A storage shed is a convenient place to store your garden tools, bicycles, ATVs and mechanical equipment, such as lawn mowers, trimmers and chain saws, but these valuable items are often poorly secured, making sheds a common target for burglars — who can make off with quite a good haul. Fortunately, there are many DIY ways homeowners can easily and inexpensively increase their garden shed security to prevent a break in. Even if you don't think the equipment in your shed is particularly valuable, it can still be a good idea to add extra security measures to prevent potential criminals from using tools found in your shed to break into your home.
1. Install Sheds in the Right Place
Be sure to give some consideration to shed security when choosing the right location for your shed. You don't want people on the street to see your shed and start thinking about what's inside, and you don't want thieves to be able to sneak up to your shed unseen. While it's not always possible, the best place for a shed is somewhere it can't be seen from the street but can easily be seen from inside your home, even at night.
This means you may need to install additional lighting in your yard so you can see the shed at night. A motion sensor security light can be a good option to ensure that no one can gain access to your shed in the dark, and they may very well scare off criminals caught in the bright lights. Use a battery-operated model if you don't have any electrical power sources near your shed.
Also, install a shed in a fenced-in part of your yard whenever possible and be sure to keep the yard locked and secure. Think of your fence as the first line of defense for your shed. You may even want to plant thorny bushes around the perimeter of your fence to discourage people from getting too close or attempting to climb over it.
2. Keep Your Shed Well Maintained
A run-down shed that has more rust than metal can't possibly provide you with a good level of security. The best way to keep these structures from becoming vulnerable due to deterioration is to never let them get in that condition in the first place. As a bonus, proper care will help keep your shed weatherproof so it can properly protect your power tools, bikes and other gear from the elements. To properly care for sheds, repaint a wooden shed every five to 10 years and touch up scratches and dings on a metal shed as soon as possible. Maintain the roof's integrity by removing leaves and snow with a long-handled, soft-bristled broom.
When your shed has issues that can reduce its structural integrity, you need to fix them as soon as possible. Start by making a list of what needs to be fixed, including rust, rot, flaking paint or a damaged roof, and then fix the issues one at a time. If your shed is in really bad shape, you may be better off scrapping it and installing a new shed that will be fully secure rather than trying to repair all the damage on an existing structure.
3. Anchor the Shed
Many people are surprised to know that small sheds can be easily lifted up, sometimes without even using a jack. In fact, some criminals steal entire sheds at once by sliding them onto trailers, though it's more common for thieves to simply lift up one corner to take items out. To prevent this, anchor the shed so it cannot be lifted or pushed. The best way to do this is to bolt it down to a concrete foundation or bury concrete anchors attached to the floor into the dirt before building the rest of the shed.
4. Use Floor Anchors
For additional security, you may also attach floor anchors to the ground and use these to shackle your valuable items to the floor using a bike lock or a chain fitted with a padlock. This is a great way to add an additional level of security for expensive items in your shed, such as locked tool boxes, ATVs, chain saws and power tools.
If you can't or don't want to install floor anchors, you can still make your items more difficult to steal by locking large items together. For example, using a bike chain and padlock to connect a leaf blower, chain saw, lawn mower and toolbox will make it very difficult for any criminal to take all of these items at once. For smaller items, you may even loop the chain through a cinder block or a heavy kettle ball to add some weight.
5. Upgrade the Door and Hinges
A standard shed door is anything but heavy duty, but if yours is a little weak, you can easily reinforce it with a metal security bar or metal strips. Alternatively, you can replace it with a solid wood or steel door.
Of course, a door is only as secure as its hinges, and most shed doors can easily be unscrewed or pulled right off the door frame. This is an easy fix, though, as all you need to do is replace the door hinges with heavy-duty hinges that feature a nonremovable pin. For hinges outside the door, you can also use coach bolts (also called carriage bolts) in place of the standard mounting screws, which will make it nearly impossible to remove from the outside.
6. Add a Better Shed Security Lock
The basic shed door lock used on a shed is flimsy and easy to break or pick. Adding a hasp (a heavy-duty latch) to the door can help make it dramatically more secure as long as you use a good padlock to secure it. For best results, use a hasp with carriage bolts and a hidden shackle padlock, as these are practically impossible to cut open with bolt cutters and saws. If your shed has a traditional door frame, you can also improve your shed security with a deadbolt in the same way that this sturdy lock improves your home security level.
While a good lock is always beneficial, refrain from adding too many because this will make entry difficult for you, and it may actually serve as an advertisement to thieves, who will assume you must have something really good inside the shed if you are going to such lengths to protect it.
7. Upgrade the Windows
If a thief can easily climb through a window, then it doesn't really matter how well you secure your doors, so spend some time thinking about how to best secure your windows too. Some people find the best solution is to install bars over the windows, but others don't like the way this looks. Alternatively, you can replace the glass with polycarbonate sheeting and then add window locks to prevent anyone from being able to break the windows open or push them open and climb inside. There are also stick-on security sheets that can stop glass from shattering; these can be combined with window locks. If your shed is purely for storage, you may choose to simply cover the windows with boards, which is a cheap and easy way to ensure they are secure from entry and still weatherproofed.
However you make the windows impenetrable, it's also a good idea to obscure them as well to prevent criminals from seeing what you have inside that's worth taking. Obviously, boarding up the windows will achieve this goal, but if you want to be able to open your windows, you'll need something else. Glass-frosting stick-on sheets or glass-frosting spray can make the windows opaque, but a couple of large hanging plants may also do the trick.
8. Install an Alarm System and Cameras
Whether you install a system that uses a loud, blaring alarm and flashing bright lights or a silent alarm that calls the police when triggered, a security system is a great way to stop thieves. Door and window alarms and wireless motion sensors are good, low-cost ways to secure a shed with no power outlets. If you have a whole-home alarm system, it can be a good idea to wire your shed to the system for increased security.
Wireless security cameras are also a good option, as they can help deter thieves and will provide you with video footage of anyone who does choose to enter. For best results, get a battery-operated device and an SD card with large memory. If your shed is within range of your home's Wi-Fi, you might also choose to get a security camera that uploads footage to the cloud in case a criminal opts to steal or destroy your camera.
9. Keep Your Shrubs in Check
Hedges and shrubs can be great for increasing your yard's privacy and adding some natural beauty to your space, but if you have large bushes that lead right up to your shed, you could be giving burglars a great hiding spot they can use while attempting to bypass your shed security. So, trim your plants to keep them a good distance away from your shed, especially the doors and windows. If you really feel that you must have some bushes right next to your shed, plant some small, spiky plants in the area but keep in mind that these will also make it more difficult for you to perform maintenance as necessary.
10. Mark and Inventory Your Property
When you take adequate security precautions, the chance that someone will steal your stuff is pretty minimal, but it still helps to think ahead just in case this unlikely situation becomes a reality. The best ways to do this are to mark all of your items and keep an accurate inventory of what's in your shed.
Depending on your budget and the item in question, you could mark your stuff with something as simple as an oil pen that can write on multiple surfaces, or you may want to invest in something more permanent, like an engraving pen or dremel. Either way, if your property is uniquely marked, it will make it easier for police to identify your property if they catch the criminal, and it will also make it harder for a thief to sell your stuff. In fact, if a burglar notices that all of your stuff is marked, it's possible he may think twice before taking anything since it will be that much harder for him to get someone to buy it.
While you take the time to mark your stuff as yours, be sure to also take inventory of what you keep in your shed, including all serial numbers. If you have the serial numbers and a detailed inventory, this will make it easier for police to identify your property if they catch the criminal and will also make it easier for you to file an insurance claim for your stolen goods. On that note, be sure to verify that your homeowners' or renter's insurance policy covers your shed and the items stored within before something happens so you don't find out the hard way that there is a shed-shaped hole in your coverage.
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Jill Harness is a blogger with experience covering architecture, design and decor trends from around the globe. As she lives in what would politely be called a "fixer upper," she is particularly interested in writing about DIY projects and repairs. Most of her home design writing can be found at www.homesandhues.com. You can find out more about Jill's experience and learn how to contact her through her website, www.jillharness.com.