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DIY Security Bars

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With the patio project going, I figured it was time to at least begin addressing some of the loose items in the immediate vicinity of it. One item in particular, a hinged basement window that had unfortunately been broken during, well, a break-in. Yep, it happened for us just after Christmas last year. In other words, Security was a concern.

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In this article, I detail the process of assembling my DIY Security Bars. I cover: How to Build the Frame, How to Make the Bars (Spoiler: I fill my bars with spray foam) and How to Install the Security Bars. (Click to Jump immediately to any section below.)

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The gist of what I did and what it would take to make these DIY Security Bars:

  1. Rip two 2x4s in half & cut them to length. Two long 1x2s and two short 1x2s will be needed.
  2. Line up the short 1x2s and clamp them together. Working from the middle, determine a bar spacing.
  3. Measure and mark off the bar interval using a speed square.
  4. Drill 7/8” deep holes at each marking with a 15/16” paddle bit.
  5. Optional: A quick and dirty mortise and tenon system can made using a chop saw, hand saws and sharp chisels.
  6. Cut ¾” rigid (metal) electrical conduit to length. One side of each will be filled with spray foam at this point.
  7. Attach both long 1x2s to one short 1×2 (Make sure your drillings face in).
  8. Insert foamed-ends into the assembled portion of the frame.
  9. Tip the assembly up and fill the other end of bars with expanding spray foam. Agitate bars as needed. 
  10. Feed finished bars into the drillings of other short 1×2 and attach the final short 1×2.
  11. Check square on the frame and clamp with corner clamps.
  12. Spray paint the entire assembly.

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Now, I had already worked on getting this window in place. It is a wood window; in fact, all the windows in the house remained wood. I always particularly liked this particular window, because it is, idk … unique. Two 2-foot panes hinged both at the frame and at the meeting stile in the center.  I always figured this window served some practical purpose in the distant past. Coal?  idk.

I replaced the pane of glass on the left, the one that was broken, yes, last December. But I never got around to glazing or re-painting it. Why? Well, because I became concerned about this window as a vulnerability, and initially I just covered it with a piece of plywood. That is – until I could get a more permanent fix in place. (Maybe you had seen it in some of the shots I have taken from the (old) patio.) Also in this part of the foundation, I Repointed the Brick, as detailed there.

Security Bars Before

Before

Security at a Basement Window

We (Mrs. Moxie & I) discussed briefly the idea of installing glass block in the opening, as that would surely secure things. But really, I wasn’t cool with it. I still liked the idea of being able to open that window. I may add a foundation fan one day and this window does already do wonders for air circulation down there.

So I then turned my attention to security bars. But on checking both the Home Depot and Lowe’s, not one thing that either place had would have worked. This then meant that I could do a little internet shopping or I could have something custom made.  That, or I could build a set of my own. And ultimately, I built this set of security bars from materials I had lying around. The total cost as some folks would have it … $0. A set of $0 DIY security bars.

Together with a new planter box and some plantings, they should do a great job at deterring anyone thinking about trying to get in via this window.

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Plus – I have since added in a window sensor, as I finally fired up my security system.

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Building a Set of DIY Security Bars

While it would have been nice to have had some black iron pipe, as it is strong, and as it allows for threaded fittings … being used in everything from railings to shelving, I didn’t have any and I didn’t want to buy any.

What I did have was a bunch of ¾” rigid (metal) electrical conduit. While I considered running the bars vertically, I decided to save a little effort by running them horizontally, for a total of five bars at about 40” each or 1 and ¾ of two 10’ sticks of electrical conduit. I cut them to length on my chop saw.

Electrical Conduit for Security Bars Cut on Chop Saw

To make a frame, I took two 2x4s and ripped them in half using my table saw. I cut my members to the exact length, two long ones and two shorter ones. Laying out on my temp work table, I labeled top/bottom, front/back and up/down. It was as this point that I determined my bar spacing. I took my two vertical members and using a method that worked with making a metal rail a few years back, I sat them side by side and found the center of each, lengthwise. I then clamped them together and marked across each board at its centerpoint using a speed square.

To assemble, I would do a real quick and dirty mortise and tenon, combining the table and shop saw with a little light chisel work. I test fit everything, and once I was happy enough, I finished with the markings for the remaining rail positions. Having laid out and looking at the length of the entire assembly, I worked out from the middle creating a 3 ½ inch spacing. I then drilled a 7/8” deep hole at each marked location with a 15/16” paddle bit (roughly the outside diameter of my ¾” electrical conduit).

drilling bar holes security bars paddle bit

Making the Bars

Now, one my biggest concerns with using this material for bars was that they are hollow. While I considered pouring concrete into them, either wet or better dry – I decided against it as the concrete itself wants to absorb moisture. I figured having concrete inside a rust-prone material like steel – probably not a good idea. In retrospect, I guess sand (which I had for the patio) would have been okay.

Instead, I decided to fill my “bars” with expanding spray foam. While I’ll admit not super easy, I think I was successful enough. I filled one end of each pipe using a delicate gun hand, and assembled that one end into the holes I drilled. Then flipping my bars (and half assembled frame) up on its side, I worked to fill the rest of the bars.

I taped two spray foam applicators tubes together (it didn’t work great) and I filled each bar a little bit at a time in several passes. The foam settled down into the bar as I went, and a small flashlight was very handy at confirming this.

I finished by adding the member at the other side of the bars. I glued up my tenons and my mortises and assembled the whole thing using a little light persuasion (read: a rubber mallet).  Each corner was clamped using corner clamps (on Amazon there). And after checking with both a square and then measuring my diagonals (ensuring square), I then cut six 1 & ½ inch lengths from a short dowel. Drilling, gluing, I then hammered these in one each at the bottom corners, two each at the top corners.

I used glue to fill in some gaps in my fit and around the bars themselves. After it set up for a bit, I placed the assembly up against the fence and sprayed it black with Krylon’s Rust Protector. (This product was a prize/gift that I received from the company at the end of last year.) I let it dry thoroughly for, well, a week.

Installing (My) DIY Security Bars

The following weekend, I added in some rough made jamb extensions to the inside of the window frame. After all, my bars would need to clear the window hardware. I mounted my security bars with a set of galvanized utility hinges, set at the bottom rail of the bar frame. To give the whole thing a little extra strength, I added a pair of corner braces also at the bottom.  With the bars folded down, I put a ¼” notch at the bottom of each window pane, so that the window could clear the bar’s hinges without issue.

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testing swing

I removed my temporary ply, I glazed the window repair and painted all 12 sides of the window. I secured it at the top on one side with a “locking” barrel bolt. On the other side with a hasp and a spare padlock. While I haven’t yet, I plan to add in nylon spacers, so the bars will sit tighter against the window.

security bars after wide

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Anyways, again this isn’t so much of a how-to or a brag, as much as there might be some technique in here that would help.

To read more on unique DIY projects or to learn more about improving your Home Security set-up, please stick around. For information about installing “store” bought security bars, here’s an article from friends at DoItYourself.com – Installing Security Bars for Windows.

That’s it and cheers. ~jb