Instructables

Hardening a Door Frame

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About a month ago, I was talking with a friend of mine who's a police officer.  We were talking about a number of things in regards to home security, and he mentioned that in most burglaries, the thief just kicks in the door - no problem - because door frames tend to be pretty wimpy.  He also mentioned that door frames that were reinforced with a strip of metal were immensely harder to kick in ... and I immediately starting thinking about making my own.

Most residential doors are pretty "soft" - i.e. easy to get through.  There are a number of videos on YouTube where you can see someone almost casually kick in a door - and when you understand the actual support structure around most locks and deadbolts, it's pretty obvious why this is the case.  While you might have an awesome deadbolt that resists picking and lock-bumping, the only thing REALLY keeping your door closed is a relatively thin strip of wood (probably pine) and maybe some trim - i.e. the relatively thin door jamb. 

This instructable covers one possible technique for making a door frame nearly impervious to being kicked in.  I want to admit right off the bat that this design is overkill - lol.  I have a tendency to over-engineer things and this project was no exception.  If I were to do it again, I'd be looking at using 16GA or thinner metal (1/16") as opposed to the 10GA (1/8") metal I used - it would be easier to work with and still very strong.

I also want to mention that there are commercial products out there that do the same thing - but why BUY what you can MAKE when you can make it better? :)  I was also able to make the door reinforcement for about half what a much thinner commercial product would have cost (not including time, of course) - total cost was around $22.

What you'll need:

Supplies:
Metal strip - I used a 2" x 48" strip of 10GA 304 stainless steel.  I'd recommend 16 GA (which should be even cheaper)
Heavy-duty screws - 4" long (I used hardened decking screws with Torx heads)

Tools:
Assorted metal files, hammer, cold-chisel, drill, bits, countersink, sander, sanding belts or sandpaper, measuring tape and/or rule, center punch, scribe, welder, metal saw (reciprocating, abrasive, whatever works) and it would be nice to have Dykem and/or permanent markers.

 
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Sad you can't legally booby trap your own door. I can think of 100 ways to make a door more secure. All of which would result in pain and suffering to the bad guys. Having grown up in Italy, I've seen some crazy combinations of door locks. It's not uncommon for people to have 4 or more deadbolts, each keyed different. There are huge numbers of house break-ins.

Cemtes1 year ago
Great way to protect the frame, but in my experience, it is generally the door that breaks first. The door will split and the the lock mechanism will just twist out. A metal plate over the lock mechanism on both sides of the door, secured with bolts through the door are an easy way to prevent the door from splitting. Reinforcing both door and frame should make for a very secure entrance.
jwilliamsen (author)  Cemtes1 year ago
Thanks for the tip :)

I agree with you 100% - which is why I did install a lock shroud on my deadbolt (I should probably add that to the instructable) as well as a "Nightlock" which in combination with the other pieces makes this a pretty "hard" door.  At this point, the door itself is pretty much the weak link - but it's head and shoulders above the "average" residential door.
jwilliamsen (author) 1 year ago
Thanks the "coolant well" tip - I've done that when drilling through glass, but haven't used it on metal. I tend to use the slowest speed I can get when working with metals - and thanks , too, for pointing that out as I failed to mention it.

When you had your unwelcome visitors, did the jamb blow out, or the frame?

There are two basic ways to reinforce the hinge side - the first is to substitute one long, heavy duty screw for one of the standard screws in each of the leaves of the hinges. The frame-side screws need to be pretty long IMO - 4" is good, in the door, something around 2" to 2-1/2".  The reason you need fairly long screws on the frame side of things is that it can (depending on how accurately the frame was built)  take almost 1-1/2" of screw length before you actually hit the studs of the wall - you will typically go through the jamb (3/4") then "airspace" (sometimes as much as 3/4") before hitting studs. 

The second way to reinforce the hinge side of the door frame is with straps that screw through the jamb into the frame and wrap around the back of the hinge to keep the jamb from blowing out. As you might imagine, these are not the easiest things to install since they will have to be inlet into the jamb, as well as needing the trim removed, slotted, and reinstalled.  Personally, I think the long screws do a pretty good job.

While I think this door frame reinforcement is a good start, I realize it has it's shortcomings ..... which is where a door bar comes in handy :)
Quick-tune1 year ago
Nice job, You didn't choose the easiest steel to work with either, a tip I found for coolant with a drill press is to make a 'well' from plasticine/modelling material etc around the drilling area and fill this with oil/cutting fluid - on stainless use a slow drilling speed so as to reduce heat, as you probably know that stainless steel 'work hardens' with drilling, hammering and bending... now what can we do to strengthen the frame around those hinges, thats the other weak point - it was when I had unwelcome visitors! the 40 year old door resisted damage, it was the two year old frame which failed.
Fantastic piece, looks store-bought and expensive. Definitely something to add to the list of things to do once I have a house.
jwilliamsen (author)  mattthegamer4631 year ago
Thanks :)   If you're anything like me, that's going to be a loooong list - lol
gmh57601 year ago
FANTASTIC work! Looks wonderful! Have you tested it yet? ;)
jwilliamsen (author)  gmh57601 year ago
LOL - Not really - just kind of put my shoulder into it - but it didn't yield at all :) ... now to retrofit the OTHER two doors in the house :)
blkhawk1 year ago
Great idea! I am also a believer of home safety. And I totally agree with you, most of this pre-hung doors that are easy to install do not seem strong enough to protect a family from a break in.
sunshiine1 year ago
I faved and when the vote button is up I will vote! Nice job!