Doors . . . Our Last Means of Defense

| | No Comments »

Today, most homes have three to four doors that allow us to enter/exit our homes.  Usually, the front of our homes have a ornate, large front door and garage door(s), with perhaps a side entrance and/or rear sliding door.  If we have an alarm system, those doors, with the possible exception of the garage door, are wired into the alarm system.

To understand the function of the various doors we have in our homes, let’s go back to the framing of our homes during construction.  In this illustration, our home is a single story dwelling with 8′ high ceilings inside.  Although heights may vary, this basic framing technique pertains to all framing of door and window openings.

As we watch our home being built, whether a custom home or production home, the framing is the same.  In our home the framing consists of 2″ X 4″ bottom plates, pre-cut studs, and two top plates.  On either side of door or window openings, there will be a stud from the bottom plate to the top plate.  Spanning the opening will be a framing member called a header.

In this instance, our header will be a 4″ X 12″ solid piece of wood, nailed to the studs on either side of the header.  To support the header, two studs will be cut to fit tightly between the bottom plate and the bottom of the header.  These two framing members are called cripples or trimmers.

The openings for both doors and windows is roughly ½” larger to allow the adjustments for the doors or windows to function properly.  Today’s windows usually have a flange which is nailed directly into the framing once the window is centered in the opening and is plumb and level.  Doors however are a little more complicated to install.

Most builders use pre-hung doors throughout their project(s).  A pre-hung door is a door blank that is beveled to fit within a door jamb.  Hinges are in place and the door knob/handle/lock is already machined into the door.  Interior doors are usually hung in a jamb which is 3/4″ thick, front door jambs are 1 ½” on average.

Additionally, most exterior doors come with a threshold attached.  Meaning the complete door, jamb, and threshold is merely set into the opening, completely finished with the exception of being secured in the opening.  With the opening ½” larger than our door jamb, wood shingles, called shims, are used to plumb and level the door to insure proper swing and closure of the door.

Normally, shims are used where the hinges are located to plumb the hinge side first and the jamb is secured to the framing by nails or screws.  Next the top of the jamb is leveled and secured, followed by the lock side of the jamb.  Most exterior doors will typically have two to four hinges.

Being the doors are milled, the screws that hold the hinges in place are never longer than the with of the jamb the door hangs in.  For interior doors this should not be of concern, but exterior doors may require additional security measures.  By replacing hinge screws with 3″ deck screws, the replacement screws go through the jamb, the adjustment void, and secure the jamb to the framing members, thus allowing a much stronger tie to the framing.

The strike plates on the opposite side of the jamb, where the tongue of the lock(s) goes into the jamb, can also be secured with 3″ screws, further strengthening the exterior door entrance.  Trimming off all doors, whether exterior or interior, is called the casing.  The mere fact that doors are built into our homes should add awareness that we must take further means to secure what protects us.

Now that you are all journeymen carpenters, with a few safety tips under your belts, let’s discuss some ways we can better protect ourselves and our families.  Most front doors come with a doorbell.  Just because someone pushes your doorbell does not mean you are obligated to open the door.

By opening the door, you have just removed your last form of defense.  The individual(s) outside your door know why they are there, you do not.  By removing your defense, you are now at the mercy of the person(s) on your porch.

Most of us were raised not to be impolite, even to strangers, but I do not believe that holds true anymore.  Some “Salespeople” have eliminated using the doorbell in favor of door knocking.  To many knock, knock, is friendly, perhaps your next door neighbor or a friend just dropping by.

Always look before you open the door.  In fact, observation is the key element to overall personal and family safety, but really essential in this situation.  If you do not recognize the individual(s) outside your door, do not open the door.  You can talk through the door, if you offend someone, so be it, your are safe behind your closed locked door.

Garage doors offer a different challenge.  Typically, most garage doors or replacement garage doors, are installed with garage door openers/closures.  Push the button the door opens, push the button again the door closes.

The only safety feature is the sensors, mounted to either side of the garage door jamb about 8 to 12 inches off the slab.  The sensors send a beam to one another continuously, regardless of the position of the door.  Their sole purpose is return the garage door to an open position when the beam is broken.

Originally, this beam was to protect small children and pets from being harmed by a closing garage door.  There is also a sensor in the rubber strip on the bottom of the garage door.  This sensor returns the door to an opened position if the strip comes in contact with anything the beam misses, such as a vehicle parked halfway in the garage, yet tall enough to allow the beam to remain intact.

Usually, the automatic garage door takes a few seconds to open and/or close.  If you are going into your home, hit the button to close the door, take a moment to watch the door close.  In theory or in reality, a bad guy could watch you hit the button to close the door, see you enter your home, then simply step over the sensor beam.

Now you are in your home with an unknown intruder in your garage.  If you were watching the door close, saw someone stepping into your garage, you could quickly lock the door entering your home and call 911.  Again, being observant can be a life saver.

When I went to the Police Academy, almost 30 years ago, 25% of all home burglaries were non-forced.  The bad guys simply walked or climbed through an unlocked door or window.  A few years ago, I was dumbfounded to find that number increased to almost 50%.

A couple of ideas to lessen your chances of becoming a victim would be to check your exterior doors and windows to make sure they are closed and locked.  Go to the Animal Shelter, save a dog’s life, and let him become your family’s pet.  Activate your home alarm system when you enter your home.

With the alarm on, the dog in the house, when the intruder tries to enter he/they should be quickly discouraged.  There is no one thing that you can do that works 100% of the time.  It is the redundancy of multiple precautions taken by you, the homeowner that proves to be the best deterrent to criminal activities.

The bad guys know the score, if your home proves to be too challenging, they can simply move down the street to another home that has doors and windows unlocked.  The underlying secret to personal and family security is to acknowledge that it can happen to you.  The realization the 6 o’clock news is not made up of actors, they are real people who became victimized.

Mace, the product most associated with pepper spray also carries a complete catalog for home and traveling safety products.  From home alarm systems that monitor themselves with no addition cost to the homeowner, to personal alarms either worn by a person or attached to a door, or an adjustable doorstop, perfect for a hotel or motel entry door.  You can find Mace’s complete catalog on our website home page.

It is our goal, at, to provide you with as many ways as we can to protect you, your family, your home and your home’s contents.  Sometimes it can be a little unnerving when we realize just how vulnerable we really are, but through minor adjustments, making safety a habit, we can drastically reduce opportunities of being the victim.  You can fight back, you do have a choice, Victim or Survivor.

Leave a Reply