Plywood Window Barriers For Emergency Home Security
Image Source: National Geographic
One of the episodes of the TV series, Doomsday Preppers (Season 2), highlights Jay Blevins who is preparing for the breakdown of social order following an economic collapse.
Jay’s primary risk awareness motivator is one that I believe to be perhaps the most likely (or one of the most likely) scenarios to actually occur in our future. I believe that it is occurring now, just in slow motion, although the speed will likely pick up.
One particular takeaway from this Doomsday Preppers segment that I felt was unique and practical are Jay’s crafted window barriers for all of the first floor windows of his home. What a great idea…
The purpose of the window barrier is to slow down and/or keep out intruders from easy break-in through first floor access. The barriers could also serve another purpose for those who are in regions prone to hurricanes where we often see people preparing by nailing or screwing plywood over the front of their windows.
The difference in Jay’s method appears two-fold. One, the plywood is custom cut to fit over each window frame. Two, (the one that I thought was particularly unique) is the method of fastening the plywood to the windows…
He drilled a hole through the plywood to enable a threaded rod ( 3/4″ diameter rod? – it looks thick ) to fit through and extend into the house (looks to be about a foot long or thereabouts). Inside the house and fastened to the other end of the threaded rod is a 2×4 with a hole drilled through the center to accept the threaded rod and hold it via a nut and washer. In this way, there are no screws or nails on the outside of the window to ‘un-do’, and in addition, the fastening of the plywood is much faster.
The positioning of the rod is below the center-line of the window to allow the inside of the lower window sash to be opened which will allow clearance for the rod to protrude through.
I enjoy watching these episodes for tips and observations of what others have done with their preparedness plans. Who knows… maybe you too will get an idea or two…
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I also saw the episode, the only thing I see as a problem is using a threaded rod and not on each end, watching the episode I believe it would be very easy to unscrew the nut and if you did not have a wrench, chopping around the nut would be easy and fast, then all the plywood would easily fall or be pried out very quickly.
I would think a better idea would be to mount a stud to the inside and use long lag bolts from the inside this way no one knows where or how the plywood is secured and I believe it would be more secure.
Shooting through the plywood when they started might discourage then.
Looks good but not practical for the Northeast in the middle of winter.
I was thinking exactly that when I first saw it. Then I thought… it is for ’emergency’ or perhaps after a major collapse and the dangers of the following social chaos. If it were during the winter months, I suppose it would be easy enough to tack on some insulation to the inside.
I saw this too, and was VERY interested in how he made these. I yelled up to my husband to come watch because he knows I have been after this problem for two years. My question is how does he make these so that no one can use a wrench and un-bolt it from the front? I like how there is no need to hammer nails into my window frames or brick. (does this sound stupid?)
I thought of that too when I saw the threaded rod. There is an easy way to solve this problem. You could pound the end of the threaded rod (the end that protrudes to the outside) with a hammer such that there’s no way the nut will unscrew off the end due to the mushrooming from the hammer. You could also spot weld the end of the nut. You could also use a ‘large’ carriage bolt instead (not sure of the ready availability of something that diameter and length in a carriage bolt).
I would add that instead of using one nut at the end of the rod, you use two, effectively creating a “locking” nut when you tighten the two nuts against each other. This method is quite effective. As far as worrying about people coming to the window to saw/hack off the end of the bolt, by the time this vermin does that, you have failed to effectively defend your exterior perimeter, and would have other pressing matters to deal with.
How about just using carage bolts
Because a lot of people have no clue what a carriage bolt is
That’s why the rest of you have Google.
My opinion on the window barriers is, if looters or even just a desperate enough group happens by…well those barricades on the windows scream “I got what you need!” The other option is to create the barriers from the inside. Put the plywood behind the curtains (so the curtains can still be seen from the outside) Then secure the plywood with at least 2 triangular supports simply screwed into the floor. Throw some laundry around the front yard so it looks like you’ve already been looted, and you will most likely be passed over.
I think you are right about going from the inside. I have thought about hinging & using a good locking system. That way, if there were a fire or need to escape, one would be able to do so faster. Or windows could be opened during “safer” times, and secured at night or during times when SHTF
Some comments: Use long bolts which have no end where you can set on a tool, otherwise this will be screwed off and you are screwed.
The other thing: You want to use some really strong bolts (in metric measurements I would say at least M10 or more) so this is stable. Otherwise you slam a crowbar with enough lever behind the outside end and simply break the bolt.
M10 is about 0.39 inches, which may not be enough. I would go with a wider diameter (and possibly a large diameter flat washer to distribute the load). As you said though, use bolts where you cannot unscrew the nut off the end (the outside end). This can be achieved by using a Carriage bolt, or by destroying the threads on that end with a hammer, or by welding the nut to the threaded rod.
Or sandwich the coach bolt head with another same sized piece of ply glued and screwed to the inside piece. All that is seen from the outside is plywood.
What kind of plywood is recommended for strong window barriers, also taking cost into consideration?
Ya’ll seemed to miss the whole point of the barriers…..they insure that the bad guys cannot get in “quickly” so that they are able to be “taken out” by the defenders in the upper floor windows.
Exactly… they are there to buy you time, just as the episode segment illustrated during a mock attack. Not meant as a permanent obstruction. Having said that, any further mechanism to slow down the dismantling of the barrier is also a good thing…
some one with a wrench would be able to get in in 30 seconds. You need to use a carriage bolt and have the round head on the exterior side.
@Anonymous, as was said a few comments earlier, “I thought of that too when I saw the threaded rod. There is an easy way to solve this problem. You could pound the end of the threaded rod (the end that protrudes to the outside) with a hammer such that there’s no way the nut will unscrew off the end due to the mushrooming from the hammer. You could also spot weld the end of the nut. You could also use a ‘large’ carriage bolt instead”
You’re right though, 30 seconds and a wrench, may be an easy way in… however with a simple modification (or carriage bolt of sufficient diameter), the intruder will be slowed down quite a bit. Also, the episode segment that illustrated this deterrent also highlighted additional deterrence’s protruding from the 2nd floor windows – the kind that shoot…
A 12″ carriage bolt is using 1/2″ bolt. They are generally pretty tough.
You could also bolt a piece of 2×4 to the plywood with shorter carriage bolts and then screw into that wood. Likely would need to do this for sliding doors as a 4′ wide piece of plywood will not fit, but it is likely faster to install as well.
Lots of options if you can keep the glass window open, i.e. not the ones that open with a crank, and likely need to dismount sliding windows. However, the wood clamp inside really is needed if you have vinyl frames.
The thing to use is long threaded carraige bolts and a twelve inch sqaure of 1/4 inch plate steel.
Good idea regarding adding a 12″ square of plate steel. Between that and the carriage bolt, you’re pretty much set… except of course for literally cutting through the wood itself. In this example and use-case scenario though, the entire barrier is an emergency deterrent – not meant as a intruder-proof solution.
The basic idea of slowing down looters is excellent, but ‘taking them out from the upper windows’ is daft – you would have to lean out & expose yourself. Far better would be to add a strip of steel plate at the bottom of the plywood with a port for shooting from cover.
Another big improvement: most (all?) sash windows have a large groove at the bottom. I would add a wood or metal fixture to the bottom of the panel that dropped into the window groove, locking in the bottom of the panel. The locking bar and threaded rod can then be placed up high, out of reach. This also gives two securing points, making the panel harder to remove.
Lastly, a coat of truck bed liner would make the panels stand up to years of storm abuse.
Good idea here. If you were to attach some hog wire to the outside of the plywood, it would go a long way towards preventing penetration from an axe, chainsaw, etc. while adding little weight.
I thought this was the single-most useful thing I’ve seen during the Doomsday Prepper shows (season 1 & 2).
While I “get” that it isn’t necessarily stealthy, it is workable. A similar system could be easily used for doors. Painting the outside is a great idea. Using insulation, spray foam sealant, and/or plastic sheeting to the inside can only make them better.
Certain barriers could have metal sheeting on the inside surface to add as ‘armor’ around firing ports, too. Or maybe just some sand bags…
Finally, I live in an area that sees hurricanes fairly often. I already have plywood on hand for covering windows. I’m going to get busy and pre-cut these shapes and braces for all my windows to be ready.
I’ve been looking into storm shutters – something attractive that closes and locks from the inside. They are pricey, however. Has anyone had any experience installing real working shutters on their windows? (not the plastic ones you attach to the side of your house.)If only I had woodworking skills – I would consider making my own. Using the right hinges would be key.
Instead of shutters look in to the roll down storm guards is a solid metal gaurd that rolls down and covers the window opening.
It doesn’t matter if it takes 30 seconds or 30 minutes to get through the windows, if the SHTF and you’ve allowed unknown persons to get this close to your house without being challenged, you’ve already screwed up.
Go read “Holding Your Ground” by Joe Nobody. There are 2 methods of home defense, active and passive. Boarded up windows are not a passive defense, therefore you should be actively patrolling and monitoring the area around your home.
Read the book, I promise you won’t regret it.
I have that book. It is a good read which discusses this subject.
Holding Your Ground: Preparing for Defense if it All Falls Apart
There is always a multitude of different ways to skin a cat. First, there is a way, like using a carriage bolt to secure the plywood so it cannot be unbolted from the outside. If the bolt isn’t long enough, you can use it for the outside and a threaded rod for the interior. Then join them with a female-female connector. Don’t make the rod too long, or you will injure yourself on it when you walk by the inside of the opening. You can also add a cap nut to the end of the threaded rod. As for insulation, it’s easy to put some fiberglass insulation on the outside of the window opening, which will be behind the plywood. Extra insulation can be applied on the inside of the window opening, if the weather is very cold. You can use blue or tan masking tape for the inside of the insulation. Depending on how wide the window is, you will need to two use two 2x4s nailed together with plywood spacer blocks. Then, each unit (wailer)will be used on its edge and the bolt put through it. You will use another plywood block, with a hole in it, to support the fastening nut and flat washer. If it’s a large window, you’ll need more plywood, bolts, wailers, etc. With a large window, you will run the 2x4s vertically. If you are able to get some, you can apply a butyl tape around the inside of the perimeter of the plywood. You peel off one side, stick it to the plywood, then peel off the other side prior to installing the plywood protection over the opening. When the butyl is compressed, the cover should be watertight.
I saw portions of this segment and I thought It was a great idea. (though one that has been used in Hurricane zones for a long time.) I do not know what department the guy used to work for but I do remember observing that bands of looters typically are opportunistic types that do not plan ahead to bring the proper equipment to break into a fortified home. (ie.: wrenches, cutting torches, breaching charges etc.)
In planning for preparations, I would advise that the readers of this blog take a moment to consider the types of people that they are trying to deter from their castle-keep. Roving bands of looters usually consist of a few true criminals or people with enough brains to be charismatic to motivate people to follow them and help them with their evil deeds. If they cannot breach a hardened target within a designated time limit, they will move on to a softer target. If you send a few rounds in their direction, they make their decision even faster.
If the upper floors are not armored, I would not bother to lean out a window to send careful aimed fire on the attackers, I would probably set my drink on fire and dump it on the shaggy hoard. Firing bullets within a suburb and ricochet-rounds are bad for neighborhood relations. It is kind of funny to report to the authorities that you drove off the attackers with 12 year old scotch or Wild Turkey. (It was the only weapon I had on me at the time Officer)
In prior jobs, I have gone after the leader or the person yelling the most during a riot. If your remove enough of those criminals, the rest tend to disband really fast. I take a few moments to choose carefully because I only have a few pairs of handcuffs and flex-cuffs.
P.S. Most Burglaries within the US still take place during the daytime because burglars do not want to face an armed homeowner at night where they are sure to be home close to their weapons.
This is a great idea, however not practical. In order for this to work, you have to leave the window open. And in a stay in place scenario you’re wasting valuable heat or cooling. If you use metal bar stock and cut thin groves into the frame of the window that the bar slides into, you can shut the window. Not only to keep heating or cooling in and the elements out, it also adds and second layer of security, because they will waste time and energy getting though the plywood and you can shoot them through the plywood. Then they’ll have to break and get through a broken window taking more time and energy and you can be prepared by then to stop them by the time they’re through the plywood or window glass.
Several years ago a friend came up with this same solution. He decided to try it out on an outbuilding. Three whacks with a sledge hammer put me inside in about two minutes.(including time for me to climb in) Whack one pretty much disintegrated the 3/4 plywood. Whack two sent the bolt flying into the room. Whack three buried the head of the sledge in the plywood allowing me to pull it off the window easily. Multiple attachment points would have slowed the entry considerably.
Do many ad hoc crims carry sledgehammers there?
This is actually something I thought to do a while ago. I live in earthquake country and was wondering how best to secure the house if the windows get broken out. I figured it would be best to have everything precut and put together. If the window breaks out, but the board in place, swing the supports to the side and tighten down.
Found out this guy has a book called Survival and Emergency Preparedness Skills, with some other good information. http://www.jayblevins.com is the website. More of a foundational book, but a practical quick read.
I was thinking of reinforcing it with a metal frame with the nut welded to a crossbar.
Good Idea but would take most of one day to remove storm windows and install security type. Steel mesh screens are a better deterent and can be seen thru. To answer bolt security, use a bolt with a cotter pin and a round headwith washer
I saw the episode also and it was one sided. The defenders did all the attacking when the girl shot from the upper with pepper spray no one returned fire. I would have shot at here is I was a perpetrator of the home invasion. Also they just bull rushed into the home any kid that has played even a video game knows not to do that.
Best option is build a Hidden safe room retreat to it stay quiet. Have hidden cameras so you can see out of the room in the house and outside. Then come out when they are gone.
And hope they don’t set fire to the house out of spite. Even in a desperate situation, a riot follows the path of least resistance. That said, the idea of making your house an impregnible fortress is a fantasy.
@overkill, the idea of spraying the plywood with truck bed liner to make them last for years thru inclement weather was brilliant! I wouldn’t have thought of that.
Since you have to precut the plywood, add weather stripping around the edges that press against the window frame, will seal out drafts, etc. As far as being able to remove the nut on the outside, use a long carriage bolt, then the only thing that will be on the outside is a round bolt head, nothing to turn and loosen.
Ok how do u fix a twelve pane glass door?
Replace it with something more damage resistant?
think like a criminal, you will be able to defeat bad ideas and come up with good ones
You might find installing the plywood on the inside is better. That can certainly be reinforced and the plywood barred as well. All of those things slow em’ down.
I won’t go further as theoretically there could be nasty surprises once they got past the plywood.
There’s two schools of thought:
1) A reinforced home would scare away some raiders as it means more work to gain entrance
2) A reinforced home would likely have more valuables inside, so determined raiders would organize their attack, or intentionally siege that home.
Re: storm shutters
I’ve seen at least one video that discusses using them. Lots of homes in hurricane-prone regions have them, but on the more upscale houses. It’s too expensive for most preppers.
I’ve thought about the windrow security more than once and what to do about it. the thing I have against carriage bolts is if you use old plywood or other old wood is that the carriage bolt head will turn in the wood and if you are trying to take it off yourself, you’ll have the fun trying. but then again maybe that is what it is intended for. As for damaging or destroying the end threads of a rod after the nut is placed on it, it’ll work and it will slow somebody down.More than once I’ve had to cut the nut and threaded rod apart to do my job because someone had beat on the end of the threaded.And if you double nut it, it’ll be even worse. But then again there are exceptions to the rule.
I don’t like this idea at all. #1. Back the bolt off with a quite drill. they won’t know you are there. #2. If you use a lag bolt which would be better, I would up it to a 2″ hole saw bit attachment. #3. It takes to long to setup. and prepair and like stated before the plywood SCREEMS break in here. Solution; like stated if anyone wants in they will get in. The solution is simple, the house they showed in this episode had shutters. Why not put on REAL reinforsed, hinged on inside, latched on inside shutters. Time to latch would be cut down to nothing. They wouldn’t be obvious opened or closed. If you was in the habbit and closed them every night, your neighbors from down the street won’t single you out when they come looking to rob someone. Because that’s the one’s you need protection from
I had my house evaluated by a police officer after being robbed. As far as windows are concerned he suggested a strong clear plastic or similiar material that can be found at Lowes or home depot in 8′ X 6′ sheets. cut it up and mount it inside your windows. This doubles the insulation and nobody would know it’s there.
Also be aware that a close hanger can be used to break into a garage door at the top very easily to grab the release and open it.
Super glue the threads.
Covering a bolt after it has been recessed with a thin sheet of metal would convince a criminal to move on. this is a wonderful idea, I like it. just expand on his idea and make it better!
While the attacker is trying to enter look for a way to take them out while they are focused. if your enemy has an m-203 your screwed! it is best to practice and don’t sit on your A@# eating bonboms thinking your safe…..
a community can defend itself. a lone wolf cannot, build a community more like a triangle pretty defensable
What about a sliding barndoor on a top and bottom rail system? That way the windows stay in use and protection can be had very quickly .
Shelton , any system that make it easier/quicker to implement protection is a good idea. Dont forget to have a locking system once they are closed so they cant be opened from outside if the window is broken…
That’s a very good idea Shelton.