Enhancing Security for French Doors, Patio Doors and Sliding Glass Doors

Enhancing Security for French Doors, Patio Doors and Sliding Glass Doors

April 22, 2024
Martin Whitmore, President of US Window & Door
Photo of a Home's Exterior Patio Doors and Windows

Securing your home's exterior doors is crucial for protecting your property, family, and belongings from potential intruders. French doors, patio doors, and sliding glass doors are popular with many homeowners due to their aesthetic appeal, functionality, and natural light. However, these door types can also present unique security challenges compared to traditional solid doors, often made of much stronger materials like solid or insulated fiberglass.

To effectively safeguard your home, it's essential to understand the common security weaknesses associated with these door styles and implement appropriate measures to reinforce them against potential break-ins or select products that have already taken care of these concerns. This article will explore the various vulnerabilities of French doors, patio doors, and sliding glass doors while providing practical solutions to enhance their security and give you greater peace of mind.

What to Look For in Patio Door Security

When securing your home, the front door often receives the most attention. However, it's crucial not to overlook the vulnerability of other entry points. These doors can be desirable to intruders due to their design and the perception that they may be easier to breach than a solid front door.

Fortunately, there are several effective ways to assess the security of these doors without the need for costly replacements. By reviewing the current condition of your doors, identifying potential weaknesses, and implementing targeted reinforcement measures, you can improve resistance to forced entry attempts. This assessment also helps you understand when it may be time to replace the door if the problems are unresolvable or inherent in the original door design.

Check for Proper Door Installation

Proper installation is crucial for ensuring the security and optimal performance of your French doors, patio doors, or sliding glass doors. Even high-quality doors can be compromised if installed incorrectly, leaving gaps or weak points that intruders could exploit. Poorly installed doors may not fit snugly in their frames, allowing them to be more easily forced open. Uneven reveals around the door can cause warping over time due to pressure changes, impacting the door's operation and longevity. Insufficient insulation and sealing around the door can also lead to drafts and energy loss.

To avoid these issues, hiring experienced professionals specializing in installing the type of door you have chosen is essential. They can offer valuable advice, accurately measure and fit the door, and ensure it is properly sealed and insulated for security and energy efficiency.

Check the Condition of Your Current Door

Photo of a Magnifying Glass Inspecting a House Image

Before installing a new door or addressing security concerns with an existing one, thoroughly inspect the door, frame, and surrounding areas for any signs of damage or weakness. Look for cracks, warping, or rot in wooden doors and frames, as these can compromise the door's structural integrity and make it easier to break through. Check metal doors and frames for dents, corrosion, or signs of tampering. Pay attention to the condition of the door's locking mechanisms, hinges, and tracks (for sliding doors). Ensure the locks are securely attached and functioning properly. Loose or damaged hardware can make it easier for burglars to gain entry. Inspect the areas surrounding the door, such as the walls, floor, and threshold, for any cracks, gaps, or signs of water damage that could indicate underlying structural issues or potential weak points.

Your sliding glass door should be installed on the inside of the track, with the stationary door positioned on the outside. This configuration makes it more difficult for burglars to pull the sliding door from the track, as the immobile door acts as a layer of protection. Additionally, ensure that brackets or other security features are installed on the inside rather than the outside, as intruders can easily tamper with or remove the exterior installation.

Assess the Surrounding Area for Security Vulnerabilities

A legitimate strategy to enhance security is to improve the area around your sliding glass door. Well-maintained landscaping enhances your home's curb appeal and contributes to its security. Overgrown bushes, trees, and shrubs near your doors can provide hiding spots for potential intruders. Regular trimming and pruning of vegetation around your home's entry points can reduce these hiding spots and make it difficult for burglars to approach undetected.

Keep bushes and shrubs near your doors trimmed to a maximum height of two to three feet. Open spaces allow for clear visibility and eliminate potential concealment areas. Additionally, consider planting thorny or prickly vegetation beneath windows to deter intruders from attempting to gain entry through these openings.

Creating natural barriers around your sliding glass doors effectively enhances security while adding value to your home. Planting thorny bushes or shrubs near the doors can deter intruders and make it more difficult for them to approach unnoticed. These natural barriers provide an extra layer of protection and enhance the overall aesthetics of your outdoor space. Additionally, installing a fence or gate around your property restricts access and acts as a deterrent to potential criminals. These outdoor home upgrades not only contribute to the security of your home but also increase its value. Investing in natural barriers creates a safer living environment while improving the appeal and value of your property.

Covering glass with curtains or blinds

In addition to physical barriers and locks, covering the glass of your sliding doors can provide an extra layer of security and privacy. Curtains, blinds, or decorative security film can prevent potential intruders from seeing inside your home, making it less appealing as a target.

Curtains and blinds offer a simple and effective way to obstruct the view into your home. By keeping them closed, especially at night when interior lights make it easier to see inside, you can maintain privacy and deter curious onlookers. Vertical blinds are also popular as they can be easily adjusted to control light and visibility.

Motion Lights

One of the most effective additions you can make to help secure the space around your sliding door is a motion light. Typically used in the front or backyards of homes, motion lights have a sensor that detects movement and activates the light. Often, just the presence of light will be enough to make a potential intruder have second thoughts. If the light is bright enough, it may alert people nearby and draw additional attention.

Install an Alarm & Security Cameras

An alarm system can be a very effective way to protect your entire home and exterior sliding door. The main advantage of an alarm system is that the simple presence of one is often a strong deterrent. For sliding doors, alarm systems typically operate using a sensor and a magnet installed on the door and frame. When the sensor and magnet are in contact, the door registers as closed. When the door slides open, the sensor will no longer be in contact with the magnet, triggering the alarm. You will then be alerted whenever the door is opened.

Visible security cameras are another effective deterrent. Potential burglars who see a home with surveillance cameras are less likely to attempt a break-in. Place cameras in prominent locations near your doors, ensuring they have a clear view of the area. Some security cameras even feature built-in spotlights or sirens that activate when detecting motion, deterring criminals.

Utilizing smart home technology to boost your sliding door security

Utilizing smart home technology can be a real boon for your efforts to enhance the security of your sliding glass doors. If the manufacturer allows it without affecting the warranty, consider integrating smart locks into your system, allowing you to control access remotely. With unique codes or biometric authentication, you can grant entry only to trusted individuals. Connecting door sensors to your home security system gives you instant alerts if the door is tampered with. Smart home technology also enables remote monitoring and control, allowing you to check the status of your doors from anywhere. You can even receive notifications on your smartphone if the door is unlocked or ajar. With the convenience and advanced features of smart home technology, you can have greater control and peace of mind regarding the security of your sliding glass doors.

A more neighborly approach to home security

Establishing a neighborhood watch program is a proactive approach to enhancing the security of your community. By collaborating with your neighbors, you can monitor each other's properties and report any suspicious activities promptly. This neighborly support is especially helpful if a potential break-in is happening while you're on a holiday trip! Regularly sharing information and communicating builds camaraderie and security awareness among residents. Organizing regular meetings or social events fosters a strong community bond and encourages active participation in maintaining neighborhood security. A neighborhood watch program acts as an extra set of eyes and ears, deterring potential criminals and creating a safer environment for everyone. By working together, residents can effectively prevent crime, reduce vulnerability, and promote a sense of unity within the community. Consider taking the initiative to establish a neighborhood watch program and contribute to a safer neighborhood for all.

Improving the Security of the Door Itself

Focusing on the door itself is crucial when enhancing the security of your sliding glass doors. Implementing targeted measures to strengthen the door can significantly reduce the risk of forced entry. You can create a formidable barrier against intruders by combining physical reinforcements and electronic monitoring.

Multi-point locking systems and high-security locks

Upgrading patio doors with multi-point locking systems and high-security locks can significantly enhance their resistance to forced entry. Multi-point locking systems secure the door at multiple points along its length, typically at the top, middle, and bottom. These locks usually include a combination of deadbolts, hook bolts, or shoot bolts that engage with the frame or floor, making it much more challenging for an intruder to pry the door open. Some multi-point locks can be operated with a single handle or key turn, providing enhanced security and convenience.

High-security locks, such as those with reinforced strike plates, hardened cylinders, and anti-drill or anti-bump features, offer additional protection against lock picking, drilling, and other forms of tampering. These locks often exceed the minimum standards set by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and are designed to withstand significant force and manipulation.

Reinforce the Glass or Install Decorative Glass for Privacy

Photo of Glass Obscured by Decorative Security Film

The most obvious area of vulnerability for a sliding glass door is the glass itself. Even if a sliding door is tightly secured with multiple locks, it doesn't matter if someone can break the glass and step through. To address this issue, check with your manufacturer if you're considering reinforcing the glass with security film or replacing it with high-impact glass. You want to make sure any modifications you don't invalidate the warranty or break how well the product works in function or energy efficiency. Reinforcing the glass with security or shatterproof film can help deter break-ins and slow down intruders.

Security film can be installed alongside your existing glass, providing additional layers of resilience. It helps hold the glass together even if shattered, making it more difficult for an intruder to gain entry. A more effective option is replacing your standard glass with high-impact glass, designed to withstand substantial impacts without breaking, similar to hurricane windows.

Decorative security film is another option for enhancing privacy while allowing natural light to enter your home. This film adheres to the glass and features patterns or frosted designs that obscure the view from the outside. Security film also has the added benefit of reinforcing the glass, making it more difficult to break.

Secure the Door Track

Sliding doors function by sliding along two horizontal tracks, one on the top of the door frame and one on the bottom. Placing a sturdy object in the track can prevent the door from being physically opened. Products called blocking bars are designed specifically for this task, but any sufficiently strong object, such as a thick book or rod, can be used in a pinch.

When selecting an object to use as a blocker, choose something that can withstand force and pressure. Intruders intent on forcibly opening a door will not be gentle. The blocker should be strong enough to resist attempts to dislodge it from the track. Most modern doors either come with a built-in blocker or additional locks that function similarly. 

Utilize Window Sensors and Glass Break Detectors

Adding window sensors and glass break detectors through a security company is an intelligent choice to bolster the security of your sliding glass doors. Window sensors can detect unauthorized entry attempts, triggering an alarm and alerting you to potential intrusions. These sensors are typically placed on windows and doors to monitor tampering or opening.

Glass break detectors are designed to recognize the sound frequency of breaking glass and promptly activate an alarm system. There are two types of glass break sensors: sound and vibration. Sound sensors detect the actual pitch and frequency of glass breaking and are typically placed on the ceiling inside your home. On the other hand, vibration sensors are placed directly on the glass and detect the vibration when the glass is shattered.

Installing these devices near your sliding glass doors creates an extra layer of protection against forced entry. Connecting window sensors and glass break detectors to a comprehensive home security system ensures seamless integration and enhances overall security. Since these sensors and alarms can even be linked to an alert to your local police, they provide much-needed reassurance for homeowners concerned with security.

Adding a Secondary Lock at the Top or Bottom of the Door

Most patio doors come with a standard latch or lock, but determined intruders can easily compromise these. Installing a secondary lock at the top or bottom of the door, such as a keyed lock or a loop lock, makes it much more challenging for burglars to break in. These locks are typically more robust than the standard latch and require more effort to disable.

Top/bottom locks also serve as a visual deterrent, signaling to potential intruders that the homeowner has taken extra steps to secure their door, making it a formidable barrier against forced entry.

Security is Unique to Each Door Type

As with the door-reinforcing methods mentioned earlier, motion lights and alarms add extra security. When it comes to the most secure sliding door, the best security is integrated into the door itself. While trying to fix a vulnerability is always beneficial, it's better if it wasn't there to begin with. Just like building a house starts with a good foundation, security is built the same way.

Securing French Doors with Risks of Exposed Hinges on Outward-Opening Doors

French doors that open outward can pose a security risk due to their exposed hinges. Burglars can easily remove the hinge pins and lift the door off its frame, gaining access to your home. This vulnerability is particularly concerning for French doors located in secluded areas or at the back of the house, where intruders may not get noticed.

Consider installing security hinges with non-removable pins to address the issue of exposed hinges on outward-opening French doors. These specialized hinges are designed to prevent the door from being lifted off its frame, even if the pin is removed. The pins are typically secured with set screws or other locking mechanisms, making it virtually impossible for an intruder to remove them without specialized tools.

Sliding Glass Door Security Measures

One of the most effective ways to enhance the security of your sliding glass doors is by installing a security bar or a Charley Bar in the door track. These devices act as physical barriers, preventing the door from being opened even if the lock is compromised.

A security bar is a sturdy metal or wooden rod that fits snugly in the bottom track of the sliding door. When in place, it blocks the door from sliding open, making it nearly impossible for intruders to force their way in. Security bars are affordable, easy to install, and highly effective. They can withstand significant force, providing a reliable extra layer of protection.

Similarly, a Charley Bar is a hinged bar that attaches to the sliding door frame, usually at waist height. When engaged, it folds down and blocks the door from opening. Charley Bars offer the added convenience of not having to bend down to place or remove the bar, making them easier to use consistently.

What Makes Milgard Security Different

Photo of Milgard's SmartTouch Door Handle

If your current door suffers from vulnerabilities, there are only so many ways to enhance it. You can spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars trying to supplement an inherently insecure door without success. Or you could start with a new, secure door.

At the end of the day, it is often more effective (and more economical) to get a better door, and Milgard specializes in quality products. Not only are Milgard doors and windows beautiful and sleek but they are also built with security in mind from the very start. When you invest in a Milgard sliding door, you know you are receiving a stylish and secure door that complements and protects your home and loved ones.

With brilliant innovations such as the SmartTouch® Door Handle and SmartTouch® Bolt, Milgard sliding doors have built-in security. The Milgard SmartTouch® Door Handle has a hidden locking mechanism that cannot be seen. And security that cannot be seen cannot be planned for in advance by would-be intruders. The lock can be released by a simple one-touch motion from the inside, making it sleek, ergonomic, and easy to use for all ages.

If an intruder strikes, you must know that your door locks won't fail. Milgard SmartTouch® Door Handles exceed California forced entry standards, some of the nation's most demanding standards. Tough and solid, the Milgard SmartTouch® handle is reliable and built to last.

The SmartTouch® Bolt is another exclusive innovation from Milgard. More rugged than some after-market modifications you can make to a door, the SmartTouch® Bolt is a fully integrated steel bolt that securely holds the sliding door to the frame with a simple lever flip. The fully integrated steel bolt ensures maximum rigidity and durability against force. With no chain to snap or screw to loosen, you can have confidence and peace of mind in the SmartTouch® Bolt security. Another feature of the Milgard SmartTouch® Bolt is that it secures the door while allowing fresh air during nice weather.

The Milgard SecurityMax™ Package is also available for those who wish to take their security further. Combining the rugged SmartTouch® Bolt with a multi-point locking system, the SecurityMax™ Package is the pinnacle of sliding door security.

You Don't Need to Sacrifice Security for Style

Naturally, you want your home to be beautiful, but you also want it to be secure. Often, people think you need to choose between style and security: to have something stylish, it needs to be fragile, and to have something secure, it must be bulky.‍

The Milgard Security line of windows and doors proves that security and style coexist. Compromise is now a thing of the past. Gone are the days of unsightly latches, big, unwieldy locks, and ugly obstructive bars. With Milgard's innovations in SmartTouch® technology, your home can have the same fantastic security while looking visually stunning. You can be proud of your door's strength and elegance and be confident it will hold up to whatever life throws at it.

Enhancing Security Without Compromising Style

Securing your home's exterior doors is essential for protecting your property and loved ones from potential intruders. At the same time, attractive and functional French doors, sliding glass doors, and patio doors can present unique security challenges that require specific attention and reinforcement.

For French doors, installing security hinges with non-removable pins, reinforcing glass with shatterproof film, and upgrading to multi-point locking systems and high-security locks can significantly enhance their resistance to forced entry. Sliding glass doors can also be fortified with security bars or Charley Bars in the door track, secondary locks at the top or bottom, and privacy-enhancing window coverings like curtains, blinds, or decorative security film.

Patio doors benefit from frame and hinge reinforcement kits, high-security keyed locks, and integration with a home alarm system. Maintaining landscaping to eliminate hiding spots near doors, installing outdoor lighting and visible security cameras, and investing in impact-resistant glass for sliding and French doors are additional measures to deter burglars and provide a more comprehensive security solution.

Implementing a layered security approach that combines multiple reinforcement methods is crucial for maximizing the protection of your exterior doors. By addressing vulnerabilities from various angles, such as physical barriers, locking mechanisms, alarms, and visual deterrents, you create a more robust and effective security system that is much harder for criminals to bypass.

Taking proactive steps to secure your French doors, sliding glass doors, and patio doors enhances your home's overall security and provides invaluable peace of mind. Knowing that you have taken the necessary precautions to safeguard your home and family allows you to relax and enjoy your living space.

Remember, while no security measure is entirely foolproof, every step you take to reinforce your exterior doors makes your home a less appealing target for burglars. By staying informed about the latest security options and consistently implementing best practices, you can significantly reduce the risk of break-ins and maintain a safer, more secure home environment.