Basement windows are a special security problem. Being close to the ground, they’re easy for burglars to access. Because they’re usually out of site, they afford burglars privacy to do their “work.” It’s also important to take safety and building codes into account when you’re considering how to secure basement windows.
Locks and latches
Before you decide how to secure basement windows, keep in mind that different types of windows require different security measures. Most basesments have double hung windows (two panes of glass with the lower sliding up) or awning windows (hinged at the top). The utility window, also called a “hopper” window, which is hinged at the bottom, is also common in basements. The big problem with these windows is that they ypically come with cheap locks that are easy to pick open with a piece of wire. In order to secure the basement window, you’ll want to replace the manufacturer’s lock with stronger keyed mortise sash locks. When you install the lock, make sure a would-be burglar won’t be able to remove it just by breaking the window glass. If you have a vertical-rising sash, installing a sash stop will provide you with security, but you’ll still be able to open the window enough for ventilation.
Basement window security bars
If your windows slide horizontally, consider using a Charley bar. This device is a spring-loaded metal bar that latches to the window’s side frame and folds down in front of the glass, bracing itself against the opposite frame and blocking the sliding frame from being slid back. It lets you open the window for ventilation, but prevents the window from being opened all the way. The device is easy to take out when you do want to open the window all the way.
Grills and shutters
For serious security, you may want to considering installing heavy-duty steel or iron security bars or grates across the exteriors of your basement windows. These can be expensive, but they provide considerably better security than a lock alone would. Just make sure the bars use quick-release latches so the bars can be opened from the inside in an emergency. Also, there should be at least one window in each room of the basement that can be opened or fully removed by the frame from the inside without a key or any kind of tool.
When many people think of how to secure basement windows for maximum protection, they think of ugly “prison bars” across the windows. Fortunately, there are better looking options. Another effective way to secure basement windows is to install roll-a-way electric security shutters. Here again, look for a design that won’t create a fire hazard. The safest are the models that run on tracks or can be easily pushed open from inside if anyone needs to escape quickly during an emergency.
Glass for secure basement windows
Naturally, burglars don’t want to create noise, so most will only break windows as a last resort. That’s no excuse for not using strong glass to secure a basement window, though. For the most secure windows, use glass block. These are almost impossible to break and, as an added benefit, they make it hard to see what’s stored in your basement even if you don’t use curtains. The only problem is you can’t open them. If you prefer windows that open, go with shatter-resistant glass or, better yet, polycarbonate or acrylic panes.
Keep building codes in mind
Most municipalities have fire and safety codes regarding how to secure basement windows. Usually, these rules are just a matter of common sense, but if you’re adding a room to the basement or installing new windows, be sure to check the local codes. You’ll probably be required to have at least on basement “egress” window or emergency exit window. The problem with these windows is that they’re designed to allow easy access (let firefighters in, for instance), but they still have to keep out burglars. The most common solution is to install bars or grates with special release mechanisms approved by the municipality.
Basement windows are a favorite entry-point for burglars, but by putting a little forethought into how to secure a basement window, you can make sure your windows aren’t vulnerable. To secure a basement window, all it really takes is a quality lock on a strong window frame and pane. For extra security, install security grates or shutters and you won’t have to worry about basement break-ins.