The front door of an apartment

We spend a lot of time talking about high-tech home security solutions. It’s our thing. Take our list of the best home security systems, many of which offer state-of-the-art features. Home security doesn’t always have to be so complex though. Sometimes a simple hack can be just the thing to improve your family’s safety.

It turns out, for example, that with a plain old drill and less than $3, you can reinforce your front door and help frustrate would-be burglars and home invaders.

What is this big secret? All you have to do is replace the screws in your door’s strike plate. Most strike plates are installed with 1-inch screws and you’ll want to replace them with 3-inch screws. That’s it. Your entryway will now be more secure, since bad guys can’t kick in your door.

At this point, you might be wondering what a strike plate is. Or where you’re supposed to find 3-inch screws. Or what to do if you don’t own a drill. Not everyone is handy, but we have you covered. Below, we get into all the details of this home security hack, so you can use it to protect your home even if you’re DIY-challenged.

How the Strike Plate Hack Works

Door Strike Plate Installation

First things first: what is a strike plate, and what does it have to do with your home’s security?

What Is a Strike Plate?

“Strike plate” sounds very sophisticated, but it’s basically the slot where the dead bolt on your door goes when you engage it. You probably glance at it without thinking about it every time you go out your front door. You can find it by simply opening your door and looking at the door jamb.

Home Security Quiz & Checklist

How does your home measure up when it comes to security? Take this quiz to see how you score, and get recommendation to protect your home.

Take the Quiz

Why Is Your Strike Plate So Important?

The strike plate holds the dead bolt in place. Of course, the dead bolt could just slide into the wood of your doorframe, but its ability to secure your door would only be as good as the strength of your doorframe’s wood — not terribly strong. One good kick and the splinters would fly. A strike plate is a metal casing for the dead bolt. Metal, or course, is much stronger than wood.

Why Do Longer Screws Matter?

A strike plate holds your door more securely than a dead bolt in a wood hole, but the strike plate is still attached to the wood of your door frame. The weaker that attachment, the more likely the strike plate can be pulled out of the frame. One swift kick and, well, you get the idea.

The strike plate is attached with screws, and too often those screws are just an inch long. You can check yours pretty easily. Just grab a screwdriver and pull them out. Three-inch screws go deeper into the wood than 1-inch screws. The deeper the screw, the less likely the strike plate can be separated from the door jamb. The less likely the strike plate comes off the door jamb, the less likely someone can get into your home without a key.

How to Reinforce Your Strike Plate

Changing your strike-plate screws may sound complicated, but it’s actually pretty easy. All you need is a drill and some screws. You can do it with a screwdriver in a pinch, but it may take a little more time and effort.

All you need to make this home security hack happen are three 3-inch screws. They can be found at your local hardware store for less than $3, making this one of the all-time cheapest ways to boost your security.

More Money-Saving Ideas: A home security system isn’t as cheap as a handful of screws, but it doesn’t have to break the bank either. Check out our list of affordable home security systems.

The Instructions

Now you understand the principle of the strike-plate hack, but how do you actually do it? It’s pretty basic.

  1. Remove one of the 1-inch screws from the strike plate. Leave the other in place. That will help ensure your strike plate doesn’t move around while you’re working on it.
  2. Attach a narrow drill bit to your drill. Make sure it is narrower than the 3-inch screw you’re using.
  3. Drill into the pre-existing screw hole to create a guide hole for the 3-inch screw.
  4. Place the new 3-inch screw into the hole and drill it into place.
  5. Remove the remaining 1-inch screw and repeat steps 2 to 4.

Don’t have a drill? Try borrowing one from a neighbor or renting one from a hardware store. In the worst-case scenario, you can do the whole thing with a screwdriver. It will just require a little more elbow grease.

Additional Tips

It’s a pretty good hack, but are there ways to make it even better? It turns out there are.

  • For the most security, make sure you’re using the right sort of screws. You want general construction screws, also known as carpenter screws, with threads that go the entire length of the screw.
  • Make sure you have the right sort of strike plate. Decorative strike plates sometimes come in metals such as brass or gold. They’re pretty, but they’re extremely pliable, meaning they can be bent easily. If you have one of these plates, consider replacing it with a steel plate for maximum protection.
  • While you’re replacing your strike-plate screws, check your hinge screws as well. As with strike-plate screws, 1-inch screws in your hinges can pull out with enough force. Replace these with 3-inch screws as well.
  • For maximum protection, replace your traditional door locks with smart locks. Smart locks let you control your entryways with your mobile device, which means you can lock your door from work if you forget to do it when you leave in the morning. They also offer convenient ways to let visitors in and keep track of who comes and goes from your home.

Pro Tip: Smart locks use strike plates the same as traditional locks, so you still want to check the plate screws to make sure they are 3 inches long.

Final Thoughts

We love gadgets and gizmos. Nothing makes us happier than a high-end security system with fancy features such as mood lighting that comes on when we get home from work.

Make no mistake though: Our first concern is always home security. You don’t always need the latest and greatest technology, such as 4K security cameras, to make your home safer. Sometimes protecting your family and possessions can be as simple as buying a few screws.