One of the home-improvement projects with the greatest return on investment is the one that makes your house more secure.

Don’t wait until someone breaks in before finding the peace of mind that comes with knowing you’ve done everything you can to keep intruders out.

A handy homeowner can do a lot of the work involved in crime-proofing a house. A security professional and local home-improvement companies can do the rest. To get started, here are 16 important projects:

security1. Add security doors.

Security screen doors with decorative bars and heavy locks allow you to leave your entry doors open when the weather is nice or when you want to talk to visitors outside but don’t want to invite them in. Choose a model that suits the design of your home so it will say “style” instead of “scary neighborhood” to friends and neighbors, while adding a layer of protection.

2. Ask for identification.

Don’t open your door to unknown contractors or other strangers. Even when your service tech arrives, ask to see identification that bears the company’s name. Look out the window at the truck. Does it have a company logo painted on it?


security3. Shed light.Leave your outdoor lights on overnight. Burglars don’t want anybody to see them as they crawl through your bedroom window, so they’re more likely to target a house with a dark yard. Motion-sensitive lights save energy but illuminate when anyone skulks past. And solar lights can be an affordable way to keep your property lighted up from dusk to dawn.

4. Install a better door.

Replace your hollow entry doors with solid-core or sturdy steel models. You can get steel doors stamped with a wood-grain pattern or choose a smooth surface to go with the style of your house.

5. Add a mail slot.

Cut a mail slot into the door. More homeowners who send and receive mail through an outdoor mailbox are reporting stolen checks and credit-card numbers.

6. Upgrade windows.

If you’ve been thinking about replacing your old, single-pane windows for more energy-efficient double-pane models, don’t put it off. Double-pane windows – especially if you opt for tempered or security glass on the first floor – can be harder to break into than single pane. Plus, your new locks are likely to latch better than the worn-out hardware on your old windows.

security7. Add smoke detectors.

Protect against non-human invaders. Equip your house with carbon-monoxide and smoke alarms. If you have a security system, opt for a service that will notify authorities if it detects fire, gas or a plumbing-induced flood inside your home.

8. Secure yard equipment.

Build or buy a small shed with a sturdy lock where you can store your lawnmower, blowers and trimmers.

9. Add a peephole.

If you don’t already have one, drill a peephole into your front door. That way, you’ll never have to open the door without knowing who’s standing outside.

10. Change the locks.

Over the years, you’ve given your front-door key to pet-sitters, baby-sitters, housekeepers, contractors and relatives – and chances are, you’ve lost track of where some of those keys are. Know who has access to your house. Consider going high-tech with your new lock. Instead of keys, choose a lock that operates electronically, either through a pass code entered into a keypad near the door, by recognizing your fingerprint or by responding to a command from a key fob or cellphone.

security11. Install a safe.Build a safe into a wall or floor. That way, it becomes part of the structure of the home and can’t be removed. In addition to having sturdy locks, built-in safes are easy to conceal under furniture or rugs. Wall safes can hide behind panels that are designed to look like and blend into the wall.

12. Add a ‘safe’ room.

One of my contractor friends has built several “safe” rooms in the Phoenix area. They’re usually about the size of a large closet and often are hidden behind another closet. They’re temperature-controlled for storing jewelry, furs, heirlooms and other valuables, and often have thick walls and ceilings and fire-rated doors that serve as a fire barrier.

13. Display warning signs.

If you have a dog, put up a sign letting would-be intruders know he’s a big one. Advertise your security system – although safety experts warn against using decals with the system’s brand name. A smart thief could go online to learn how to bypass your model if he knows what it is.

14. Install a security system.

New, wireless models are easy to install in existing homes because they don’t require the contractor to tear your walls up to hide wires. Plus, they’re portable. Unlike hard-wired systems, you can take a wireless model with you when you move. A wireless system that is run via the Internet won’t lose power when the electricity goes off during a storm.

security15. Secure the pet door.Rethink your doggy door. Not only can raccoons and the neighbor’s cat walk through it any time, a small teenager could squeeze through if he wanted your Xbox or Vicodin badly enough. If you really need a pet door, arm it with a wireless window security sensor or alarm system that will make a racket whenever it opens.

16. Do some landscaping.

Remove tall shrubs and trees from around your house so bad guys won’t have any place to hide. Keep hedges trimmed beneath windows. Make sure all of your home’s windows and doors are visible from the street.


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For home inspection services in the Sacramento and Bay Area please contact Golden State Home Inspections at 800.441.0804 or visit

For more information, we are available on Facebook as well.

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