Common residential metal-clad doors have wonderful insulating qualities, but do not stand up to a forced-entry attempt any better than a wood door, and in some ways, not even as well. They are basically a wood frame, clad with a metal sheet on the front and back, and filled with insulating material. While there are some true steel doors available to the residential market, they are most often used for commercial applications.
But the real weakness with most residential doors is the frame around it. Most renovations and new construction utilize pre-hung doors, which means that the door and the jamb come pre-assembled. The jamb is usually made with jointed material that is ¾ of an inch thick or less. That’s what the hinges and lock strikes are attached to, and that is what makes it so incredibly easy for doors to be kicked in.
When a wall is built, the opening for the door is “roughed in,” meaning that plenty of room is left for the installation of the door and jamb. When the door and jamb are installed, small shims are used to to hold the jamb in its finished position within the rough opening, and the jamb is attached to the wall framing. The problem with this is that the door hardware is usually left attached only to the jamb and are not secured to the wall framing itself, sometimes with significant gaps between them.
To their credit, many pre-hung door manufacturers supply longer screws that are supposed to be added, one per hinge, that would secure the hinges to the wall framing, but they are often left uninstalled. If there are less than four screws attaching the hinge to the jamb, these were probably the screws that were not installed. Try removing the screws attaching the hinge to the jamb, one at a time. Chances are good you won’t find any longer than ¾ of an inch long.
A lock only secured to the door jam is insecure
The problem becomes even worse on the lock side of the door because the door isn’t attached to the jamb at all; you are depending on the strikes that the entry lock latch and the deadbolt go into. It doesn’t matter what the quality of your lock is – if it is only secured to the jamb, it can be easily kicked in.Additionally, your deadbolt should extend a full inch, which is greater than the depth of the jamb. If the door installer didn’t go back and drill the hole deep enough for the deadbolt to fully extend, it may not actually lock. To make matters worse, many doors come pre-hung with sidelites, meaning there is no wall framing to secure the strikes to. Yes, they make for a beautiful entryway, but at a very high cost in reduced security.
Fortunately, these problems can be relatively easy to rectify at reasonable cost. Door and frame reinforcement kits are available that will greatly enhance the security of virtually any door. Several such kits are available, but you will want one that addresses the three weakest parts of the door assembly: the jamb, the hinges, and the door edge.The reinforcement kit we use and recommend includes a 4-foot long piece of steel that reinforces the lock-side jamb. It replaces the strikes and is secured to the wall framing with nine 3-1/2 inch long screws.With the jamb reinforced, the next weakest point becomes the door edge where the deadbolt is mounted. Metal-clad doors seem especially vulnerable at this point.
The reinforcement kit should include a door edge guard that wraps around the door where the bolt comes out of the door to protect this area. Lastly, the kit should include replacement screws for securing the hinges to the wall framing.Additionally, the reinforcement kit we recommend includes two posts that are installed on the hinge side of the door that interlock with the jamb when the door is closed, providing two additional reinforcement points on this side of the door. With a properly installed reinforcement kit, the door and the wall act as a unit, resistant to all but the most determined physical attack.