Door Limiters and Door Chains
Opening the Door to Callers
Many people, especially the elderly, are concerned about answering the door to callers, particularly late at night or when they’re unexpected. Fortunately, there are a number of inexpensive door chains, limiters and viewers that provide added security when answering the front door. That said, a door is far more secure when it’s closed and locked than when it’s open on a door chain, so if in doubt, don’t open the door. Instead, simply talk (or shout) through the door or a window, preferably one on the first floor, which you will be able to open to permit a relatively normal conversation. Whatever you do, always acknowledge a call to the door.
Otherwise, if the caller is a burglar, he may assume that you’re not at home and attempt an entry.
Door Limiters and Chains
These devices are engaged before you open the door, preferably against your shoed foot, or a rubber or wooden wedge. They restrict the amount by which the door can be opened, allowing you to have a conversation with a caller and to accept items of identification through the gap. The police tend to recommend door limiters these days because theirfittings are slightly stronger than those of chains. Both require the door to be closed before you can disengage them and open the door fully. This means that the caller cannot release them, and that’s what makes them security fittings.
A common mistake when using this type of device is to treat it as a door lock and have it engaged all of the time, except when opening the door to a caller, which defeats the object of having it. Remember, the chain goes on and then the door is opened.
Because this misuse is a common problem, many elderly people, particularly those living in warden controlled sheltered accommodation, have what is known as a lockable door chain. This allows the warden to unlock the device from the outside if the occupant needs help, but can’t get to the door.
A DIY Door Wedge (Granny’s Boot)
An old way of controlling the opening of the door, is with a wooden wedge fixed to the bottom of a broom handle, affectionately known as a ‘Granny’s boot’. The handle removes the need to bend, down to position the wedge under the door. In theory, the harder you push the door against the wedge, the more stuck it will become. However, its effectiveness will be determined by the roughness of the floor surface and the roughness of the bottom of the wedge. A wedge can be cut fromand its bottom face given a toothed profile to ensure maximum grip on carpet. For a hard floor surface, you could try a piece of rubber to the underside of the wedge. This device should only be used in-conjunction with a door chain, or limiter.
Door Viewer and Mirror
A door viewer should be used in conjunction with a door limiter.
Locksmiths and DIY stores sell a wide range, but the most common has a small, wide-angle lens that offers a field of view of between 160 and 180 degrees. This type of spy-hole viewer comes in two parts, which are screwed together through a hole drilled in the door. The inner part has a small cover to prevent light in the hall from leaking out through the door. Spectacle wearers can find these small viewers laborious to use, since most remove their spectacles to look through them. These days, however, you can buy viewers with much larger lenses. Some types take the form of a simple tube through the door, with a diameter of about 10 mm (3/8 in), and have a mirrored outer cover to prevent anyone from looking through it from the outside. The very latest viewers employ a prism to project an image of the caller on to a small screen about 30 mm (1-1/4 in) in diameter. At night, all of them require an outside light or a lit corridor to be effective.
As an alternative, or preferably an addition, to the door viewer, you can fit a small make-up mirror to the wall on the locking side of the door. If set at a slight angle, this will enable you to see a caller when you open the door on the limiter.
Sliding Patio Door Lock
Patio door locks are available to supplement the poor locking mechanisms often fitted to older sliding patio doors. Amazingly, during the 1970s, some of the cheapest aluminium sliding doors (and windows) were supplied with plastic catches only, and little effort was needed to lift the doors from their tracks. Today, most doors of this type are provided with multi-point locking systems that include hook bolts to pull the door into the frame and prevent it from being lifted.
A patio door lock is normally fitted to the bottom portion of the frame, immediately next to the fixed door or to the stile of the fixed door, whichever is most convenient. For even greater security, a second lock can be fitted to the top of the frame. It is best to fit the lock either on or up against the fixed door, as any force applied to slide open the door will push the lock into its fitting. If the lock is fitted to the other side, there is a danger that it will be pulled from its fitting.