DEAR MIKE: I noticed that my neighbor recently had a security door installed on his front door, and it leaves me feeling a little vulnerable. How can I install one on my front door without it looking like an amateur did it? -- Mickey C.
DEAR MICKEY: This is really an easy job, so don't let it intimidate you.
There are security doors available to fit every taste and budget. You can get a basic door with steel bars and a screen for about $60, or pay as much as $300 for a fancy model. Just make sure you get the right size for your door. You'll also need to buy a lockset (a locking doorknob and a separate deadbolt), sold as a set for about $20.
The door will come in three pieces: the door/hinge jamb, the side jamb, and the head jamb. If all goes well, you'll be locking the new door in just over an hour.
First, determine which way the door needs to swing (the doorknob on the security door should be on the same side as the doorknob on the front door).
Install the doorknob and deadbolt into the holes in the door. Before you do this though, look at the front door and see if the doorknobs will hit each other, therefore preventing the security door from closing. You might consider placing the doorknob in the top hole of the security door, and installing the deadbolt in the bottom hole. This way, the doorknobs will miss each other when the two doors are closed.
Hold the security door up to your front door to verify that the doorknobs will not contact each other. Center the security door in the opening and set it on a 2X4 or similar object to raise it to the proper height. Mark the location of the top hole and remove the security door. Drill a hole according to the manufacturer's recommendations (usually three-sixteenths of an inch).
You'll be using one-way screws (they come with the door), which use a standard screw slot. These screws allow you to tighten the screws, but make their removal very difficult. Because installing these with a screwdriver will turn your hand into hamburger, I highly recommend buying a one-way screw-installing tool. It costs about $12 and will cut your time in half. Also, use a bar of soap and run the threads of the screws over it. The soap will make the screws easier to drive in.
Partially drive a screw into the top hole of the hinge side jamb. Since the door comes attached to this jamb, the door will be a little crooked until you plumb it. Use a level and as you hold the level against the jamb, push the door until the level shows it's plumb. Mark the remaining holes, and again drill pilot holes. Drive the screws on this jamb halfway.
Extend the bolt on the lock and take the strike side jamb and place it on the bolt and the latch of the doorknob. Close the door and raise the strike-side jamb slightly, so that when the lock is engaged, it will not hit the jamb. Plumb this jamb with the level, mark the holes, drill pilot holes and drive the three screws halfway. As you are installing the strike-side jamb, frequently test that the latch and the bolt from the lock easily enter the jamb. Fully drive the screws into the frame.
Finally, insert the plugs into the ends of the head jamb and mark, drive and drill the holes so that the head jamb will rest about one-eighth of an inch above the door.
If you discover you have scratched the unit during installation, touch up the scratches with paint or those areas will rust.