THE TRUTH ABOUT uPVC DOORS
There is a silent and deadly epidemic of burglary sweeping the UK. For some reason that is not clear, many people who know about this are saying little, perhaps pretending that it’s not happening, and dismissing the problem as if it were an inevitable consequence of modern life. What concerns us in PPM Locksmiths is the sheer scale of this epidemic.
The great majority of homes in Britain now have uPVC doors. There are thousands of companies fitting double glazed windows and including new “maintenance-free” doors in the deal. To most people, these attractively presented packages are objects of desire - looking bright and new, keeping out noise and draughts, and keeping the occupants secure and cosy. At least, they have an illusion of security.
The trouble is that most of these doors are NOT secure. Burglaries are on the increase again, and uPVC doors are being targeted because thieves have learnt a few new tricks, allowing them to get into a vast number of properties in a couple of minutes. Amongst the criminal fraternity, the word is out, and uPVC doors are particularly vulnerable.
There are certain individuals advertising their services as locksmiths, using the same tricks that burglars use, and charging you for the privilege. Some of these individuals are being less than straight with their customers. They are NOT telling unwary customers that their locks were cheap and ineffective, and that anyone with a spattering of knowledge could have done the same, using tricks that only work on very basic locks. Furthermore, they will replace one cheap and ineffective lock with another exactly the same. These individuals are not qualified locksmiths - they have just one trick, which is the same one burglars use - and it only works because most uPVC doors have inadequate cylinders.
If you have a uPVC door, and you lose the keys and are locked out, you may be tempted to go for the cheapest quote. Well, if you want to pay someone to get you in within a couple of minutes and leave your door insecure, then it’s your money. It’s easy to find someone who will replace your decent cylinder with an inferior one “to save you money”! Imagine a doctor who prescribes aspirin for everything to save money.
If a tradesman says he can save you money, what he means is that, instead of fitting the right lock - the one that has security features - he is going to fit a cheap version that looks exactly the same, but leaves you completely insecure. To my mind, this is like an electrician offering to save money by leaving out insulation, earth wires and fuses.
In 1980, the British Standards Institute introduced a new benchmark for locks, BS 3621, establishing that a secure lock had to have no less than five levers, a minimum number of different keys in the range, and resistance to force attack. If you see the kitemark, it is an assurance that your locks actually do what you expect them to do - prevent a force attack.
Thirty years ago, most homes still had wooden doors, but the majority of these were only secured with a basic Yale-type lock. Insurance companies responded by issuing policies that stipulated BS 3621 standard locks for homeowners. With burglaries on the rise back then, many people called on locksmiths to fit insurance-approved upgrades. However, a significant number of people decided to do away with their old wooden doors, and get uPVC doors fitted.
To this day, I am convinced that there was a lot of confusion between five lever locks, as would be fitted to a wooden door, and five-point locking mechanisms of the type fitted on uPVC doors. A lot of people listened to the double-glazing salesmen who convinced them that uPVC multipoint mechanisms were superior to mortice deadlocks. Very often, this was just a sales pitch, not borne out by experience. They had never tested, or even questioned their assertions. These salesmen would be utterly shocked if they knew just how easy it is to open most of the doors they sold.
In certain cases, uPVC mechanisms are very secure, and on a par with mortice deadlocks in terms of resistance to a force attack. However, for reasons of cost, most homes never had these more secure mechanisms fitted. Also, ANY multipoint locking mechanism can be opened easily if the cylinder used to operate it is inferior, which is the case more often than not.
Many customers questioned what they were getting for their money, and insisted on a five-point mechanism with hookbolts and deadbolts, completely unaware that their secure mechanism was being locked and unlocked by the cheapest, nastiest cylinder that money could buy - to save money on the overall cost of fabrication.
In all fairness, I think that most double-glazing companies fitting these doors would be utterly horrified if they knew just how inadequate the products they sell actually are. They construct the doors, fit the locks, install the doors, hand over the keys, and that ends their involvement. When the house is later robbed, they have no knowledge of the consequences of their handiwork.
The lower end of the uPVC market is now set to reap the whirlwind. Unfortunately, it is the customer who is suffering. If you do not have a cylinder with a range of special features, you are vulnerable to a burglary. If you have been locked out, and had the lock replaced in minutes by someone who charged about half of what others were quoting, it’s because your cheap cylinder has been replaced with another, equally cheap and ineffective cylinder. You have only saved money by trading down, getting a product which can‘t do what you expect it to do.
It is well-known that offenders talk about their methods to other offenders. Unfortunately, the lock secret is out, and a huge number of homes in the UK have become vulnerable to attack by thieves. They are sharing information about uPVC cylinders which means that the vast majority of cylinders sold in the last thirty years are completely ineffective in preventing a break-in. Customers are paying for locks that do NOT stop an intruder for more than a couple of minutes.
For security reasons, we are not prepared to go into more detail regarding the methods being used by burglars and unqualified locksmiths to open basic locks so quickly. However, there are products now available that stop these people in their tracks. As you would expect, they cost a bit more than the cheap euro cylinders that are totally ineffective, but always remember, a belt costs more than a piece of string, and will save you being caught with your trousers down.
If you would like to find out more about our range of secure uPVC door cylinders, call us.