Safe House: 12 Ways To Protect Your Home

What’s the use of DIYing yourself silly and upgrading every inch of your house if you’re not going to protect it from bad guys and natural disasters? And there are so many simple ways that you can do just that. So here’s how we do our best to protect our precious home sweet home.

1. Opt for a safe deposit box. Ever since I was a young child and we got robbed (the bad guys stole all my Christmas money and a necklace that was handed down to me from my grandma) my mom has ingrained in me that you’ll never be sorry that you have a safe deposit box. It’s just a small fee each month but the peace of mind that it can provide- and the unyielding protection that it can offer to your most prized possessions- is well worth the investment. Plus it’s amazing how freeing it feels to know that all of our important papers are in one place. No more frantically searching for my social security card or the title to the Altima.

2. Get an alarm (or install deadbolts, get a guard dog, etc). We live in one of those areas where people leave their front doors unlocked when they run out to the store. In fact our neighborhood hasn’t had a single break-in throughout the entire four year span that we’ve lived here. But that’s not a reason not to protect our house just in case- especially since we share so much of our life (and our house) with the world thanks to this ol’ blog. So getting an alarm felt like a smart move for us (we even scored a break on our homeowner’s insurance for the purchase). And not only do we feel a lot more secure with a whole-house alarm, we also have motion sensor lights, deadbolts on all of our exterior doors, and a nice little yappy dog with a surprisingly loud bark to alert the neighbors of any funny business. We like to think of it as a few layers of protection.

So even if you don’t have the money or the desire to get a full blown alarm system, even taking a few simple precautions like installing deadbolts, adding a few motion sensor lights, or even remembering to lock your windows can really lower the likelihood of a break-in.

3. Befriend your neighbors. There are about a million reasons to get to know your neighbors (when our driveway was paved one of them kindly offered up the use of theirs, when we needed a cup of sugar another one lent a hand). And “house safety” is definitely on that list. We’re very close with a handful of people who live nearby, which is great because we can always let them know when we’ll be out of town so they can keep an eye on things for us. And they do! One eagle-eyed neighbor actually called us when John’s sister stopped by- even though she was there with our blessing- just to be sure. It’s like your own personal neighborhood watch. And of course they can also alert you to a fire or if a tree happens to land on your roof (that actually happened to a family member, and thanks to her neighbor they knew right away and got it taken care of before they even returned home). Gotta love that.

4. Make sure your landscaping isn’t doing the bad guys any favors. When we moved into our house it would have been easy for anyone to sneak up to our front door without any of our neighbors noticing…

But ever since we’ve cut back all the overgrown trees and bushes and created a more open landscaping plan, there’s a lot less “cover” for anyone who might want to sneak around under the cover of shrubbery. So break out those clippers and get down to business- it’s just one more super easy way to protect your place.

5. Resist the urge to announce your location to the world. Celebrities and normal people alike are using sites like Twitter, Facebook, and Foursquare to broadcast whenever they’re on vacation or visiting faraway family members… and then coming home to find their home completely stripped of all valuables. Eeks. We do our best to be safe by avoiding the urge to share when we’re traveling (on Facebook, Twitter, and even here on the blog) so you’ll always notice that we only reveal that we’ve been away after we’re back home again. You just never know who could be waiting to hear that you’ll be out of town.

6. Bring home a fire and waterproof safe. Ours was actually given to us as a wedding gift but we love how practical and easy it is to use. Of course we have all of our “true” valuables (like jewelry, titles, deeds, and other government paperwork) stored in our safe deposit box, but for sentimental items that we just couldn’t bear to lose in a fire or a flood (like a CD full of wedding photos from our photographer and all the videos we’ve made of Clara and Burger) there’s nothing like the peace of mind that a small waterproof and fireproof safe can bring. And it can easily slip into any closet or corner (we keep ours in the hall closet under the vacuum cleaner).

7. Snag a few carbon monoxide/smoke detectors. You don’t really need us to explain why this is a good idea, but it’s definitely nice now that they sell those two-in-one detectors that can do it all. We were sure to place enough around the house so that each “zone” is adequately protected, and we change the batteries two times a year when we change the clocks forward and back for daylight savings time (it’s easier to remember to do it that way).

8. Don’t forget to test for radon. We did and the results were staggeringly dangerous (read more about that here). Thank goodness, for the health of Clara, Burger and ourselves, we opted to test our house pretty much right away (instead of living here for years without knowing that our casa was trying to kill us). Mitigation wasn’t cheap, but it was definitely the key to making our home about 100 times safer for us and our growing family. And the fact that we went from an almost unheard of amount of radon to nearly none at all (even less than the air we breathe outside!) was the icing on the cake.

9. Own at least one fire extinguisher for each floor of your home. We have just one since we have a one-level ranch, and we keep it under the sink in the kitchen since most fires start in that room. We’ve never had to use it but it’s always nice to know that it’s there. It’s just another smidge of assurance that we’re prepared in case anything unexpected threatens the house that we love so much.

10. Don’t forget to get a shredder. We picked one up a few years ago and were surprised how easy it has been to make a little pile of things “to be shredded” and get ’em done all at once at the end of each week. Not only does it protect our identities, it also cuts down on the bulking bags of garbage that used to fill our trash bin since it really does condense things nicely while making it impossible for anyone to find out your bank account number. Oh and on that subject, we’ve heard that dropping bills and tax info directly into a public mailbox or even taking it to the post office is a lot safer than leaving that stuff in your own mailbox with the flag up. Because although it’s illegal for people to dig around in your mail, it would be pretty easy for a criminal to zip by, open your mailbox, and steal something like your tax stuff (complete with your social security number, bank info, income, etc). Yikes!

11. Be sure your tap water is safe. With crazy toxins like lead and even arsenic showing up in drinking water, it’s always smart to look at how your h2o stacks up. And luckily it’s your municipalities responsibility to test the water each year and send out a statement to you, so knowing what you’re drinking is free thanks to their annually published reports. For extra credit you can even install a water filter (like we did here) for more assurance. We drink water like it’s going out of style so it was a must-have for us.

12. Stay up to date with house-related check-ups. From annual termite inspections to HVAC servicing to ensure that everything’s in working order, there’s nothing better than staying on top of home maintenance so your water heater doesn’t flood your basement and you don’t have to deal with a major (and costly) insect infestation. We actually have just one piece of paper with every service person’s info on it (from our oil-heat guy to our termite inspector’s info) so it’s easy to pull that one sheet of paper out from time to time and see what we’re due to have serviced, replaced, renewed, or checked. And building a relationship with these companies by using them consistently and being organized about scheduling maintenance calls really helps build a nice relationship (more than a few of them have billed us less, offered up free labor, and even saved us a ton of money by whispering what we really can do something ourselves in return for our loyalty).

So that’s how we do our best to keep Casa Petersik safe and sound. Because nothing would be more heartbreaking than to see something that we worked so hard to spruce up somehow get damaged or vandalized- especially if it was an occurrence that we could have easily avoided. What about you guys? Do you do other things to keep your house protected? We’d love to hear your tips! Share and share alike.

Comments

  1. jbhat says

    Such good suggestions. I’m loving the shot of the water flowing out of the faucet.

    jbhat

  2. Krista says

    When testing your home for radon, it is really best to use a long term (3 month- 1 year) test, since the levels are constantly changing throughout the year. I bought mine from http://rssi.us/shop/… the cost of the long term kit included mailing, analysis and report where with other places they charge you for analysis… just a little fyi. Love your blog!

    • says

      Good tip Krista! It’s also great to do it in the winter since most people have the house more closed up (and you want to observe closed window conditions so you’re not airing anything out to effect the reading). Hope it helps!

      xo,
      s

  3. michelle says

    what a great post! it makes me happy to know i’m doing some of these things, and helps me to focus on those things that i can implement into my own home.

  4. Jennifer says

    My sister taught me this tip. If your doors have windows in or near them, replace your deadbolts with the kind that need a key to lock from the inside. And don’t leave the key in the lock! Her house has windows alongside the front door, and it would be so easy for someone to smash a window, reach in, and unlock the door. Then they can just walk right in.

    Also, windows have that safety latch these days. It’s for child safety, so no kid opens the window and falls out. But it would also prevent someone from fully opening an ajar window and then climbing in.

    Great tips. :-)

  5. says

    We throught of getting a whole house security system, but opted not to as it felt too invasive. When contemplating it, it made us feel more vunerable than less so. Given that my partner is a cop, we have some inside info that have helped us make good decisions regarding security.

    We did change all the locks and have deadbolts on the gates. The best way to avoid a break in is to make your house unattractive to theives. Having a dog (even one that is a pushover) is a great deterent (and wonderful company!). Lighting is very important as well. Having light or movement sensitive lights in strategic places decreases your odds of intruders. Getting to know your neighbors is an excellent way of adding security. When we did the renovations, we had to file a plan with the city that included hard wired smoke detectors. Our upstairs has 5 of them, and the downstairs has two.

  6. angela says

    I just want to ask something though – if you use a safety deposit box and you need your Social security cards or whatever documentation, don’t you have to wait until banking hours? And God forbid something happen to that bank. I go back and forth, but in the end I want to have access to that stuff at 3 am if I need it. If that stuff is stored in your home deposit box (or elsewhere) what is the advantage? I’m honestly wondering as I’m thinking maybe i should switch to using a safety deposit box but I do worry about if there was ever a need to leave at 3 am (national disaster and so on)

    I’d love to hear any thoughts or suggestions. Thanks!!

    • says

      Hey Angela,

      We figure that our bank is a lot more monitored and protected than our home and in the event that we have to leave in a moment’s notice (like in a national disaster) I think whether those items were at home or in a safety deposit box we’d probably leave without them (I was in NYC for September 11th and everyone just ran without grabbing a thing). Hope it helps! Anyone else want to weigh in for Angela?

      xo,
      s

  7. says

    These are really great ideas! Definitely really important to have a safe place to put valuables, aside from your own home. And of course, not advertising to the world that you’re leaving your house for a few days is totally true. I think a lot of people forget that the cyberworld is available for ALL to see.

  8. Kim says

    We bought our first home last year and had Radon testing done as part of our home owners inspection (ours is normal so far). However, certain parts of the country don’t even do radon testing b/c they don’t have radon problems. Each area has its own problems I guess, but I never even heard about radon until I moved to Ohio.

  9. says

    What a great list! A friend of mine recently came home to a huge flood, the connection to her washer had failed and water was spilling everywhere. Since then I have fitted my washed with flood proof connectors ( you can get them in Home depot) so if the worst happens I will have some sort of backup.

  10. Kim says

    I was going to add that we leave our front and back porch lights on all night long. We also leave our cars parked in the garage but on the rare occasion we have to park outside (like when I’m painting on hubby’s side of the garage :)) we take his garage door opener out of his car. It’s really easy for thieves to break into your car and steal your garage door opener to gain entrance into your home.

  11. says

    One thing that people should be aware of is that doing these safety precautions can actually help decrease their insurance premimums. We’re doing some remodeling and mentioned it to our insurance company. They offered to come out and evaluate our home for possible investments that could help our decrease our insurnace rates! So cool.

  12. Ash says

    I noticed you mention you have both a safety deposit box and a safe at home. Which docs do you keep where? I really need to get our important documents organized and it sounds like you guys have already done the research, so I’d love to know your thoughts! Thanks!

    • says

      Hey Ash,

      Things that bad guys could use against us (like our social security cards, passports, tax records, house deed, car title, etc) all go in the safe deposit box. Sentimental things (videos, photos, awards, etc) that we wouldn’t want to be ruined in a flood or fire but would be of no use to robbers go in the safe at home. And we’re sure to leave the key right in the safe so if anyone got past our eagle-eyed neighbors, our alarm, our dog, our motion detecting lights and our deadbolts they would open it and realize that there’s nothing in there of value to them (if you don’t leave the key in the safe you risk that they’ll take the whole safe with them). Hope it helps!

      xo,
      s

  13. says

    This reminded me of a skit on SNL years and years ago that was a ‘commercial’ for a car that was supposed to deter criminals. It looked like an old, tore up POS on the outside but was filled with high end luxuries on the inside.

    We haven’t done any reno or decorating to the outside of our house yet so, while the exterior might not look exactly like an old, tore up, POS, it certainly doesn’t reflect what’s on the inside AT ALL. Maybe when we paint & landscape well get an alarm system. In the mean time we have a psycho dog that barks at ANY and EVERY single thing he hears.

  14. says

    Our neighbors always let us know when they were going to be out of town. Last summer while they were away we saw a pick-up back into their driveway, two people go into their backyard, get something, load it into the truck, and drive away. We’d called the police, but the people were gone before they got there. The next morning as I was enjoying my coffee, I looked over and there was the same truck and a young girl watering their flowers. They’d left something in the backyard for people to pick up! Oops – we all had a good laugh when they got back!