Sliding glass doors and French doors are a beautiful addition to any home, but they’re not without risk. Because they can be difficult to secure, they pose a safety problem, both when it comes to keeping intruders out and keeping little kids in. We’ve found the easiest and best ways to secure your patio doors without sacrificing aesthetics.
Most people love the natural light and views their sliding glass doors and French doors let in, but sometimes it’s those very views that make the doors unsafe. They offer a wide-ranging look into your home so anyone can see what you have and what might be worth taking. The problem is made worse by the fact that most sliding glass doors are in backyards where possible intruders can take their time casing out a house without anyone seeing.
A simple fix for this problem is covering your doors. Most people opt for long, vertical blinds because they can be easily opened and closed. However, these break easily—especially if you have pets or children. Other stylish options include sliding panels or shutters, which allow for opening and closing but aren’t as flimsy as vertical blinds.
Panels and shutters can get expensive pretty quickly, though. If you’re on a budget or have pets (or kids!) that can be destructive, consider using window film. There are a million different varieties, but all of them will let in light while still obscuring an outsider’s view and protecting your home from unwanted eyes.
The strongest way to secure your sliding door is with a sliding door lock. These locks are installed at the top of your door where the stationary glass and the sliding glass door meet. These locks work in addition to the door locks and can only be opened by an adult or tall child. They make it impossible to jimmy the door open, from either the inside or the outside. Most of these locks come with two locking positions: one that will lock it completely closed and a second that will let you lock the door in place at either 3 or 6 inches open to allow for ventilation.
Installing these locks is more complicated than the other items on our list, but not by much. Close your door all the way, clean out the upper track on your sliding glass door, position the lock in place and mark holes, drill pilot holes, and then secure the lock in place. After you’ve installed the top piece in the upper track, you’ll need to follow a similar process for the locking piece on the door itself. You’ll position the lock, mark the spots you need to drill, then drill the holes and secure the lock in place. (For more detailed instructions, see the manufacturer’s guidelines. These are some of the clearest instructions we’ve seen!)
These locks are both super secure and subtle. Guests will likely not even notice them, but your doors will be much safer and just as beautiful.
Remember going to your grandma’s house and always having to pick up the dowel or broomstick she had lying in the track of the sliding glass door? She was doing her best to keep her home safe, but as any enterprising kid can figure out, if you jiggle the door hard enough, you can get it to jump the track or make the stick move. It’s not the perfect plan to keep a home secure, but it can work in a pinch.
One of the best ways to secure a sliding glass door is to keep it from sliding, and there are many varieties of security bars or “Charley bars” available that do just that. Security bars are typically placed in the track of your sliding glass door. Charley bars are placed further up the door and mounted with screws on at least one end, which allows for the bar to easily swing in and out of place. These can be great if you have small children who are likely to tamper with a security bar in the track. (Toddlers, we’re looking at you!)
After placing the security bar in the track of your sliding glass door, all you do is set it with a pressure mounting system (like some shower curtain rods). Many models have padded ends to make sure the pressure doesn’t damage your doors.
A security bar is a two-minute install. With the Charley bar, you’ll need to have a drill to screw in one side. But after that, simply adjust the bar to the correct height and push it into place.
The beauty of French doors isn’t just that they let in light but that they open wide for unobstructed views. But they can also pose unique challenges when it comes to security. Like sliding glass doors, the locking mechanism isn’t always the strongest and the amount of glass surrounding the lock makes it easy for a burglar to work around.
The best way to secure French doors is to literally stop the doors from opening with a security brace. A brace can withstand a lot of force and pressure, and it will keep the doors from opening by simply holding them in place. Even if the glass is broken and the doors are unlocked, a brace will hold them in a closed position.
Door braces come with two main parts and are another easy install. One part screws into the floor at the base of the doors. It should be centered across where the doors open and lie flush with the molding on the bottom of the door. The second part slides in and out of place and actually pushes up against the middle where the French doors meet. It’s only about 3 inches high and 9 inches wide, but it gets the job done. When you need to open your doors, you simply slide the second piece out of place and set it on top of the door frame.
If you have a tile or stone floor, you might need a professional to install the brace because you’ll need special screws and drills bit to work through those materials. Most homeowners can install a security brace on wood or laminate floors without any problems.
If you want to take things one step further, consider installing some form of electronic security. These options are usually less effective when it comes to stopping a break-in but are great at alerting you or the police to one.
Most of the electronic options are sensors that you put on your doors, and you can get door sensors that are part of a larger home security system. These monitors will alert you to intruders by sounding an alarm or by sending a notification to your phone.
You can buy independent monitors, or glass break detectors, for your sliding glass or French doors, too. Glass break sensors are easily installed directly on the door and will sound if the glass is smashed. They aren’t a good option for keeping your doors shut, but they’re great for letting you know when your doors are compromised.
Will door reinforcements work for my sliding glass door?
Door reinforcements (which are stronger versions of your hinges, door jambs, and shields) work best on French doors and traditional exterior doors. They aren’t recommended for sliding glass doors because the track system requires different parts.
I live in an apartment. What non-permanent options can I use to secure my sliding glass door?
Security bars are going to be your best option because they will keep the door securely closed and often require no anchoring screws.
Can I install shatterproof glass in my sliding glass door?
You can replace your glass doors with impact-resistant glass doors, but it’s very expensive and you typically have to buy them through and have them installed by a window company. With price tags well over $1,000 per door, this isn’t practical for everyone. You can buy window film that will make glass doors somewhat more shatterproof, but it can be tricky to install.
Whatever route you decide to take to secure your sliding glass or French doors, you’ll be adding a greater level of safety to your home for a small cost and minimal effort. That sounds like a win-win to us!
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Written by Jenna Muir
Jenna is a Utah native who specializes in all things "home" from tech to entertainment. For years, she's sought out the best ways for homeowners to secure and simplify life at home so they can make more time for the things that matter—like spending some quality time getting to know your couch and cozying up with the latest entertainment. Learn more