An exterior door is only as strong as its weakest component. A high quality lock installed in a door attached to a weak frame remains vulnerable to forced entry, and is equivalent to putting a padlock on a paper bag.
For an exterior door to be an effective barrier between the burglar and their target, three aspects of a door assembly must be addressed and secured: the door, the door frame, and the lock.


When choosing a deadbolt, have these minimum specifications:

  • Minimum 3" interlocking bolts to hold the cylinder halves together.
  • Tapered cylinder guard.
  • Hardened steel bolt with a 1" throw and a saw-resistant feature.
  • Bolt encased in a single piece housing.
  • Bolt constructed so as to limit internal movement or "play" when bolt is fully extended.

Not all deadbolts are created equal. They appear similar on the exterior, but the internal components are critical to the overall integrity of the lock. Install a deadbolt that meets or exceeds ANSI grade 2.

The Door
Exterior doors are often constructed of soft-wood products filled with insulating material and covered by veneer or metal sheeting. To improve security, all exterior doors should be solid-core and include a method to eliminate susceptibility to edge splitting.

All exterior doors should be solid. Steel doors should be a minimum of 24 gauge. Regardless of their type, most residential doors have wood-framed edges, which need to be protected from splitting at the deadbolt.

To counter door splitting during an attack, the door should be equipped with an escutcheon plate, or door reinforcer. Escutcheon plates are found in most hardware stores and are easy to install. They significantly increase the rigidity of a door edge and reduce the chance of a door splitting around the deadbolt. Some steel-edge doors are adequately protected without an escutcheon plate.

The Door Frame

The door frame is often referred to as the door jamb, and it is inherently weak. In most cases the frame is weakest component of the door assembly. Usually constructed of soft wood, they offer little or no resistance to splitting. The most important point of any door security system is the place where the deadbolt lock meets the frame.
Some ways to increase door-frame security:

  • Adequately anchor the strike plate to the wall structure of the house. A strike plate is a piece of metal, usually brass or steel, that attaches to the door frame and receives the bolt. Standard strike plates are secured with two screws, which offer little or no protection against door-frame failure. All exterior door frames need high-security strike plates. High-security strike plates have four or six offset screws and are usually constructed of heavy gauge brass or steel.
  • The strike plate should be secured with at least 3" screws with a solid-wood filler inserted between the door jamb and wall structure (studs). The solid-wood filler should extend a minimum of 12" above and below the strike plate. Security products exist for metal or aluminum plates to be installed behind the door frame and out of sight. This type of reinforcement method has proven to be very effective while maintaining aesthetics.
  • All door hinges should be secured with at least 3" screws. While less likely an occurrence, the possibility exists a burglar could attack the door from its hinge side.

Entryways with side lights on one or both sides of the exterior door are prevalent in residential subdivisions. While these types of doors are aesthetically pleasing, without proper security, they offer a minimal level of protection.

Last modified: Mar 19, 2013