Security is nothing new. Locks, generally made by the local blacksmith, have a long history, while wooden shutters were closed and barred to provide added security at windows. While security technology may have progressed significantly with all manner of alarms, cameras and sensors now available, there are still plenty of low-tech – but highly effective – ways to keep your home secure, or deter intruders.

The best advice is to plan ahead. When tackling any home (or even garden) project, think about how it might make your home more or less vulnerable.

Security measures vs authenticity

Wherever possible security measures should be discreet and their installation carried out so as to cause minimum damage to the building. Any security fitting is only as good as the door or window to which it is attached, so repairing weak or decayed sections is a priority.

Mortise locks fitted into the edge of doors and casement windows are far less visible than those installed on the surface. If possible, they should be fitted about a third of the way up the door or window, but always consider whether the frame will be weakened significantly in the process.

Laminated glass, which is difficult to break, is sometimes installed into windows, but do bear in mind that this can result in the loss of attractive original glass. If the building is listed, you will need listed building consent to alter it.

Metal theft

The increasing theft of lead, copper and other metal from buildings means that it is worth taking precautions to make access more difficult. Lights and alarms that are triggered by movement can be set up on roofs. Security or forensic marking acts as a deterrent as it means the metal is harder to sell on, although clear signage alerting to the use of marking is essential to deter potential thieves.

Door and window locks

Old locks are important aesthetically and as part of the history of a building, but many cannot offer the level of security required today. Insurance policies generally insist on certain standards of security and many local police and insurance company websites offer excellent advice on making your home secure. However, they do not necessarily consider how this may affect the fabric or the aesthetics of the building.

Insurance companies expect windows to be fitted with key operated locks and for external doors to comply with British Standard 3621.

Do remember when replacing a lock to take the old one with you to the locksmiths. Alternatively, carefully measure and trace its exact position and dimensions; this will help avoid cutting unnecessary new holes in the door.

Don’t forget that old locks should be treated in just the same way as any other antique. Retain them, even if they no longer work, along with the screws that fix them, as these can help date both the lock and the building.

For sash windows, bolts are available that are drilled into the meeting rail so the two sashes lock together. Alternatively, a special locking bolt allows sashes to be secure even while ajar.

old window lock on a period home

For period properties, try and choose security measures that suit the look and character of the home wherever possible

Alarm systems

While individual items such as lights, timers and padlocks are all helpful, professional help is required to install a comprehensive home security system. Most companies offer packages with degrees of response, such as keyholder response, emergency service and CCTV monitoring.

For full-home wireless security systems with iPad/smartphone applications and controls, consult a member of CEDIA, the Custom Electronic Design & Installation Association, which is the trade organisation for the home technology industry, supplying and installing control systems for lighting, security, audio-visual, heating and ventilation.

For monitored alarm systems, try Chubb and Yale, which has options including the Easy Fit range for home installation, and for professional installation, SmartHome, with wire-free features and monitoring options. ADT offers a choice of services, priced from £99, where it contacts the homeowner, or other keyholder, if the alarm is set off. Locked Up Monitored Security has a range of fourth generation wireless products and monitoring services, including exterior wire-free cameras and CCTV.

Going away?

  • Make sure a trusted neighbour has a spare set of keys and knows how to reset any alarms
  • Cancel papers and ask a neighbour to push junk mail through the letterbox
  • Check any timers/switches are set and working, security lights have working bulbs and smoke alarms have batteries
  • Ensure the security/alarm company has contact details of a friend/neighbour if you will be unreachable
pointed iron railing fence

Traditional fencing should be chosen to match your property and work as a deterrent to burglars. Iron railings create an off-putting boundary without obscuring views

Designing in security

Locks will physically protect your home, but think about how the design of your property can work as a deterrent too. As a rule, intruders will avoid anything that will alert your to their presence, so as well as alarms, there are other things that will make the approach to your house a noisy one. Gravel paths, metals gates and keeping dogs or geese are good options.

Maintain fencing and boundaries and remember that prickly shrubs are bushes are off-putting to anyone trying to gain entry. However, prevent your home from being completely hidden from neighbours’ views as this makes it easier for people to access your property without being spotted.

Invest in security lighting which is operated by motion sensor. This will not only make it easier for you when you return in the dark, but will deter potential intruders too.

For more advice on tackling security, visit the Police Security Initiative, Secured by Design site.

Letterbox security

The Metropolitan Police website has lots of security advice. Pertinent tips include fitting an internal cover plate on to letterboxes, which should not be positioned closer than 40cm from the door lock and never on the bottom rail of the door. For additional safety and security, fit a spy hole and door chain, and don’t leave house keys in or near the door, as criminals can access them through the letterbox.

Don’t forget your outbuilding

Outbuilding security is one of the most neglected areas of home security. If your home has external storage, such as sheds, outbuildings and garages, then securing these is just as important as the house itself.

  • Outbuildings often contain tools and ladders, which burglars could use to help gain entry into the main property. Have a local Master Locksmiths Association- approved locksmith perform a security analysis of all of your property’s outbuildings. Many will perform this for free, as well as providing you with expert advice and a bespoke breakdown of your own specific security needs.
  • Consider, too, the contents of your outbuildings. Approved heavy-duty chains and ground anchors can be used to secure larger, more valuable possessions.
  • Fit dusk till dawn security lights that deter opportunist thieves and can alert neighbours to movement around the property. A series of light timers within the property, upstairs and downstairs, can also give the impression someone is home.

Justin Freeman, Master Locksmiths Association. Visit to find an approved MLA company