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I’m looking to install a ‘secure’ entry door on an elderly relative’s home. What’s the best core material for strength?

Single pane glass door panels are easy for burglars to break.

You could add a full iron bar security door, if you want to, but why cover up an entry door with ugly iron bars when you can keep the beauty of the front door and still be secure?

So to “beef up” the door itself for maximum security, here are my four recommendations:

• A Steel Door: It’s pretty rare that intruders will break through a door slab, whether it’s steel or fiberglass. (And by “slab” I just mean the panel of your door—you know, the part that swings open and closed.)

But certainly a steel slab would add additional security.

Just make sure you look for commercial gauge steel. Commercial grade is 20 gauge. The higher the number— 22, 24, 26, 28 — the thinner the steel, the kind of entry door you would find at Home Depot or Lowes in other words.

• A Reinforced Frame: The actual frame of the door should be reinforced with steel too, but the only critical place for reinforcement is the area around the deadbolt. Intruders tend to pry open locks or they’ll kick the lock right out at its ¾ inch wood frame where the deadbolt goes through. A door is only as secure as its weakest point, and the weakest point is usually the frame. A ¾ inch wood frame will just pop right out if hit with enough force.

You don’t need a steel frame around the entire door (usually not made for residential doors anyway), but you can get doors with 20-gauge steel reinforcement plates inside the frame that the deadbolt slips into. That stops intruders in their tracks because they have to do a lot of kicking and they are going to be making a lot of noise doing so. They’ll just move on.

• A Better, Stronger Deadbolt: Use a full 1-inch throw deadbolt, not ¾ inch. That extra ¼ inch on the bolt makes a big difference in terms of security. Think about it – more steel going into steel!

• How was the door installed in the first place? Installation is critical. A good installation uses a full 3-inch self-drilling, self-tapping screw, so you have a full 1 ½ set screw that is going through the hinge, through the door frame and into the stud. And if you do that with every screwhole in the hinge, that will really anchor the door into the 2 x 4. Most doors are installed with 1 ½ inch drywall screws, and that’s just not enough bite! So take care with the door installation as well.

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