When it comes to home security, prevention is better than cure. If you’re investing time and money into a homebuilding or renovation project, it follows that you’d want to do everything possible to protect your dream home and its contents. Plus, you have a golden opportunity to design security measures into the property from the outset.
The good news is that the number of domestic burglaries reported to police in England and Wales fell by 3% between April 2018 and March 2019, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics. However, with a total of 422,870 offences reported by homeowners in this period, that’s still an average of 1,159 a day.
With this in mind, this guide will take you through the basics when it comes to home security. From the positioning of your house on the plot to incorporating state-of-the-art smart security systems, we’ve got you covered.
1. Consider Your Home’s Position
If you’re planning to self build, security will be one of your designer’s considerations when it comes to assessing how the property should be oriented on the land. Your architect should be able to identify any vulnerable areas – primarily the spots where intruders could gain access to the site – and come up with creative solutions to help offset the risk of unwanted visitors.
Stand outside your house or on your plot and look at it through a burglar’s eyes:
- Would it be easy to get in around the back?
- Are there any hiding places behind hedges or outbuildings where a burglar would not be detected?
An Architect’s View
“Levels can also be an influencer,” adds Harry Reece, director at Base Architecture. “Sites that are sat lower in the landscape or have neighbouring land at a higher level allow for intruders to look over from a vantage point, giving them opportunity to assess whether or not the property is empty.”
2. Secure the Boundaries
Establishing a secure perimeter around your plot will not only provide a physical barrier for unwanted visitors to overcome but can also act as a deterrent to opportunists.
Timber fence panels provide the most cost-effective solution. These should stand at least 1m high to the front of the property and 1.8m high around the rest of the plot’s boundary.
Installing higher fences at particularly vulnerable parts of the plot can be a smart way to deter intruders. “You can then stagger the heights down to a more traditional level or cut a gentle curve to the top of the boards to create a subtle and elegant feel to the boundary,” says Harry Reece.
Brick and stone walls provide a robust, long-lasting solution; however, there will be a cost for extra labour. Incorporating a trellis with roses growing up it can be another alternative to deter people from climbing up.
If anyone tries to jump the wall and breaks the trellis, they’ll be heard. Planting will also soften the overall aesthetic of your perimeter. Lockable manual or electronic gates can also be incorporated.
3. Landscaping Tips
When it comes to choosing hard landscaping, laying gravel or wood chippings can be a powerful deterrent to burglars. The crunching sound underfoot can alert occupants to the presence of any unwanted guests.
Defensive gardening – planting thorny shrubs around the borders of your plot, for example – can also be a great help when it comes to putting off opportunists.
But it can be a delicate balance: remember that all hedges should be trimmed back so your house is not completely hidden from view. Plus, you don’t want the planting or landscaping to provide a convenient hiding place that allows burglars to remain on your property undetected.
(MORE: Guide to Choosing a Driveway)
4. Exterior Illumination
While motion detector floodlights might be the kneejerk solution when it comes to installing exterior security lighting, they can sometimes end up being more of a hindrance than a help — particularly if they’re repeatedly activated by local wildlife passing through your garden at night.
“There’s a wealth of large and ugly floodlights on the market, which is what most people expect from security lighting,” says Sian Parsons, a senior designer at John Cullen Lighting. “But you can find more discreet options, like spike floodlights in a dark colour (such as our olive green Kew and Hampton lights), which give a lovely wash of uplight to trees or the façade of a property while remaining hidden in planting.”
Setting these fittings up with a motion sensor might offer a greater shock to burglars when they’re activated, as they can’t be seen as easily as floodlights affixed to the exterior walls of your home.
If your aim is to discourage potential intruders from approaching your house entirely, an alternative route might be advisable. “In town houses, it can be best to play down the lighting to the façade of the house, as it can encourage unwanted visitors,” says Sian Parsons.
“Keeping things low level with path indicators that lead you to the front door and aren’t visible from the street can be a beautiful and discreet option.”
5. Consider the Interior Layout
Security should be a key consideration when it comes to planning the configuration of the rooms in your house.
Your first objective should be to discourage potential intruders by establishing a sense of occupancy that is evident from the outside. Rooms that are used most should provide good visibility of the perimeter and any guests (welcome or unwelcome) approaching the house.
Open plan layouts are popular choices. They not only allow for plenty of natural light but provide clear views out to the front and the back to see anyone arriving or leaving.
Consider whether you will be able to incorporate clear sightlines from the upstairs landing to the driveway and rear garden as a deterrent, too.
6. Focus on Entry Points
It’s a sobering fact that most intruders gain access to the home via doors, either by forcing the locks or kicking the door in completely. Therefore, it’s important to ensure your property is kitted out with dependable fenestration that can withstand an attempted break in.
“All accessible doors and windows on a new build property in England will be subject to Document Q of Building Regulations, which means they must be sufficiently secure to withstand a manual attack,” says Matt Higgs, director of Kloeber. “The stipulations of this criteria can be met through testing such as PAS24:2016.”
For peace of mind, look out for products that come with Secured By Design accreditation — a police-led initiative that focuses on designing out crime. To achieve this certification, items undergo rigorous testing to ensure they meet the required security standards.
“For front doors, multi-point locking is always advisable,” says Matt Higgs. “Glass in your front door should be laminated, too. This means that when it’s broken it holds its form, rather than shattering so intruders can gain access.”
The product you choose should be of solid core construction and fitted with a high security deadlock, in addition to a latch. “The door should be able to last for three minutes or more under manual attack, as this is the amount of time an opportunist burglar will generally take before giving up and moving on,” says Matt Higgs.
Remember to pay attention to glazed doors and windows, too. Units in accessible areas and on the ground floor should be fitted with laminated glass.
7. Smart Security Solutions
Arming your property with a burglar alarm is a must if you’re serious about safeguarding it from intruders. All homes need different levels of protection depending on their size, location and how often they’ll be occupied, so it might be that a smart system offers a better fit for your lifestyle.
A raft of options are available, operable via a few swipes on the screen of your smartphone. Your basic starter kit will include a combination of cameras, an alarm, door locks and motion detectors. The setup should also include sensors that detect when a window or door has been opened.
“Niko Home Control offers fantastic features that you might not even consider as security measures, such as motion detection and simulation using lighting and music,” says Andy Moss, managing director of Moss Technical, Niko Home Control UK suppliers. The system comes with a state-of-the-art video system that allows you to see real-time footage of the exterior of your house, as well as allowing you to enable trusted visitors into the house via your smartphone.
“There’s also a ‘panic’ button that can be pressed in case of emergency, lighting up the entire house. This allows residents to see what’s going on and allows them to exit safely,” adds Andy Moss. Most setups can also be programmed so that they work alongside your smart heating and lighting systems, too.
Some products can also be programmed to learn your daily routine, so when you’re out of the house or on holiday, they can replicate your movements around the property using lighting and music, creating the impression that someone is in.
8. Contingency Plan
If laying out your floorplan to create a sense of occupancy is your primary objective, creating a safe place to retreat to in case of a break in might be the second.
Secure panic rooms are on the rise, particularly in larger homes and bespoke builds. This steel-lined zone should be able to withstand fires, too. The key is to create a centrally-located and inconspicuous space that everyone in your family can access.
An effective panic room will be formed from a steel frame structure that is fixed to the walls of your house so the weight and loading will need to be carefully considered by your architect. The room will need to be adequately ventilated with a means of connection to the local police force within the room, too.
“Based on the metal lining, don’t rely on mobile phone signal,” advises Harry Reece.
Main image: Base Architecture