Exterior Home Security

9 Ways to Secure and Burglar-Proof Your Windows

One of the best ways to protect your home is with burglar-proof windows. From installing entry sensors to upgrading locks, here’s how to easily secure your property.
A burglar in a black ski mask is seen breaking into a home through a window.
Photo: istockphoto.com

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Unlocked doors and unsecured windows are the two primary access points a burglar will use to enter a home. Most people remember to lock their doors regularly, but since homes are filled with multiple windows, it’s easy to get complacent with window protection. This is especially true if a window screen is installed or for windows on the second floor—many people think these hurdles are enough to dissuade a criminal from breaking and entering.

Unfortunately, that’s not always true.

To create burglar-proof windows, homeowners will need to invest in gadgets like entry sensors and glass-break sensors, as well as robust locks that can’t be easily bypassed. Upgrading window security is rather simple, and it’s possible to tackle the task in a DIY manner once you know what you’re shopping for.

However, it’s important to contact a local professional if things get too difficult. Windows that are improperly secured are just as easy to target as ones with no security. That means anyone struggling to set up equipment, replace locks, or use window bars will want to reach out to a professional security company for support.

1. Install a home security system with exterior cameras positioned around the windows.

A great way to deter intruders from a property is by installing a home security system. The best home security systems (such as those from Vivint or ADT) come bundled with several useful gadgets, including motion detectors, entry sensors, and security cameras. For window security, it’s the exterior cameras that are particularly useful, as they can be pointed at windows to capture any nearby activity.

“Homeowners can help improve their window security by ensuring that any easily accessible windows, especially those on the first floor, are in view of security cameras,” says Jim Nye, chief product officer with home security company Vivint. “Removing ‘dead zones’ on your security camera angles can help deter intruders before they reach a window or access point.”

Many homeowners will install exterior security cameras and angle them toward the front door and nearby windows. This allows them to receive motion alerts to their mobile device anytime someone approaches the home. The Arlo Ultra 2 is considered one of the best outdoor security cameras, as it also includes two-way audio and a built-in siren. This lets residents confront intruders verbally or trigger the siren to alert neighbors.

The same setup can be used in a backyard by attaching a security camera to a tree, playground set, or fence, then angling the camera toward a window. By doing this, users can see all windows in their home regardless of location. Homeowners will need to carefully consider where to place security cameras, as improper placement can lead to dead zones in coverage and leave areas of the property vulnerable.

Most home security systems don’t include safes, though homeowners will want to consider adding one to their property. The best home safes (like the Amazon Basics home keypad lock safe) are durable, tamper-proof, and the ideal way to store valuables such as important documents and jewelry.

2. Place motion detector lights next to entry doors and first-floor windows.

The best outdoor motion sensor lights come in a variety of styles, but all of them are great ways to burglar-proof windows. Floodlights are a particular standout, as they can both record activity and illuminate areas with ultra-bright light. This makes them great for areas near doors and windows, as they ensure all motion will be caught on camera even if it’s the middle of the night.

They’re also convenient for residents of the household, as the light will turn on when someone takes the dog out at night or if the kids are heading out to chase fireflies.

Other types of motion detector lights will simply activate a light when motion is detected but won’t capture any video footage. These are useful when used in conjunction with stand-alone security cameras, or as a way to trick intruders into thinking someone is actively watching the property. These devices tend to be fairly cheap, so homeowners can install dozens of them throughout their backyards and around their porches.

Regardless of which type of motion detector light is installed, it’s important to understand how motion detector lights work. Improper installation could lead to light pollution creeping into a neighboring property or not lights not triggering when there’s motion in a certain part of the yard.

A close up of a person holding a pen with a red cap pointing at a crack in a window.
Photo: istockphoto.com

3. Add entry sensors and glass-break sensors to all vulnerable windows.

While cameras and motion sensor lights are great deterrents, they can only inform users when people are approaching windows, not when they’re actively attempting to break in. Because of this, burglar-proof windows must include entry sensors and glass-break sensors.

“Entry and window sensors are key factors in preventing break-ins, especially as an overwhelming majority of burglars enter a home through a door or first-floor window,” says Nye. Entry sensors trigger an alarm when a window is opened. The best door and window alarms can send an alert to a mobile device or sound a nearby siren. This siren is often enough to stop intruders in their tracks, while the smartphone alert informs users that someone is actively working on their windows.

“Sensors work together with other smart devices and functions to help protect homeowners and their families and, notably, discourage break-ins and burglaries,” explains Nye. “Given that most burglars want to get in and out of your home as quickly and quietly as possible, a loud alarm prompted by an entry sensor can serve as an effective deterrent.”

Glass-break sensors do much the same, but instead of tripping when the window is opened, they trip when the window is shattered. Intruders will typically try to open a window first and see if it’s unlocked—but if the attempt fails, they may resort to smashing through it with brute force. 

In these instances, an entry sensor may not trip, as the window hasn’t technically been opened. However, a glass-break sensor would catch the break-in attempt. Users need to understand how glass-break sensors work prior to installation, as different types of window alarm sensors work in different ways. Depending on the property, one style might be more beneficial than another—though, for the best results, homeowners may want to invest in both.

“Entry sensors and glass break sensors…work best as a complement to each other,” says Nye. “Entry/window sensors trigger an alert when an already-closed window opens, while break glass sensors are tuned to the decibel level of the sound of glass breaking and designed to trigger security alarms if that level is detected. Using both ensures that homeowners will be alerted if a window is broken without being opened or opened without breaking the glass.”

4. Upgrade your window locks and screws.

Window locks are often neglected during most home improvement projects, so it’s not unheard of for a home to use the same lock for decades. And while window locks are designed to be reliable, it’s always a good idea to keep tabs on their performance. If a window lock is starting to look rusty or is difficult to manipulate, it might be time for an upgrade.

Because windows come in a wide range of styles, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for upgraded window locks. It might be possible to add an affordable secondary lock like the HomeGuard Sliding Window Lock to the sliding window, while others might need a full replacement for their existing gear. Whatever the case may be, it’s important to check the performance of anti-theft window locks and determine if an upgrade is warranted. Window locks are relatively inexpensive, making them a frugal way to improve window security.

Residents can also check the screws holding their window lock in place, as these can become loose over time and could become a weak point for intruders to enter the home.

5. Consider adding security film to the windows.

Along with window locks, security window film is one of the best ways to prevent intruders from using windows as an access point to the home. Window film comes in all shapes and sizes, and it’s often used for decorative purposes. However, window security film is a type of window film that’s all about safety, as it helps prevent glass from shattering during an attempted break-in.

If an intruder discovers a home with robust window locks and entry sensors, the only way to get inside is by smashing through the glass. But if the right security film is installed, this process becomes much more difficult. Instead of allowing the glass to shatter and fall to the ground, security film holds it in place and instead creates a spidering effect. This prevents the intruder from gaining entry to the home without a serious effort, making it a great backup to window locks and entry sensors. Homeowners can look into the best window films, many of which include eye-catching patterns and opaque designs for enhanced privacy. 

6. Replace your existing windowpanes with tempered or laminated glass.

Shopping for windowpanes is a more detailed process than might be expected. Along with finding a design and size that fits the home, shoppers can also choose from several types of glass. Tempered and laminated glass have grown in popularity over the years, as they’re good options for those concerned with safety. These are essentially security windows for homes designed to better withstand impacts. And while there’s no such thing as unbreakable glass or unbreakable windows, tempered and laminated glassare about as close as shoppers can get.

Laminated glass consists of two pieces of tempered glass with a piece of plastic film sandwiched in the middle. Depending on the brand, this process can be repeated to add more layers for additional strength. This type of security glass is great at withstanding impacts, making it great for keeping intruders from using windows as an entry point. It’s also a type of shatterproof glass and is an ideal option for nearly all windows in the home. Homeowners will want to keep in mind that this shatter-resistant glass isn’t cheap, so they’ll want to carefully map out their budget before making the decision to replace all their windows with laminated glass.

Tempered glass is simply a piece of glass that’s gone through a heating and cooling cycle to make it stronger than a regular pane of glass. It can still shatter, though it requires extreme effort. When it does break, it’ll shatter into smaller pieces that aren’t nearly as dangerous as the large, sharp pieces seen with traditional glass. This makes tempered glass a strong option for safety-glass windows, as damaged panes don’t pose a serious threat to the home’s residents.

Laminated glass is better in areas with serious security risks—such as first-floor windows—while tempered glass can be used in locations less likely to be compromised. The best window brands often carry both options, so homeowners don’t have to sacrifice style for security. Note that window replacement costs can be quite expensive nowadays, and impact-resistant window installation is elaborate and best handled by a professional. However, upgrading windows is a great way to modernize a home while also enhancing its protection.

A burglar dressed in black uses a tool to break into a building's window.
Photo: istockphoto.com

7. Install window bars on the inside or outside of the windows.

Window bars aren’t the most popular way to secure a home, as many folks think they’re intrusive and hurt the aesthetics of their property. However, those with serious concerns about intruders will want to give them a closer look, as window bars are an excellent way to keep unwanted visitors from getting inside and create durable, reinforced windows.

Window bars are essentially small metal fences that can be installed inside or outside of the window frame. When locked in place, window bars provide the area with a physical barrier that cannot be bypassed, even if an intruder smashes the windowpane. This makes them one of the best ways to build burglar-resistant windows.

When shopping for window bars, it’s important to look at safety features designed for emergencies. Window bars aren’t just good at keeping intruders out—they can also inadvertently keep people trapped inside during emergencies such as a fire. Products that offer a quick release on the inside of the home or a way to quickly disassemble the bars are much preferred over products that are permanently installed, as these reduce the number of viable emergency exits in the home.

This is especially important if bars are being used to improve basement window security, as basement windows are critical emergency exits in most homes.

Homeowners who don’t like the idea of installing large window bars can instead opt for a sliding window bar lock. These stick-like objects only work with sliding windows, as they act as a wedge between the window and the frame. This prevents the window from sliding open, even if the window lock is broken. However, these aren’t nearly as effective as true window bars that are installed over the entire window, as they won’t prevent an intruder from smashing through the windowpane and sneaking inside.

Homeowners can also look at other ways to secure windows without bars, as there are several viable options.

8. Plant thorny shrubbery outside windows to deter intruders.

High-tech security gear like cameras and floodlights are great, but households don’t need to rely on electronics alone to protect their homes. A thoughtfully landscaped exterior can be just as powerful, deterring criminals and forcing them to look elsewhere for their break-in attempts.

The best way to use landscaping to thwart intruders is by placing thorny and uninviting shrubbery underneath each window. Nobody wants to wade through thorny bushes before attempting to smash through a window, making them a surprisingly great weapon against crime. Along with being painful, thorns can cause would-be intruders to leave behind evidence in the form of torn clothing.

Depending on the climate, plants like roses or cacti are a great option, as are thick and thorny hedges, such as barberry, that prevent easy access to windows.

Along with thorny shrubbery, keeping all landscaping nice and tidy is important. A messy yard offers several hiding spots for intruders, and an overgrown yard could indicate the owners are out of town.

9. Add window security screens.

Window security screens are a bit like window bars, but they’re typically less noticeable. This is because they’re not composed of imposing metal bars, instead opting for a screen-like appearance with thin, densely packed metal coils. They’re essentially a standard window screen—but instead of being easy to cut, they’re highly resistant to both sharp objects and blunt force.

Shoppers will find plenty of options on the market, with companies capable of designing custom security screens for windows of all shapes and sizes. And because the mesh is tight and compact, security screens can prevent rodents and large insects from getting inside. This could make them more appealing than window bars, which feature large openings for smaller creatures to sneak through.

Keep in mind that the dense mesh used on security screens will slightly obscure the view outside. This is one of the main drawbacks of the technology, as while they’re a great way to burglar-proof windows, they can detract from an otherwise scenic view over the yard.

Home window security is paramount to the overall safety of a home. Intruders commonly use both doors and windows to break into homes—but since most people lock their front and back doors, windows are an increasingly popular target. The above steps should be more than enough to burglar-proof even the most vulnerable windows, but those with lingering concerns will want to reach out to a local expert for further guidance. Every home is different, and what works in one location may not work in another. Once windows have been secured, homeowners will want to consider other home security tips to turn their property into a virtual fortress.