How to Reinforce Deadbolt Door Locks

Burglars and vandals have an easier time breaking into a home when they find an exterior door without a deadbolt. Even a door with a quality lockset can be vulnerable since the latch often doesn’t extend far enough into the door frame, and the strike plate may not withstand a forceful kick.

Well-aimed force can tear the strike plate loose and splinter the jamb, allowing easy entry into a home. Adding a deadbolt or reinforcing an existing one provides extra security beyond a standard lockset. Here’s how to do it.

Buy a Quality Deadbolt

When purchasing a deadbolt, avoid cheap bargain models. While a $10 deadbolt may seem similar to a $30 brand, significant differences exist in security and durability. Choose a deadbolt from a reputable brand like Baldwin, Kwikset, or Schlage for a high-quality, secure deadbolt.

Reputable brands use hardened steel deadbolts resistant to forced entry. The bolt should extend at least an inch into the door jamb when fully extended. Avoid any deadbolts that fail to meet this important minimum penetration depth.

Many deadbolts feature a thumb-turn latch for interior unlocking. However, the thumb latch allows burglars to break nearby window glass and reach inside to disengage the lock. If you have glass panes or sidelights around exterior doors, select a deadbolt operated by keys on both sides rather than a thumb-turn. This enhances security while also making emergency unlocking slightly more difficult.

For emergency egress, keep a spare key handy inside while at home so you can rapidly unlock the deadbolt if conditions require a quick exit. When away, take the key to prevent entry through broken glass. Check local building codes, too — some areas mandate thumb-turn latches for safety. Evaluate your unique layout and security needs when selecting lock options.

Reinforce the Strike Plate

Without adequate reinforcement, even high-end deadbolts can’t provide robust security alone. Some include reinforced strike plate housings, but extra bracing behind the jamb is best.

When installing, first remove the trim and casing to access the door frame. Prior to mounting the strike plate, attach at least a 3⁄4”-inch by 6-inch steel strap to the inside jamb edge where the plate will be mounted. Use 2-inch wood screws for proper holding power. These types of steel straps, which you can buy at a hardware store, brace the section receiving the deadbolt to prevent kick-in attacks from dislodging the assembly.

Next, pack any gaps behind the strike plate area with solid wood strips or putty before installing the plate itself with the provided screws — if possible, choose 3-inch screws extending at least 1 inch into the door frame stud. Maximum screw length boosts resistance to outside forces.

These critical reinforcement techniques result in professional-grade security exceeding most basic off-the-shelf deadbolt products, with reinforced strike plates less prone to failure. A small investment during proper deadbolt installation saves thousands over time by hardening doorways against break-in attempts.

If you’re upgrading your door as well, check out this article on upgrading and replacing exterior doors.

Maintenance Tips

While reinforced deadbolts enhance security, regular maintenance ensures smooth long-term operation:

  • Lubricate: Annually lubricate the deadbolt mechanism and strike the plate with powdered graphite or spray lubricant to prevent corrosion and binding.
  • Adjust: If misalignment between the deadbolt and strike plate occurs, loosen screws to realign parts for smooth function. Proper alignment is imperative for security.
  • Inspect: Perform biannual inspections to check for damage, loose screws, weathering, and worn parts needing repair. Early minor issue detection reduces cost.
  • Replace: Normal deadbolts operate for up to 10 years before needing replacement. If lubrication and adjustments can’t restore smooth function to a worn, damaged, or weathered deadbolt assembly, plan to replace it.

When to Seek Professional Help

For homeowners who are uncomfortable completing DIY deadbolt installation and strike plate reinforcement, I recommend hiring a professional locksmith. Locksmiths choose optimal deadbolt hardware for your home’s specific security requirements and perform expert installation for maximal protection.

Many locksmiths offer advanced anti-intrusion solutions beyond standard deadbolts, including reinforced strike plates, heavy-duty kick plates, reinforced door frames, extra-long mounting screws into wall studs, and other hardened entry point techniques. An expert evaluation of vulnerable areas paired with tailored security improvements provides peace of mind.

While basic deadbolt installation is technically DIY-friendly, locksmiths achieve professional-grade results beyond what typical homeowners can accomplish without experience. 

So, Is Installing a Deadbolt Worth It?

For most homeowners, reinforced deadbolts substantially boost defenses compared to relying solely on standard locksets vulnerable to intrusions. A small investment in upgraded deadbolt assemblies and strike plates pays dividends by hardening doors against break-ins and preserving home valuation. Burglars typically exploit weak points first, so ensuring all points of entry are secure is essential for improving home security.

FAQs About Deadbolts

Should I get smart deadbolts with app connectivity and other smart features?

It depends. Smart deadbolts enable handy remote access and notifications. However, connectivity introduces hacking risks absent in standard deadbolts, which tend to be more secure. Also, smart deadbolts can be more expensive. Evaluate your needs before deciding.

Do certain codes require deadbolt reinforcement steps?

No national code mandates deadbolt strike plate reinforcement. However, some local building codes include this requirement. Check your jurisdiction specifically. In any area, reinforcement substantially improves security.

Can I install deadbolts on interior doors?

Yes — interior deadbolts boost room security. Ensure one other unsecured exit remains accessible for emergencies. Never use deadbolts on bathroom doors.

Should I choose deadbolts requiring keys to unlock both sides?

For exterior doors with glass panes or sidelights, yes. Keyed double-sided deadbolts prevent smash-and-reach attacks, allowing burglars to disengage thumb-turn locks. Keep a key handy inside for emergency fast unlocking.

How can I determine if strike plate screws are long enough?

Use 3-inch screws sinking at least 1 inch into the door frame stud if possible. Check the required screw length before installing. Maximum length provides optimal stability and holding strength.

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