Burglary Proofing Windows - Polycarbonate?

September 30, 2007

I feel like windows are probably the number one way to break into a property - just get a glass cutter and your in! right?

We bought a new construction house (our first) and will be moving into it soon. I'm very, very scared of someone breaking into my home. its one of my biggest fears. I want to completely deck out my house so I am fully protected. I know what to do about everything else, just not the windows. Glass seems so unsafe to me.

Does anyone know about polycarbonate? Can it be cut? I know it would be expensive to put in all the windows but if they are break in proof then to me, it is worth it.

The only other thing I can think of doing is installing iron bars on every window. Dont really want to do this because I dont think it will look very nice, but I will if I have to.

Any thoughts?

Comments (34)

  • bus_driver

    Polycarbonate is very difficult to cut with a knife. But it is easily scratched, damaging the appearance. Fabrication is done with fine tooth saws. Polycarbonate is the toughest glazing available for windows. I do know how to defeat it, but will not elaborate for fear of instructing potential intruders. One thing about any of the non-glass glazing products is that ammonia will cause the material to become cloudy, as will any abrasive cleaner or wiping material. Many glass cleaners contain ammonia. Choose cleaning materials very carefully.

  • lucy

    You really don't want that stuff (PC) on your house windows, trust me! What you might consider instead is seeing someone to help you relax a bit. Unless you're in a neighborhood known to be 'bad', or your neighbors have said they've had problems, you'd be better off to get motion sensor lighting put up, maybe some kind of overnight alarm system, a dog that barks for intruders, etc. The problem with trying to cover all existing bases (such as windows, then expensive locks, etc.) is that the more you do, the more you think you need and you end up more and more paranoid, rather than just enjoying your home. One or two sensible fixes ought to help, but otherwise you'll drive yourself nutty!

  • karenn

    thanks for all the useful info bus driver! does it have a similar clarity to glass, do you know? we wouldnt mind if it was only a bit plastic looking (obvious not too much though). i dont know how worried I am about scratches and such, we wont be touching them very often. only to clean and would have shutters over them otherwise.

    thanks for taking the time to reply lucy, i appreciate your concern. but people have all kinds of different fears, this just happens to be one of mine. it doesnt mean i need to see someone or i am paranoid. burglary and crime in general is very much a reality, in everyones lives. it can happen to anyone, at any time. i am not one to choose to look the other way until it does actually happen to me.
    like i said, we are very prepared in pretty much all other ways. we are gun owners (and have window signs that show this), we have a trained dog (doberman), we will have alarms, security cameras, and motion sensor lights installed. glass is just very, very vulnerable to break ins. i dont like having that bit of weakness to my house. if that makes me weird, so be it.

    im more curious than anything why more homes dont use polycarbonate in their windows. i dont know much about it at all. i know some people have it for hurricane protection and things in florida etc.

    why do you suggest that i dont want to use it? saying 'trust me' isnt telling me much.

  • patser

    Windows that aren't glass will most likely have a very negative effect on the resale value of your house.

    In my opinion, the best protection that we have for home security is very good relationships with our neighbors. If any of us notice anything out of order, we talk to each other and/or call police. The second best thing we do is pay our homeowner's insurance premium. Bottom line - it's only stuff. We do have an alarm system. On our previous house, we removed burglar bars while living right across the street from subsidized housing and we never had a problem. We were friendly with ALL, yes ALL of the neighbors. That's the best protection in my book.

    I very much agree with lucy. Yes, we all have fears, but it's a shame to let them so control one's life.

  • karenn

    right. im actually just looking for information on polycarbonate or securing windows, thats all. maybe i should have posted this on the home building forum.

  • mikie_gw

    Wonder what the fire department thinks of 'unbreakable' windows. How are they going to break in to save you ?

  • davidandkasie

    first of all, around here they don't cut the windows, they just break them.

    secondly, the homes with bars on the windows are broken into another way. usually they go thru the ceiling of the garage/carport/porch. climb into the attic and then down thru teh ceiling.

    i used to install alarm systems and saw this second one all the time. even had some folks cut thru the roof of a home.

    if they want in, they will get in. get teh alarm, get the dog, and place your firearms in readily accessible but hidden locations.

  • hendricus

    Try Googling laminated glass.

    I found burglarproof glass, bulletproof gl;ass, and a host of other special applications.

  • Brewbeer

    If someone really, really wants to get into your house, there really isn't any way to stop them, unless you shoot them first.

  • lynne_melb

    3M has some window films that go on the inside of the glass. They greatly reduce UV rays which can lighten furniture/floors and solar heat. They also help protect you from destructive weather and crime.
    We live in Florida and have been "burglared" (up north). Because of weather, fading and solar heat gain, plus wanting to make it harder for burglars to get into our house, getting the 3M film was a no-brainer for us.
    It is true that nothing will totally protect you from someone trying to get into your house, but you can make it so difficult that they go to a house that's easier to break in.
    As some have mentioned, the police in our community up north recommended the motion-sensor lights, burglar alarm (or at least a fake burglar alarm sign), and leaving a talk-radio on when you are gone.
    Good luck.

  • lucy

    You can't see out of PC properly, and it will scratch very easily over time (it's used to keep UV rays out of greenhouses (and I've used it), plus keep them a bit warmer than just a thin sheet of flex plastic, but it was never made to be used in a proper house. It looks like a sandwich of two thin sheets of plastic with very small channels running through it, giving it a striped/striated effect.

  • bus_driver

    I am not familiar with the product described by Lucy. Polycarbonate is available that will look, at time of installation, enough like glass that no one will notice the difference. Often used as replacements for storm door glass. Properly cared for, it will look good for several years. I have some and speak from first hand experience. I could not break a piece of 1/8" with a hammer, but it did dent and scratch from the blows. Polycarbonate is the material used for the canopies on today's fighter planes.

  • mikie_gw

    Polycarbonate... Demo.
    I broke an eastward facing indestructable vandal proof wall mounted security light fixture. Hit it with a hammer, and not very hard. As it ages, it get brittle.

    Think you'll find that true with most 'engineered plastics'

  • karenn

    lynne... i have actually been thinking about this film, im glad to hear from someone with experience with it. i know it wont stop someone from coming into the house but its one more thing to make it that bit harder, which is what im looking for. great!

    thanks again bus_driver

  • sue36

    I am going to tell you what my father has told me (he was a police officer for 40 years) - if someone really wants to break into your house they will find a way in. Doors, even with deadbolts, can be kicked in. Windows can be broken. Walls can be removed. Unless you go to extreme measures, there is no such thing as a burglary-proof house.

    Get an alarm system with a panic button that you can carry with you in the house. Have a wireless back-up in case they cut the phone line. I'm not a big fan of guns, but get a gun if that is something you are able to handle physically and mentally (if you are not willing to kill someone you shouldn't have a gun).

    I understand your fear. DH was just gone for 6 days and I only half slept the entire time. I used to live in the city, but out in the country no one can hear you. Someone could cut into my house with a chain saw (how do you prevent that?!) and a neighbor wouldn't hear it.

    Get an alarm.

  • james_in_ms

    Where I live we have severe issues with vandalism. Pissed-of tenants will typically throw bricks through all the windows of the house they've been living in just before leaving for the last time. If it's not tenants, its kids. Never mind the copper theft from the AC units. Anyway, I'm still thinking my best bet is polycarbonate...but of course you won't find ready-made windows. One would have to remove the existing glass and replace it with PC. At this point we just replace with plexiglass---not the best choice. Any thoughts on what the best choice would be for this situation??

  • kitchenshock

    karenn, look at installing impact glass (aka Hurricane windows). They are expensive but nobody is coming in to your home through them without a ton of work.

  • californian

    Put up an eight foot high chain link fence around your property topped with barbed wire and an electric fence.

    Then get a couple of pit bulls to go with your doberman. Of course this won't make you very popular with your neighbors, and may actually attract thieves who think there must be something very valuable in the house.

    Why not just get a theft insurance policy with a zero deductible and then you don't have to worry about burglars.

  • lucy

    It's not thieving she's afraid of, but invaders when she's home alone.

  • Mo

    We replaced all of the windows and our slider last year. We added the optional laminated glass for extra security. They also have vent locks, which help prevent the window and slider from being open more than a few inches.

    We also got a full view laminated glass storm door on the front of the house. Much better looking than those ugly gates.

    Yes, if someone really, really, wants in, they'll find a way in. But anything that will deter them or slow them down is always a help.

    I had one old window with laminated glass and was able to test the strength. The window was flat on the ground. I dropped a brick on it from about 5 feet up. Nothing happened. Then I threw the brick down on the window, and nothing. I threw it down again, and it got one crack in the center, but the window still wasn't broken through.

    Sure, a big strong guy could probably crack it on the first throw, but the point made is that it's not that easy to break. Some common thief with a crowbar hitting the window sideways is likely to give up after a couple whacks.


  • lazypup

    Putting in polycarbonate or even bullet proof windows is a false sense of security...In todays world if the crooks really want in they use a cordless skill saw and cut a chunk out of the door,,then reach in.

  • bus_driver

    Where I live, response time for law enforcement can be 30 to 45 minutes. So my idea of security is to delay entry of intruders and force them to do so with lots of noise to afford me time to be prepared to offer an effective response to their intrusion. I have the time required for that down to about 15 seconds.

  • echalmers

    I also have a tremendous fear of intruders and worried about my windows, especially since my house had been broken into before I bought it (not that I knew that at purchase). No urban area is really safe anymore.

    My solution was to put motion detector lights all around the house, including on the front porch, and to have tempered glass put in the windows that were immediately accessible. Tempered glass is harder to break, so that I should hear the activity, which would also hopefully activate the glass breaker alarms next to the windows.

    I solved the patio door break-in problem with a custom-made steel door that is painted a pretty French blue ($750). I like the way it looks. And I made sure that no one could see the property from the alley without climbing a high fence. Since doing all those things, I haven't had a problem, and I can sleep at night.

  • etznab

    I used to be a window film installer and I recommend it. Nothing is fool proof ... but it will increase the break-in time from seconds to minutes.

  • sgtbillusmc

    I don't believe this part of the question was addressed so I will take a stab at it. There are many grades and types of polycarbonate that can have drastically different properties. Optical grade polycarbonate is what is used in eyeglasses and many other applications that require superior optical properties. Optical grade polycarbonate has superior optical properties compared to what is used in residential windows. An additional grade of polycarbonate to take a look at is window grade. It is clear and has excellent optical quality. It is commonly used on armored vehicle windows and airplane canopies. Standard grades of polycarbonate are subject to hazing and yellowing due to UV exposure. However, there are many polycarbonates that are UV stabilized and will resist/prevent this effect. Polycarbonates in general are relatively easy to scratch and very difficult, but not impossible to polish. There are polycarbonates on the market that have coatings that resist scratching. As for cutting polycarbonates many of the suppliers offer cutting services for polycarbonates and I would recommend that you take advantage of their expertise. I do not think what you are proposing is impossible or a bad idea. Many businesses utilize polycarbonate as a window material for their businesses. I imagine one of the major reasons that it is not prevalent in residential windows is the cost associated with high quality polycarbonate. I hope this information was helpful and wish you the best of luck in increasing your resistance to petty thieves.

  • dkenny

    sure its an old thread..

    PC..a plastic..
    you want in..no not a hammer..or a glass cutter..its plastic..
    think torch...melt it..done...doesn't take long and it quiet..not good

    if it were me..I'd go the laminated glass route..it might break but it'll stay in place and won't melt..

    an alarm would be easier..motion lights..

  • schreibdave

    Doberman and gun? You could leave all your windows open and nobody is going to bother you.

  • Tallen00001


    There are several companies that make "Lexan storm window inserts" These are removable and are pretty much indestructible, if you're concerned with yellowing or scratching or resell, this may work for you.

    I feel your fear and you always want to be as safe as possible however, no matter how much you spend or do even incasing yourself in 5 foot of concrete, you'll probably never feel completely safe.

  • Glenn Woodley

    all excellent comments, I have a 1873 house close to a road intersection,, the house has casement windows. A alternative to Poly Carbonate is DR acrylic, damage resistant, acrylic Polycarbonate mix. A tough plastic, especially in 6mm (1/4inch) sheeting, it goes milky in excessive heat but good in shady conditions. To cut plastic simply use a tungsten tip saw, sharp with a clamped guide rail for the saw, (always have max revs before approaching the material, do not twist the saw slow forward and follow through,,,easy!, (or clamp between two pieces of wood, cut all three) a sharp carbon blade electric plane finely set to finish to size, if wooden frames glue and screw to rebated frame. If your window size is small, a glazier can supply toughened glass or laminated bullet proof glass at a reasonable price, but a UV PC pane (scratched pane) can easily be replaced.

    Remember ('a bit of Ossy', in this ever increasing 'shit world' God helps those who help themselves, love can be contagious!) the aim is to slow down would be intruders. If the windows are key locked internally a circular saw could only make the window look like Swiss cheese, from memory PC burns with high heat with black smoke, a don't think it would be a burglars option.

    have a nice day,,,Glenn Old Junction Hotel Neergabby Western Australia.

  • Glenn Woodley

    my final decision was 6mm toughened laminated glass! why? longevity, secure & better acoustics (noise reduction) than solid floated, plastic, or hardened glass. I decided to search a local salvage yard, whammy no problem, their price slightly higher than expected, 20% lower than the local glazier, ,,,,I was on the right track. I have two more sets to make, this will give me time to find glass from the local rubbish tip (land fill recycling, resource centre etc. or Gumtree)

    problem solved, take care, laminated glass unsupported can crack easily transporting it, place sheets flat together as they support each other all the best Glenn

  • elpaso1

    Go with the decorative wrought iron security bars. It doesn't sound like you will sleep well without it. They can be removed if you sell. Tell people you came from the SW where it is actually done for decorative reasons.

  • Matthew

    Look up security window screens. There are a number of company's. They are pricey, but some demo videos on youtube it is surprising how strong they are.

  • jemdandy

    One of the easiest way into a house is through a casement window in the basement. How do I know? Once, we locked ourselves out of the house. When we returned from a day trip, we found that neither of us had a key. I got in through a casement window. I chose it because it was cheap to repair.

  • HU-480126313

    I recommend "Two Men and A Truck" moving service and moving to a safer neighborhood.

    Find a nice small town with low crime. I like Ontonagon, Michigan. Not even a stoplight and very friendly people. I'd still get a dog though, not for protection, just for great company.

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