Fortifying your home

Understand how to deter malicious people and protect your home!

Part 1 – For renters and homeowners who cannot drill, cut, or make permanent changes to your home

Fortify Your Rental Home – published on October 22, 2020

The key factors when you fortify your rental home:

  • Building an impenetrable fortress is not realistic, but you can significantly enhance your home security.
  • Because we cannot install permanent devices like window bars, we need to deter, detect, and determine intent at a distance.
  • We will do this by deploying concentric rings of deterrents and detection tripwires.
  • Deterrents are visual communication of immediate consequences for malicious behavior.
  • Detection tripwires are devices that are deployed at chokepoints that funnel people through small areas where they are more easily detected.
  • The worst case scenario is that a malicious person gains entrance to your home without detection.

We need to break down everyone who approaches our home into three categories:

  1. Unknown people who may be friend or foe.
  2. Malicious people identified by hostile actions, words, or body language.
  3. Familiar people we know to not be hostile.

In some ways, dealing with unknown people incurs more risk than dealing with known malicious people. Visibly hostile people are communicating their intent. Dealing with someone who hides their intent incurs a significant amount of risk.

We will deploy devices for three reasons: deterrence, detection, and portal hardening (entry denial). Note that we do not recommend any kind of device that requires a key to unlatch from the inside. If you have to immediately exit your home due to a fire or a malicious person attacking you, you do not have time to find the key. Every family member needs to understand how, and be able to remove all of the portal hardening devices on your windows and doors.

The first ring of deterrence

Deterrence is preferable to interaction because it minimizes the risk of contact. Your goal is to persuade an attacker to target someone else before they commit to attacking you. The price of the attack must appear to be more than the attacker is willing to pay. Everyone understands immediate consequences. Desperate people can be dangerous. They simply do not deal with consequences that are delayed. Their event horizon is too short.

The first deterrent when you fortify your rental home is your external lighting and signage. Homes with constant external illumination at night are usually avoided by people with malicious intent. Motion activated lights are less effective at initial deterrence. The best external lighting is a combination of constant and motion activated. The ideal visual night time deterrent is constant low wattage light fixtures that turn on at dusk automatically backed up with bright on demand lights that illuminate all likely avenues of approach to your home.

Likely avenues of approach

These are the vectors that will be taken when someone approaches your home. There can be distinct avenues used by friendly people and people with malicious intent. In simple terms, good guys will come right up to your front door and bad guys may try and sneak around the back. But life is never simple. People will try and win your favor by pretending to be innocent. A typical subdivision has homes fairly close together with fences in between. This means that you have the front door and both sides of the house as choke points that need illumination. That will require two light fixtures at each choke point. A dual light fixture with a low wattage bulb in one socket and a motion activated bulb in the other socket will make this happen. They should be mounted up high on the wall beyond the reach of a person standing on the ground. This will discourage someone from walking up and silently unscrewing the bulbs. The links below will give you three dual bulb outdoor fixtures and both dusk to dawn and motion sensing LED bulbs for well under $200. Not that expensive to illuminate the way to fortify your rental home.

Outdoor light fixture
Full disclosure: as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. The convenient links below will take you directly to the items on Amazon and help support this website. Thank you very much!

This gives you a 60 watt incandescent equivalent with only 8 watts of power draw that is always on at night and an additional 100 watt incandescent equivalent that only draws 12 watts at every station. The additional light when someone approaches is clear communication that “you’ve been noticed.” Eight watts of electricity for 12 hours a day costs about $10 per year.

Additional deterrence when you fortify your rental home can be obtained with a security system sign that can be seen from the street. Even better if it is under one of these light fixtures so it’s visible at night or it glows in the dark. For property crimes like burglary and theft, security signs significantly increase the risk to perpetrator. Again, deterrence is all about clear communication. This sign communicates “you will be identified.”

Warning sign

At Amazon: Video surveillance sign outdoor No trespassing glow-in-the-dark large warning sign

The first ring of detection tripwires

The first tripwire is your external detection system. You must know when someone is present on your property. Driveway alarms work well for this. They have an outside infrared sensor, or multiple sensors that detect motion and will send a signal to an alarm inside your home. Any motion will set them off, not just cars. This means you will probably have some false positives until you get the zone and height they cover dialed in. Pets will set off the alarm, but you can adjust the sensors so they are above the normal pet level. The example linked below has a ½ mile (804 meters) range and up to seven sensors may be used with it. Each sensor has its own indicator light and unique alarm on the base station. The sensors are solar powered and the base unit is powered by either normal AC current or four AA batteries.

Driveway alarm

At Amazon: eMACROS pairable 1/2 mile long range solar wireless driveway alarm

Let’s pause here to recognize what capabilities this item brings to your home fortress. The solar powered sensors can be set up anywhere they have access to the sun during the day. They charge an internal battery so they can send a signal to the base unit, even at night. This allows you to set up sensors at almost any chokepoint. When someone crosses a zone of one of the sensors, you know exactly where they are. Since the small base unit can run on batteries, you can keep it plugged in to a wall outlet where you sleep and then unplug it and take it with you as you investigate what tripped an alarm. If the intruder moves out of one zone and into another, you will know. The base unit and four sensors are well under $200.

Now that we’ve established an external ring of detection and deterrence, we will look at what happens when someone reaches the outside of your home.

The second ring of deterrence

This section is about portal hardening and entry denial. A malicious person must find every door and window securely shut, locked, and braced. If windows need to be partially open for ventilation, they should have secondary locks or bracing bars that prevent them from being opened far enough for someone to slip through. Small portals like pet doors or firewood doors are a special concern since they are down low enough for someone to crawl through.

The price of entry

Since we cannot install window bars or upgrade the external doors in our rented or leased home, we must force attackers to make noise to gain entrance by breaking a window or kicking in a door. The minimum price for entering your home without permission needs to be causing a sound loud enough to wake you up. You are on your way to fortify your rental home.

External swinging doors

Deadbolt locks are useful for access control when we leave home, but they can be defeated by picking. This would be a silent breach of your home and we need to ensure that never happens. There are a variety of braces that can be utilized to secure the doors from the inside. The floor has more structure and leverage than the walls so braces that connect the door to the floor like the one below are preferred. This one slips under the door knob and braces to the floor with a rubber pad. Note that many competing models of this device have poor reputations. This model has been tested by the author and works as advertised:

Bracing bar for an inward swinging door

At Amazon: Buddybar door jammer home security door bar

Sliding glass doors

These can be challenging to secure. They normally come with inside only latches that sometimes can be unlatched from the outside by shaking or hitting the door. These items will significantly enhance the security of a sliding glass door:

At Amazon:
  1. A bracing bar that barricades the door closed. Note that like the Buddybar door jammer above, this model is the only one that is recommended.
  2. A locking pin that goes through the door frame and into the perimeter frame (requires drilling one hole through two layers of aluminum)
  3. Window security film to mitigate breaking the glass.
  4. A sliding door blind or curtain to hide what is inside your home.

We recommend an all-of-the-above approach to secure a sliding patio door.


Windows are especially vulnerable to breaching by malicious people. Not only can they be broken, but their latch systems can be compromised to gain entry.

Let’s start with breaking and entering. A worthwhile investment in time and treasure is to apply an impact resistant film to the inside of every window. Note that installation of these films is much easier if you have an extra set of hands. It needs to be installed on the inside so that if the window is attacked, the shards of glass are contained. These films are not as an effective barrier as window bars, but they are better than bare glass. They also provide protection from glass shards if the window is broken by severe weather or errant baseballs.

 Bracing bars are recommended over the clamps that install on the window frame. The clamps hold by friction and have small wing nuts or camming bars that can be difficult to install and remove because they require excessive hand strength and fine motor skills. Bracing bars are a mechanical lock that is under compression and can be pulled out of the window frame in one motion. Much easier than trying to twist tiny wing nuts when you are under stress.

The second ring of detection tripwires

There are many home security systems on the market. Most are connected to the internet by WiFi signals and offer both cameras and magnetic sensors. We recommend a more distributed approach to detecting intruders by using individual magnetic sensors on every door and window. There are several advantages to these stand-alone devices:

  1. There is no single point of failure. If one unit malfunctions, all of the other units are still operational.
  2. They are not connected to the internet and cannot be disabled remotely.
  3. They give an intruder immediate feedback when tripped by sounding an alarm at the location of entry.
  4. They give you an audible signal of where the intrusion is happening.
  5. You can also set them to the “chime” setting where they give a ring-tone like sound when tripped. This will allow you to monitor when a door is open without the piercing alarm sound.
  6. They cost less than all-in-one security systems. You can allocate the savings to other security upgrades.
Magnetic alarm

At Amazon: GE window/door burglar alert magnetic sensor, 12- pack

The sensor mounts on the wall and the magnet mounts on the door or window. Be sure and mount as high as possible so they are harder to reach and attack.

The last redoubt

If you are faced with having your home overrun by malicious people and cannot escape, a fortified inner room may buy you some time. If you have a choice between escaping or fighting, escape and evasion is usually the safer choice. Whenever possible, leave yourself room for maneuver.

Ideally, it will be an internal room with no windows. In most homes, this will have to be a bathroom. The major weakness with interior rooms is the doors. Interior doors are normally built to provide privacy, not security. They usually have only two hinges, a hollow core, and a privacy lock. There is not much that can be done to harden a hollow core with this hardware. If you can upgrade the door, it’s worth investing in the hardware to secure it. We discuss this at greater length in the article on fortifying your home that is owned.

The take-away

You can significantly increase the protection of your home even if you cannot permanently install security devices. The key is to detect and engage intruders before they commit to attacking. This is the best way to fortify your rental home.

Next article: Fortifying your home – for homeowners

At Amazon: Best Sellers in Safety and Security Full disclosure: as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. The convenient links below will take you directly to the items on Amazon and help support this website. Thank you very much!