Home Security

Improvised Home Security Ideas, How To Deter Burglars, And More

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front of downtown house flowers in planters
You might not need to spend on a pricey home security system with these improvised home security ideas.

Can you really scare burglars away and if so, how? We’ll help you make your home less appealing to burglars as well as give you some tips on how to improve your home’s security without breaking the bank.

Home invasions are a very real threat, no matter how safe a neighborhood seems to be. While it’s great to believe you live in a safe environment that makes you feel secure in your home, it’s not wise to blow off home security measures.

Because many home security systems are quite expensive, plenty of people assume that home security is out of their range. Don’t worry, though. Home security doesn’t need to be expensive. Take a look at these home security ideas. Most of them are quite cheap, and others are completely free!

Protect your home on a budget and keep reading.

Lock Your Doors & Windows

One of the easiest deterrents for criminals is a move that won’t cost you a penny. Lock your doors and windows, all of them. Even when you’re at home, keep your doors and windows secured to make sure your first line of home defense strong and efficient. This simple home security idea is worth following 100% of the time.

Replace Your Door Screws

Believe it or not, it’s really not that difficult to kick a door in. Sometimes, even if the deadbolt is engaged, a few slams in the right spot can destroy the deadbolt’s housing and make it virtually useless.

To strengthen your doors, replace the screws that hold your door hinges against the entryway, as well as the screws that hold the latch mechanism. Use screws that are at least three inches long, because once installed, they anchor into the wood on either side of your doorway. It’s a simple DIY home security idea, but this move can make kicking your door in nearly impossible.

Security Doors, Latches, and/or Peepholes

To protect yourself from a home invasion, take steps to put a barrier between yourself and other people when you’re answering your door. You might choose to have security doors installed (some doors are only a couple hundred dollars) so that you can have a locked, metal protector to keep you safe.

If a door is out of the budget, there are a couple of cheap home security ideas to consider as an alternative.

Install a chain latch that only allows your door to open a couple of inches until you can verify that you want to let your visitor inside. You might also want to consider a peephole so that you don’t even have to open the door if the person on the other end creeps you out.

Window Sticks

On top of engaging the locks on your windows, adding a simple “window stick” to reinforce your sliding windows helps keep them closed. Even if a person manages to jimmy the window lock open with a piece of wire, inserting a stick into your window’s track keeps the window from being moved open. Ensure that your window sticks are snug enough to prevent anything more than an inch of window movement, but keep them thin enough to remove easily if an emergency occurs and you need to escape through the window in a hurry.

Keep Your Yard Clean

Avoid leaving anything in your yard that might provoke someone into taking advantage of an opportunity. Put bikes, lawn furniture, tools, and any other items that are easy to steal in a secure location (like a shed or garage). Further, keep heavy items that could be used to break your windows away from your home, and don’t leave any ladders lying around (which could give a potential intruder easy access to your upper floors).

red ladder leaning on home
While it might be tempting to just leave this outside so you can easily resume work the next day, it’s probably not worth the risk. Exposed ladders like this give intruders easy access to upper levels of your home that are normally difficult for them to get to.

You’ll also want to make sure that your yard looks clean and maintained so that passersby can reasonably assume that someone lives in your home.

Install Decoys

Security systems can be out of the question for plenty of homeowners due to the costs associated with them. If this is the case, try some improvised home security ideas.

Installing decoys might work. It’s pretty difficult to tell a high-quality decoy from a real camera, even at only a few yards away. Install a few prop cameras around your home, but post them high enough to where intruders can’t touch them or examine them close up.

There’s also no harm in hanging signs in your yard that suggest you have a security camera and/or security system installed on your property (just don’t use brand names). Potential intruders have no way of verifying whether the signs are legitimate and most of the time, they’re not going to assume the risk.

Get a Dog

German shepherd looking left in front of a blurry background of a street with a tree and some snow.
This German Shepherd doesn’t look like he’ll take fondly to unwanted guests.

A dog isn’t the best option for everyone, as feeding and caring for an animal is a great responsibility. However, if you have the time and the funds available to provide a good home, you might want to look into getting a dog. If you choose to adopt and you utilize low-cost vet services, affording a pet can be much easier to swing.

Having a dog at home can provide more benefits than simply keeping your home safe. When you have a dog that you’ve bonded with emotionally, you can rest assured that you have someone watching over you and your family in general.

In most cases, if you have a medium to large dog, the very presence of your pet will deter criminals from invading your space.

Plus, a vigilant dog can warn you of a presence you didn’t yet notice. Their hearing and sense of smell far exceeds what we’re capable of as humans, so having a dog alert you of potential dangers can give you the time you need to respond. However, remember that canines, like any pets, are members of your family, and you don’t want to put them in danger by using them as a line of defense should an intruder actually gain entry.

Keep Your Whereabouts to Yourself

In the age of social media, it’s common for people to post about their vacations or virtually check in at locations they’re visiting. If you’re not going to be home, keep it to yourself until you’ve returned. Avoid telling people when you’ll be away from home, and turn off the feature on your apps that post real-time check-ins to your social media accounts on your behalf. If you must, share information about the new restaurant you visited after the fact.

Being safe doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg, nor does the worry surrounding home security have to consume your thoughts. Following a couple of these cheap, simple home security ideas can help set your mind at ease and prevent home invasions just as well as the more expensive options.

How To Keep Thieves Off Your Property

According to the FBI, there are over 2.5 million burglaries annually in the U.S. Before entering a home, a burglar decides which house to target. This begins with them walking/driving throughout the neighborhood (“canvassing” the hood) and getting an idea of your typical schedule. They may dress up as a repairman or some other type of worker to go unnoticed.

6 Things That Make Your Home More Vulnerable To Burglary

  1. High privacy fence, so others cannot see them breaking in
  2. Overgrown shrubs or trees near the house, so they can’t see them break a window or inside
  3. Toys in the yard means kids live there, which means a mother may live there, which means jewelry
  4. No sight of burglary alarm from the outside, which includes signs, cameras, etc.
  5. No lights or activity throughout the home for long periods of time

5 Things Burglars Are Looking For Inside Your House

After the burglar has chosen a home and broken in, they begin searching for anything valuable and target these rooms for these items:

  1. Master bedroom – cash, electronics, jewelry, safes
  2. Bathroom medicine cabinet – pills/narcotic prescriptions
  3. Kitchen and living room – electronics, personal information, car keys
  4. Office – credit cards, electronics, personal information, safes
  5. Garage – tools

Notice that burglars don’t target a child’s room very often. This is because valuables aren’t typically kept here. If you feel comfortable and your home’s layout allows for this, consider keeping your safe or other valuables in a secret place in your child’s room.

11 Ways To Prevent A Burglary

Find out how to deter burglars and how to make your home safe from intruders using these tips:

  1. Get a home security system. Having a residential burglar alarm system is known to reduce crime.
  2. Don’t post company-specific alarm signs; this gives burglars a heads-up for how to disarm the system.
  3. Lock all doors and windows — many burglars enter a home through an unlocked access point making entry into your home simple.
  4. Do not hide a key around your property that is obvious. “Oh look, here’s a random rock next to the door, I wonder if there’s a key underneath.”
  5. Use deadbolts on exterior doors to make them even more difficult to enter.
  6. Close your garage door, leaving it open all day (even if you’re home) lets others see what valuables you have inside. See more garage security tips.
  7. Close your curtains so burglars can’t see what’s going on inside.
  8. Don’t mention when you’ll be away from your home to strangers or online. Keep your vacation plans to yourself until after you return.
  9. If you are away for a while, have a trusted neighbor collect any newspapers or other items that may be on your front step.
  10. If it snows and you’re away, have a neighbor walk/drive through your driveway to make it look like someone has been home recently.
  11. Use home automation devices to time the lights or television inside your home to turn on and off even when you’re away.

Video: Additional Home Security Ideas

Watch this video to hear tips from real burglars on how you can avoid being their target.

5 Ways To Deter Burglars From Your Home (Infographic)

Here’s a handy graphic you can reference on what to do (and what not to do) to attract burglars.

Best Burglar Deterrents Infographic

Protect Your Home With These 7 Smart Devices

One of the most effective ways to protect your home is with smart home security equipment. We’ve reviewed the devices below and bring you our top picks.

  1. Smart Locks
  2. Doorbells
  3. Smoke Detectors
  4. Carbon Monoxide Detector
  5. Outdoor Security Cameras
  6. Outdoor Security Lights
  7. Security Cameras

Frequently Asked Questions

These home security questions from our readers get asked often. Don’t see yours? Ask us in the comments!

Do Outside Lights Deter Burglars?

Burglars are automatically drawn towards homes with less lighting. If you have security lights installed on your property the chances of a burglar targeting your home decrease, but they don’t diminish completely. We definitely recommend having lights outside that are motion activated or just on when it’s dark, to help you see what’s going on around your property. You can find the best outdoor security lights here.

Does Having A Dog Deter Burglars?

While having a dog does reduce your risk of being burglarized, we don’t recommend considering your dog an element of your security system. Burglars don’t want a dog to be barking at them and alert others of their presence and most will simply choose another home to burglarize. However, not all burglars think this way and unfortunately, too many dogs have been injured or worse during burglaries. Deterring intruders should not be your sole reason for owning a dog, but their barking does help. We discuss this more in-depth here.

How To Keep Your House Safe While On Vacation

We hope you’ve gained some valuable knowledge to help protect your valuables and home. But what if you’re not home? We’ve got you covered, check out our 10 tips to maximize home security while on vacation as well as holiday safety tips for you & your home.

Kimberly Alt

Kimberly is our home security expert and has been writing about security and safety since 2013, covering everything from security systems and home automation to identity theft protection, home warranties, medical alert systems, and more. She has personally tested hundreds of system components and interfaced with dozens of home security companies to find out what’s happening behind the scenes. Her work has appeared in many notable brands, including The New York Times' Wirecutter, Reader's Digest, Forbes, People, Woman's World, and Huffington Post. In 2018, she had her first child, which opened up a whole new avenue of security experience with baby gear. She wanted to purchase the safest items for her family. Kimberly received her Bachelor of Arts in multimedia journalism from Simpson College. Her natural curiosity helps her research as she seeks the truth when learning about, comparing, and personally testing products and services.

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