How can I improve my backyard security? Experts reveal their top methods
Learn about the all important costs involved in backyard security and discover the different ways to keep your home and garden safe and secure
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There are certain times of year that you tend to worry more about your backyard security. For instance, in summertime, when you forget to pack away your barbecue, or leave pricey items outdoors following a get-together. Or perhaps in winter, when the days are shorter and the threat of being broken into seems all the more scary.
However, garden security isn’t seasonal - it’s something that you should really consider year round. And while burglaries tend to happen more often in these specific periods, you can never tell when thieves may strike.
Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to beef up your outdoor security system. Some cost less than others but that doesn’t make them any less effective. The key to securing your garden is to deter would-be thieves. Make the prospect of breaking into your garden tricky or complicated, put barriers in their way of making a quick getaway, and they're bound to cut their losses and move on.
Here, we speak to a selection of experts for their take on how to ramp up your backyard security. They’ll explain how smart tech, the best outdoor security cameras, lighting, fencing and simple additions to your garden set-up will ensure the perimeter of your home looks like less of an easy target to criminals.
Secure your outdoor space with these backyard security essentials
‘Often people choose to protect their home after something has happened,’ says Tegan Jolly, Head of Brand Marketing at Arlo (opens in new tab). ‘But taking action sooner so that an intrusion can be prevented is a much better idea. Thinking about when your home is most at risk is key.'
'Adding security when you’re away travelling or when the nights get darker, is a good idea to ensure the things you care about are protected – even when they are most vulnerable,’ Tegan says.
1. Install an outdoor security camera
There are a wide array of designs available, but as a rule, the more you spend, the more features the camera will have. So it’s worth making a list of what’s important to you, then shopping around to find the device that suits your needs best.
For instance, most security cameras offer 720p HD resolution, which is fine for checking all areas in and around your fences and boundaries. But cameras with 1080p HD, such as the Ring Spotlight Camera, available at Amazon (opens in new tab), will have far sharper images, making it easier to make out specific details or potential intruders. Others features include built-in security lights or sirens for added weight.
Price-wise, you’ll find plenty of Wi-Fi cameras under the $100 (£80) mark, but some can cost double that. These tend to have better quality images and more useful features.
A must, however, for outdoor security cameras is night vision, to ensure the camera can pick up the smallest of movements in the dead of night. The Arlo Pro 3 camera with floodlight (available from Amazon) (opens in new tab), comes with night vision and an integrated floodlight for an extra security feature.
Security cameras come wired or wireless. The mains powered tend to have better features, but installation isn’t as straightforward. Plus they come with unsightly power cables. Battery operated wireless cams like the EZVIZ outdoor security camera with night vision (available at Amazon) (opens in new tab) are far more versatile as you can install them anywhere, but you need to remember to charge them periodically (you’ll typically receive an alert via the companion app when the battery is running low).
Security cameras usually have a lens that takes in around a 110-150˚ angle, but there are 180˚ models available for more comprehensive coverage.
It’s worth noting that almost all security cameras require a subscription for added services. This is how they really make their money. Charged on a monthly basis, these subscriptions allow you to save between two weeks and a month’s worth of video.
2. Set up a video doorbell
If it's your driveway and front porch or door that you’re most concerned about guarding, another type of outdoor security camera available is a video doorbell. With largely the same functionality as a standard security camera, the app will alert you when someone has triggered the motion sensors or pressed your doorbell. You can then see and speak to anyone present via two-way audio.
Like security cameras, smart doorbells also come as wired options (like the Google Nest doorbell from Amazon (opens in new tab)), or wireless options. Look out for designs like the Ring video doorbell 4 (available from Amazon) (opens in new tab), that can either be wired or powered by a rechargeable battery pack, so you can choose the best option for your current setup.
Smart doorbells often (but not not always) require a subscription to access more features. Essentially they are most useful when you’re not home often and you have deliveries, but they also offer the added bonus of guarding the front of your property.
You can pick up a video doorbell for as little as $70 (£55) but more sophisticated designs like the Arlo Essential Wire-Free Video Doorbell (try Amazon) (opens in new tab) can set you back $150 (£125) or more.
3. Put in a garden security light
‘Say the words “security lighting” and automatically your mind goes to floodlights that are triggered by motion sensors,’ explains Teresa Conway, Deputy Editor of Gardeningetc.
‘While this may be the case for some types of garden security lights, more often than not you’ll find that any sort of outdoor light on a timer can be a really efficient deterrent to intruders.’
Sarah Poulter, Senior Communications Manager at insurance provider Aviva (opens in new tab) agrees. ‘Security lighting can also be a relatively inexpensive way to help protect your gardens and outdoor areas,’ she says. ‘Lights can stop people hiding in the shadows, while cameras can mean that thieves can be caught in the act.’
As previously mentioned, some outdoor security cameras feature built-in floodlights which switch on when the sensors detect movement. Designs like the Ring Spotlight camera at Amazon (opens in new tab) are ideal for a small garden, while the Arlo Floodlight cam (try Amazon) (opens in new tab) offers a brighter light for large gardens. You can also buy standalone security lighting if you either already have a camera (or aren't that fussed with getting one).
Alternatively, why not consider some driveway lighting ideas on a timer? Smart lighting that is integrated into a smart home system can give any thieves the impression that someone is at home and awake (even when you’re not). Smart home products can be set on routines integrated with the free automation tool IFTTT (opens in new tab) to switch on at dusk and off again at dawn. A well-lit garden or yard is far less of a tempting prospect for a burglar wanting to creep in unnoticed.
For smart lighting, Philips Hue (opens in new tab) makes a wide array of designs from uplighters to wall lights, priced from $80/£80. The Hue range requires a separate device called a Hue bridge ($60/£50) to connect to your Wi-Fi, but once paired you can link up to 50 Hue lights to it - indoors and out - and control them all via your smartphone. You can also add an outdoor motion sensor to your set up so that the lights switch on when triggered. You can shop for a wide range of Philips Hue products at Amazon (opens in new tab), and many other online retailers.
‘If you’re looking for a more affordable alternative without all the bells and whistles of a smart device,’ advises Teresa, ‘then garden solar lights are a great choice. They charge their batteries by day and switch on automatically at dusk, so you just position them in place and leave them to do their thing. Choose from outdoor wall lights, spotlights, stake lights for path lighting ideas, and even festoon lights for a fiesta feel.’
4. Keep garden storage locked down
Leaving expensive items, like pizza ovens, outdoors unattended or overnight is asking for trouble. ‘Many burglaries are opportunistic,’ says Sarah from Aviva, ‘so people can help to protect their possessions by simply not leaving them on show and by putting them away when they’re not in use.’
‘If something is too heavy or bulky to move,’ continues Sarah, ‘you can consider securing an item to a fixed point such as a railing or a floor anchor. The idea is to make it as difficult for thieves as possible.’
However, just hiding them out of sight may not be enough. It’s a common misconception that if you have your items in garden storage such as a shed, garage or storage box, that that should be enough to ward off thieves. But unless you lock your storage, your items are just as exposed as they might be if left on your lawn.
Locking items away with padlocks and/or chains is the best way to keep them safe. ‘If your garden is enclosed, consider getting a bolt or a padlock for your garden gate,’ explains Sarah. ‘For example, you could keep people out at night. Even by shutting your gate, this can act as a natural deterrent for opportunistic thieves.’
Standard padlocks are a good enough deterrent but should you wish to add an extra layer of security, look for a biometric lock which relies on your fingerprint to open it (this also means that you won’t need to worry about losing the key). You can buy a basic biometric fingerprint lock on Amazon (opens in new tab) for as little as $30 (£25) but for a more durable and reliable design, Masterlock (opens in new tab)’s bluetooth or biometric padlocks will set you back from around $100 (£80).
5. Be sure about garden insurance
It’s also worth noting that unless items are physically locked away, any insurance claim you may make to cover your loss may be invalidated.
‘Most home contents policies will extend cover to items in the backyard as well as in the home,’ explains Sarah from Aviva, ‘but people should check whether there are any limits on their cover. For example, people may find that bicycles are covered, but only if they’re secured to a fixed point like a railing or drainpipe – or in a locked outbuilding.’
‘You should also be aware of any single item limits on their policies – the maximum amount a policy will pay for an individual item,’ continues Sarah. ‘For example, if people have one of the best BBQs or high-end garden furniture, this could be above the limit and customers should list such items separately on their policy.’
6. Put up a tall fence
A tall garden fence is a clear deterrent to any thieves – the harder you make it for them to get into your garden, the less likely they will try. If you wish to install fencing that is taller than 6.4ft (2m), you will probably need to get a building permit or planning permission from your zoning department or local council.
‘A typical fence and gate with a firm lock will certainly do the trick in helping to secure your garden,’ says Tristan Sissons, Garden Buying Manager at Homebase (opens in new tab). ‘As an extra layer of security for your fence, you could consider planting some climbing plants that will make scaling any fences more difficult. Roses are a good option due to their sharp thorns.’
7. Go for clever DIY fixes
‘Making your garden a place that you love is so important which is why it is equally important to ensure it feels safe and secure,’ explains Tristan from Homebase. ‘Lots of homes have gravel driveways at the front of their homes or as a path through their garden as it can be a low-cost, easy to maintain and attractive option.
'Plus moving across gravel causes noise which is a big deterrent, as it will alert you to any unwelcome visitors sneaking across your home and garden.’
‘Shrubbery and hedging plants too, can act as a security measure to stop anyone trying to break into your garden,' he continues.
‘When planted, bamboo can form a dense natural fence at the edge of your property. What’s more, it makes quite a lot of noise as it moves, so will likely put off anyone scoping out your home. Berberis is also a great option given its spiny thorns.’
Is a video doorbell or a security camera best for backyard security?
Not sure whether to buy a security camera or a video doorbell? Tegan Jolly from Arlo advises to think carefully about your outdoor space and your needs. ‘For example, a property with vulnerabilities like multiple doors and a garden would be suited to a robust outdoor camera system.’
‘Similarly,’ she continues, ‘someone who receives lots of front door traffic, a video doorbell would be ideal, whereas for a user wanting to watch over their car and driveway, a security camera would be recommended. But for those who have more space, I’d recommend investing in both a camera system and a video doorbell.’
If you decide to buy both a video doorbell for the front of your home and a security camera (or multiple cameras) for the rear, it’s worth buying from the same brand as you’ll be able to control everything via the same app.
How do I protect my backyard from burglars?
The trick is to act before they strike. The most common items stolen from gardens include light, portable items – things that thieves can grab and run with.
‘Lighter items are easier to steal and can include toys, bikes, scooters, garden tools and garden furniture,’ explains Sarah at Aviva.
But more expensive items like heavy furniture, barbecues and even that lovely new outdoor fridge you treated yourself to (or the contents of it) can be rich pickings for a thief. ‘Even bulky and heavy items can be stolen with the right equipment,’ continues Sarah, 'and we have seen examples of sculptures, garden sofas, trampolines, hot tubs and barbecues being taken from people’s gardens.’
So the best advice is to always tidy away or cover items in your garden after use. Ensure any garden gates or doors are locked and keep your garden or backyard well lit after dark. Finally, for peace of mind when you’re away from home, install a security camera and/or a video doorbell.
What can I put on my fence to stop burglars?
If your existing fence is in good condition, you could paint the top with anti-climb paint, available from Amazon (opens in new tab). You can also get this in any good hardware or DIY retailer.
According to West Yorkshire Police (opens in new tab) in the UK, ‘you should make sure the anti-climbing paint starts at a reasonably high level so passers-by do not damage their clothing inadvertently. “Warning: Anti-Climb Paint” signs should be clearly posted wherever there is paint in use.
'These should be posted to protect the company or householder from being sued in a civil court, e.g. to protect themselves from civil action for any damage to clothing.’ Anti-climb paint signs are readily available at Amazon (opens in new tab).
Contrary to popular belief, it’s not advisable to add razor wire or broken glass to the top of a wall or fence as a security measure. If a trespasser injures themselves breaking into your garden, you are leaving yourself open to a lawsuit.
How can I make my front garden more secure?
A video doorbell is probably the most effective way to keep your front garden secure. Burglars are well used to seeing them and they know that any movement in its path will trigger an alert to your phone and start recording.
This means that they tend to avoid them wherever possible, eschewing them for darker access areas and rear gardens without security.
‘A video doorbell allows users to see who is in your driveway or at your door without needing to open it,’ explains Tegan Jolly from Arlo, ‘which is a huge benefit both when users are at home wanting to feel safer, and for when you are away.’
‘With a video doorbell you have the ability to react without needing to be home,’ continues Tegan, ‘you can protect against parcel theft firstly with the deterrent of a camera, but also with a number of features like two-way audio or a siren to warn off any opportunist thieves. With smart detection for people, animals, packages and vehicles, users can be specifically alerted to any suspicious activity and react quickly and conveniently, no matter where they might be.’
Ginevra is the Deputy Editor of Ideal Home magazine but also writes for Gardeningetc whenever possible, as she loves everything about the outdoors. Over the years, she's worked for the majority of Britain’s monthly interiors magazines and their websites, including Homes & Gardens, Livingetc and Country Homes & Interiors. She's written about every area of the home, indoors and out, from shopping and decorating, appliances and home tech, wallpaper and fabric, kitchens and bathrooms, even extensions and conversions.
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