend the extra and get double-pane. This saves money, which buys more preps/vacations/beer. Upgrade old appliances and toilets to energy saver /low flow types as money allows.

I've been in construction for more than fourteen years, and these are recommendations I make to anyone.
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Re: Mod My House! Home Security for new home owner

Post by raptor » Sat Jan 15, 2011 10:03 pm

Immediately change all of the locks for the house (dead bolts, door knobs, mail box, etc.). Spend a little extra money and get dead bolt locks that are bump proof.

If there is a a garage or gate remote control, change that code also.

Have the door frames reinforced to make them more difficult to defeat. Avoid doors with large glass windows.

Consider a fence for the backyard and if permitted in your area, a fence for the front yard. Fences make good neighbors.

Look at the windows and the window locks. Consider impact film or storm shutters to make them more resistant to physical attack.

A reinforced perimeter is vital before you start worrying about an alarm.

Be sure to have battery operated smoke and CO detectors even if you have these installed along with the security alarm. The battery operated ones will provide a back up to any 120 volt alarm system ubits for less than $50. A bargain for safety.

Consider a low cost CCTV system. It is quite possible to get a decent system for under $1,500 installed especially if you are installing alarm wiring at the same time. A basic 4-6 camera system with a DVR will cover most people's needs.

Finally make sure your home is adequately insured against likely risks. If your home is in a flood plain, buy flood insurance. If it is in an earth quake or wildfire area read your home owners insurance to ensure you have adequate coverage and these risks are not excluded. Finally make sure you have adequate liability insurance.

In my experience alarms and CCTV have not prevented anyone from breaking into my property, but have been useful at either figuring out who it was (CCTV) or making them leave quickly (alarm with a loud external alarm at the property). However, good locks, fences, strong doors and windows have prevented intruders. Fire alarms and CO detectors have also proved useful.

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Mod My House! Home Security for new home owner

Post by ScottAW » Sat Jan 15, 2011 10:52 pm

Noone has mentioned a safe yet? Basically, if someone wants in bad enough, they'll find a way. Sucks, but true. Get a big safe and BOLT it down. Put all the important stuff in there.

Personally, i don't worry much about a robber, but I prepare for other stuff.
Brk makes combination wired/wireless smoke and CO alarms, a interconnected system is a worthwhile investment.

Tons of great advice above too.

Congrats on your first place.

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Re: Mod My House! Home Security for new home owner

Post by NoAm » Sat Jan 15, 2011 11:21 pm

Congrats on the new home purchase Qasim!
There are several wonderful suggestions that have been made here! One I can think to add is thorny/prickly bushes or hedges under windows. It's a wonderful and inexpensive way to deter people from getting close enough to see, much less get in through windows.
Check with your local greenhouses or landscaping companies to find a hardy and easy to maintain shrub.

Good luck and have a great time with your new investment! :mrgreen:
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Re: Mod My House! Home Security for new home owner

Post by thelight » Sat Jan 15, 2011 11:29 pm

A wired home security system. Preferably with cameras. Preferably that you can access on/via the net or a cell. This lets you check in on your house remotely and call the neighbors if you need to. Driveway alarm patched in would be nice. Key fobs for these systems are awesome.
I second all the other motions so far.
Add these window screens: http://www.zombiehunters.org/forum/view ... w=previous" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
On the second floor, if you have one, install fold out fire ladders at the front and back of the house for emergency egress.
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Re: Mod My House! Home Security for new home owner

Post by jor-el » Sat Jan 15, 2011 11:31 pm

Layers of security. Front porch enclosed and/or added, becoming a mud room. Visitors never get direct entry into the main house. Home invasions through deception will be a lot harder to accomplish. Grow barrier plants around entrances and in front of windows. This makes accessing ground level windows harder, and reduces the chance of someone lying in wait.

Cameras should be placed to see approaches to the house at face level. Cameras should also observe vehicle approaches at license plate level. If you live in a state that only uses rear plates, something should be in a position to see that.

For fire safety and quick evac reasons, upper level bedrooms should have ladders to roll out of the windows.

Safes should not just be bolted down anywhere. Basements are probably the best in order to bolt it to concrete, floor AND wall. It should be placed in a room that's walled with brick and rebar, with a steel lockable door.
Another safe or gun cabinet (the sucker's safe) in the main bedroom, where your EDC and one or two other arms go to sleep. This is the one you want them to find and waste time on.

Don't forget, you and the missus need to take a class or two on general principles of home defense and security, and practice evacing to the safe room or egress in case of fire..
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Re: Mod My House! Home Security for new home owner

Post by Vicarious_Lee » Sun Jan 16, 2011 12:43 am

Best value-per-dollar hardening and deterrence available IMHO:

http://zombiehunters.org/forum/viewtopi ... jamb+armor" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Garage doors will be more expensive:

http://zombiehunters.org/forum/viewtopi ... arage+door" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Windows will be even more expensive than that:

http://zombiehunters.org/forum/viewtopi ... ow+screens" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;


But that pretty much gets you an impenetrable (but not bullet proof) fortress of Inconspicuous Unobtrusive Suburban Doom.
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Re: Mod My House! Home Security for new home owner

Post by Dead Zed » Sun Jan 16, 2011 5:57 am

jor-el wrote:Cameras should be placed to see approaches to the house at face level. Cameras should also observe vehicle approaches at license plate level. If you live in a state that only uses rear plates, something should be in a position to see that.
^This^ I can't tell you how often cameras are installed that get a great shot of the top of someones head.

As far as the alarm goes: Listen to your tech. The salesman most often doesn't know what the hell he's talking about. Glass break detectors and motions will give you better coverage than individual window contacts & will cost less. Get an exterior siren, get fire protection & (I cannot stress this enough) GET A CELLULAR BACKUP! the phone line is vulnerable. Negotiate your price. The money is made off the recurrent cost of monitoring, not the points of protection at the initial sale.
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Re: Mod My House! Home Security for new home owner

Post by Sealegs » Sun Jan 16, 2011 7:02 am

All exellent suggestions and the only solid one I can add is the people next door. Lots of barbeques and get to gethers. A good neighbor is invaluable.

A novelty approach, a friend of mine hooked up his house alarm to a big ol halogen light in all the rooms and corridors. Arguing that he'd rather deal with an illuminated threat. Possibly not wanting to blow his daughters boyfriend away. :wink:

Also, keys for the inside of the back door. You just hide it when you leave home. Making it a bit harder to lug the tv out unseen.
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Re: Mod My House! Home Security for new home owner

Post by DementedDigital » Sun Jan 16, 2011 7:57 am

What others have said here is spot on, so I won't add much. Take care of the locks, lights, windows, and doors first. Regarding the alarm, though:

If you are remotely technical, I'd recommend an HAI Omni Pro II. It's UL listed for fire and security, but you can also integrate it with lighting, HVAC. CCTV, home audio, etc. It can be monitored, it can call your cell phone, you can listen and speak to the premises. You can access it from your phone or the web.

For example,depending on how it's programmed, you arm it "away." it sets back your thermostat, shuts off your hot water heater, and it turns on a radio. If you're still away when it's dark, it starts turning on and off lights to make it look like someone is home. If someone presses the doorbell, it gets logged. It could call you, so you could talk to them. It could capture an image. Maybe you have it alert you when a car parks in your driveway. The options are only limited by your imagination. You can get modules that open and close drapes, wireless sensors and key fobs, cellular backups, etc. You'd be hard pressed to find a more-versatile system.

If you don't want to spend a lot, you could do the same sorts of things with cheap PC hardware and open source software like LinuxMCE, Zoneminder, Misterhouse, etc.

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Re: Mod My House! Home Security for new home owner

Post by man in black » Sun Jan 16, 2011 10:48 am

get bump key resistant/proof locks, bump keys are stupid simple to make which means even the stupid criminals have them.
keep a dog or more. ankle biters are just as deterring as a big guard dog because they make a ton of noise, which is the enemy of the B&E artist .This is not to say that a huge rotty or german shepherd is a bad but it is just something to consider on your part. windows into the basement are an awful idea, they can crawl alongside the bottom of the house out of your sightline and then get access via the window. this also goes for storm cellar doors, make your cellar door on the inside or you are making it too easy. motion activated lights are good too and they keep the criminals at bay.
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Re: Mod My House! Home Security for new home owner

Post by maldon007 » Sun Jan 16, 2011 11:49 am

I havent read everyone's, but if I had thousands to spend on security, it would be on real hardwear, as opposed to alarms & monitoring. Mainly because I dont care that much about getting my stuff stolen, when Im not home... I mainly worry some nut will break in while the family is home. Alarms are great, but we all know the response time is too slow to save your life, if thats all your depending on & the BG is a determined nut job.

So for alarm, basic system, with fire/co2 grass-break sensors... basic. So then you have the rest of the "thousands" to beef up real security. Front door, metal shell security door (or whatever the standard is these days) & revamped door frame. I have not done this, but I would like to. Replace door frame with as much solid wood as I can, and jumbo Tapcon the new boards to the block... might be able to just tapcon the existing frame... But I have seen many that are substandard & really need upgrading. Then your hinges can have long heavy duty screws & the strike plate can be extra beefy & also screwed in with extra long screws (and have it matter). Door lock(s)- battery/electric code entry type deadbolt (we love ours), no lost keys, no key coppies floating around... Change code monthly, or as needed. Secondary locks up graded as well, real heavy duty chain/slide locks, screwed into upgraded door frame, at two locations... maybe 2' from top & bottom of door.

All windows/sliding glass doors would have hurricane film (toughest I could find). I would rather have lexan plates on all windows/doors instead (I have this on my kids bedroom window). There is just no way to quietly get into this window from outside, and at least a couple of extra minutes is added to entry by determined nut job.

Whatever you do, try to grey man your security, lots of obvious security may imply you have lots of stuff to protect/steal.

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Know your neighbors, hopefully you get lucky and have an ex blackwater guy on one side, and a Marine on the other, with a fireman across the street :D
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Re: Mod My House! Home Security for new home owner

Post by BASR » Sun Jan 16, 2011 3:21 pm

I've also heard about people laying gravel along the perimeter of their house. This prevents people from creeping along the side of your house because you can't walk on gravel quietly. This plus motion-activated spot lights should give you some warning if someone is outside.

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Re: Mod My House! Home Security for new home owner

Post by DementedDigital » Sun Jan 16, 2011 3:56 pm

BASR wrote:I've also heard about people laying gravel along the perimeter of their house. This prevents people from creeping along the side of your house because you can't walk on gravel quietly. This plus motion-activated spot lights should give you some warning if someone is outside.
That's a really good idea!

We've had some break-in attempts in my neighborhood recently. They like to cut screens and try sliding glass doors. If they aren't able to get in that way, they've tried popping hinges and drilling locks on front doors. (A lot of doors here open out instead of in.) Once in, they look for cash, jewelry, small electronics, and prescription drugs. There have also been some scams where they pose as a contractor installing a fence for the county. They lure you out and away from your house, and then someone else walks in and steals what they can.

Motion sensor lights seem to help. CCTV cameras may provide some deterrent. Alarm stickers might help. Even if you don't have a dog, a "beware of dog" sign with a couple of large dog chew toys and a water bowl might be good. If you have a garage with windows, get window treatments, so that it's hard to tell if you're home. Socialize with your neighbors. Tell them that you keep an eye on their house when they aren't there. Ask them to do the same for you.

It's really all about making your house the biggest PITA for a potential burglar, so that they move on to someone else's place. If someone is REALLY determined to get in, they will. In that case a big, heavy, bolted-down safe is great peace of mind. (That, and the castle doctrine, of course!)

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Re: Mod My House! Home Security for new home owner

Post by BASR » Sun Jan 16, 2011 8:38 pm

Also, for the most important doors in your home (front, saferoom, etc.) you can install a KatyBar. It is similar in concept to the Door Jamb Armour but installs a bar spanning across the whole door. Check out their website http://www.katybar.com/.

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Re: Mod My House! Home Security for new home owner

Post by JTNieman » Sun Jan 16, 2011 8:40 pm

BASR wrote:Also, for the most important doors in your home (front, saferoom, etc.) you can install a KatyBar. It is similar in concept to the Door Jamb Armour but installs a bar spanning across the whole door. Check out their website http://www.katybar.com/.
Who the heck would actually want that thing uglying up their entry doors? :\

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Re: Mod My House! Home Security for new home owner

Post by Qasim » Sun Jan 16, 2011 9:00 pm

These are awesome posts, thanks to everyone who has posted

You definitely confirmed some of my leanings (motion detectors w/ auto lights), and the general philosophy of simply not being the easiest target on the block to get criminals to go elsewhere.

WRT those who mentioned bump keys, I am familiar with the threat . . .and the irony that they work better on tight-tolerance "high security" locks like some Medecos http://www.thesidebar.org/insecurity/?p=181 I am researching the topic, but has anyone already found some locks that are not bumpable and yet not super-expensive disk/electro-magnetic cipher locks?

The Tapco screens look cool, I am intrigued by the steel door

@ Jorel, Mrs Qasim and I are up on basic security and first aid principles, what classes do you recommend?

I know glass by the doors is a security risk. I know an individual can then see inside the house (and possibly see the alarm panel) in that case. What do people think about glass block or ballistic glass? Glass block can let in some light (need to think sustainability too) without giving away too much to a would-be intruder. Ballistic glass with a sanded plexi-glass back-up is another option.

Here's another wrinkle . . .the house has two sliding glass doors. They open to a back yard and Mrs. Qasim is not inclined to brick them up. I know sliding glass doors can be lifted off hinges, left open by stupid people, and are otherwise a preferred entry point for criminals, if you do have them, does anyone have any tips on hardening them apart from covering them with PIR/automatic lights and alarms?

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Re: Mod My House! Home Security for new home owner

Post by Apollo-11 » Sun Jan 16, 2011 9:30 pm

The best $3 you will ever spend... go get a pack of 3 1/2" long screws. Remove screws from your door hinges and replace with long screws. Do this on both the jamb side and into the door. Then do the same with the strike plate and the knob and deadbolt. Then save up your money and get a good strike plate.

I would recommend against wireless video cameras. Most are easily intercepted and unencrypted. If a would-be thief is wardriving around looking for wireless cameras, he can see which houses are worth breaking into, and he can also find the blind spots. Be sure to hide the cameras well, too. A common gang initiation is to have the new kid go steal a security camera right off the wall. You might want a few dummy cameras in plain sight, for a deterrence. Cameras don't record very good detail, especially analog NTSC cameras. Newer ones have higher megapixel rates. Place a camera at head-height if you want a good face pic, and at license-plate-height for driveways.
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Re: Mod My House! Home Security for new home owner

Post by raptor » Sun Jan 16, 2011 10:44 pm

All locks can be defeated. That said some are more resistant than others. I prefer the Mul-T-lock deadbolts to the Medcos for security applications. However, I also install surface mounted locks that are accessible only from inside.

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