Dear PoP – Alarm Vs. Security Bars

“Dear PoP,

I recently purchased a condo in the district, but due to the location of the unit I thought it would be best to get security bars for the windows. I really don’t know of any contractors or companies that install security bars, but hopefully your readers would be able to pass along some good information that I can use to help select a company/contractor to install them.

Also I want to see what readers thoughts are concerning installing security bars or just a security system?”

We had a couple of recommendations here but does anyone else have suggestions? Also where do you guys fall on the bars vs. alarm system debate?

42 Comment

  • Bini the Locksmith! He did a great job, he’s local, and he’s the best deal for security bars for back windows. He does not do fancy iron work, like the pictures above.

    • Do you have contact info for Bini?

      • I’ve called most of the other contacts listed below. Bini Locksmith and Ironworks is by far the best bang for the buck (in my opinion), and he remembers your name when you call him for future work. 202.462.2220

  • I have bars on the basement windows and security bar doors on all exterior doors. For the rest I have an alarm with window sensors and glass break sensors. But would love to have fabulous security bar doors like above. Where do you get those?

  • I refused to live in a prison. Bought a place without bars and installed the Alarm System.

    No problems in almost 1-1/2 years. Then again I have like 21 locks and a strict house rule.

    All doors and windows are locked always, especially when the house is empty.

    The more difficult it is do break-in the less likely it is to happen.

    • saf

      “I refused to live in a prison. Bought a place without bars and installed the Alarm System”

      I also refuse to live in a prison. I took the bars off our upstairs windows (left them on the basement windows), got better locks, and installed an alarm.

    • prisons have alarms too.
      and apparently georgetown hospital and military bases have bars.

      my house has bars and i dont even notice them. it’s not prison like at all.

  • Oh yeah, all three doors have the security gates but no bars on the windows.

  • I prefer bars. They deter crime before it happens. An alarm just lets you know when the crime is already in progress.

    • +1 That is the main difference between the two.

    • And they allow you to leave your windows open when you go to bed, go to work, go out of town, etc. We got new windows a few years ago and requested that our bars be reinstalled when the windows were done.

  • We have both an alarm system and bars (plus large dogs). The bars were already on the house, on the backside. We’ll leave them on for a number of years. The doors all have the security gates, and I love having those! The alarm system is great, but not as much a deterrent as bars. If you get an alarm system be sure to get one that has a wireless call ability in case a smart intruder cuts the wires. I hope having both are overkill, but I’d rather not take my chances.

  • Bars Bars Bars.

    I’ve been broken into twice (two different rental houses). The reason for both break-ins: no bars.

    We had alarms at both houses– once it was set, once it was not. But there were not bars on the back windows. In the instance when the alarm was set, it went off, but the robber was undeterred.

    The alarm went off at 11:29 AM. The Police arrived at 1:01 PM. And the station was all of three blocks away (house at 14 & W, station at 17 & V). Robbers know that they have time in the case of an alarm, so it’s not an effective deterrent.

    I share @Frankie James’ thoughts, but the bottom line is that alarms don’t intimidate an experienced thief.

    • Oh– and most important: RENTERS INSURANCE! Well worth the $100/year (though if your are an owner I suppose you’d be covered by homeowner’s).

      • It won’t do you much good if you’re also a victim of identify theft. Experienced thieves are not just looking for things. While a fireproof safe is probably a good idea, I’m willing to bet most people have other senstive information readily available (with ssn, bank #s, etc)

    • ah

      Opposite experience here with MPDC–A mylar helium balloon set off our alarm once. Cops there within 5 minutes.

    • Don’t fool yourself. I was broken in once, and there were thick bars on all the windows and doors. A seasoned criminal has the right tools to bend them quite easily.

  • Don’t forget that merely putting the “Alarm Company X” sign in your yard is a fair deterrent too. Also, having lights on timers helps unless it’s a neighbor casing your house.

    I took off the bars and put shatter proof glass into the easily accessible sashes. It cost a fortune, but probably not that much more than having a separate contractor come out and install bars. You can supposedly hit it with a hammer and it won’t break, but I haven’t demo’d that feature.

  • Bars, most burglars are after laptops and the such and will be long gone before the police arrive.
    or if you like to spend lots of money

  • You need to check your condo docs to see if they allow installing bars. Otherwise, you will be paying someone to remove them, and pay to repair the damage. It’s not uncommon in DC to not own the exterior of your unit. You should be able to install the interior ones though.

  • Bars, mostly since I can leave windows open and not worry about someone crawling inside. Oh, and make sure they are properly attached. Cheaper companies will just bolt them into the window frame which takes all of 2m and a crowbar to remove (seen it done). The ones I have are welded to pegs that are embedded several inches into the brick.

  • Word of caution: if you ever want to rent your home legally you cannot have bars or gates on doors where you need to use a key to get out from the inside.

    i’m dealing with this decision now myself and it’s really a tough one. i feel very safe with the bars, but the thought of fire is scary. i want to remove them, but worry that i’ll regret it.

  • Quincy St Neighbor

    I also have security bars, security system and a large breed dog. My bars are over the basement and first floor windows. I would recommend getting the bars + security alarm system. This is not overkill and I have never felt like I’m living in a prison. Now that the nights have turned cooler, I enjoy keeping the main floor windows open during the evening and with the security bars, I never have to fret over forgetting to shut the windows when I go to bed at night. Another plus, the bars are handy for draping outdoor lights during Christmas time!

    Anecdote: Two friends of mine had their security bars removed when they renovated row house in Columbia Heights. They live near the new spots on 11th street which has seen more foot traffic and recently gained a greater sense of ease at night as a result. During the labor day weekend they accidentally left the windows on the main floor open overnight and were robbed of a new high performance bike, a giant flatscreen TV, a laptop, and a work blackberry all while they were upstairs asleep! The thieves quietly slipped all the stolen goods through the open window; they didn’t even bother to open the front door!

    • I leave my windows on the top floor open every night that weather permits. Why anyone would want to leave them open when they are away is beyond me. Also I am pretty sure my TV would not fit through the window.

      I understand the fear most people have and would not try to dissuade someone from putting up bars. Truth is, if they want to get in, they will.

      As several have said, when they window were accidentally left open it happens. We are constantly checking each other when we leave.

      I also know of two homes that were robbed on Capitol Hill when some idiot put up a ladder on the back side of their home. So much for the bars on the top.

      Once I read homes with the Alarm System signs were 35% less likely to get robbed, then again it depends where you live I guess.

      That is what good insurance is for. Good Luck.

  • We debated between the two options for several weeks. In the end, it came down to two points: 1) Bars feel safer and deter theft as opposed to a reactive approach; and 2) When your house is recently renovated and the nicest on the block, bright lights and bar-less windows just seem like a beacon to thieves.

    Further, bars are a cheaper long-term investment.

  • 12 gauge.

  • I have bars on select windows, though not all, and an alarm system. I had iron gates and one window’s bars installed by Johnny Kee from J&L Ornamental Iron Works, and I cannot recommend them highly enough. No nonsense, great work, simply quality. Great Angie’s List reviews… and he appears to have worked on every single house in Bloomingdale/Eckington. 202.829.3050.

  • bars.
    both iron
    and wet.

    like a military base.

  • I recommend bars for any below level windows and doors, especially in the back of your house. I have bars on my basement door and window, as well as the front and back windows on the first floor. The only ones I have considered removing are two in the front but they are embedded into the brick and it would not be worth it to try and get them out.
    An alarm system is a good idea as well. There are some great new systems that allow you to control your alarm by PDA. You get messages anytime a sensor is triggered – if a door, window, cabinet, whatever is opened. You can also turn the alarm off remotely so that you don’t have to run home if something accidentally triggers the alarm. A friend of mine has a system where he can actually watch the video feed from cameras outside his house on his Blackberry.
    Alarms also get you a discount on your insurance. I am not sure that security bars do.

  • There should be a requirement in DC, but I don’t think there is, for emergency exits on at least one window with bars. Had that requirement with the bars on my windows in my apartment in Oakland.

  • Bars and an alarm system serve a very different purpose. Bars will not keep someone out but they will slow them down. An alarm system will not keep anyone out but will alert you, and the police, if someone does get into the house.

    Many of our customer have bars on the most vulnerable windows and an alarm on all of the doors / windows. I find the alarm system, more than anything, gives people peace of mind that there is no one in the home. A well designed alarm system can be very effective in this regard.

    Metal fabricators:
    Rockville Steel; Joe Steffes (301) 548-7400
    Iron Kingdom; Cris Talley (301) 699-3448

    If you would like a consultation on your alarm system please give us a call at 202-265-2700 x111. Along with top quality equipment we have no long term contracts for monitoring.

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