People tend to have mixed feelings about bars over their windows. On the one hand, burglar bars are excellent at their job — an intruder, child, or pet would have to be pretty dedicated to get through.
Yet security bars aren’t everyone’s taste. Sometimes it’s just personal preference about the ‘look.’ They are becoming more common and culturally acceptable, but in some parts of the country, installing them might hurt your home’s value or be against your local community rules.
Bars are one of the more ‘serious’ steps you can take to harden your home against intruders. Simple locks and other barriers that prevent someone from opening the window will get you 90% of the way there when combined with some mix of motion sensors, glass-break sensors, motion-activated lights, or cameras.
People choose to add bars (or skip the other stuff and go straight to bars) if they have small children or pets that might escape, live in a high-crime area, don’t trust the local authorities, have ground-accessible windows in ‘hidden’ places an intruder might have more time to focus on defeating, or just generally want to maximize their security for peace of mind.
- Burglar bars are also known as security bars, window bars, window guards, wrought iron, window lattice, and window grilles. They all involve metal bars installed on the windows.
- The sight of bars alone can deter criminals.
- Bars are best for basement and ground floor windows.
- Unlike many elements of a security system, bars are a one-time investment.
- Bars can attach to the inside or outside of your windows, and while each approach has pros and cons, it’s mostly just personal preference.
- Many bars have a release mechanism so you can escape through a window in case of fire.
- If you’re ready to invest for better aesthetics, local wrought-iron craftsmen offer custom bars that turn out quite beautifully.
We haven’t yet done head-to-head testing, but based on personal experience with these major brands and additional research while making this guide, we know you won’t go wrong if you pick from the below options.
If you want budget-friendly indoor or outdoor bars, go with Grisham
Grisham makes an inexpensive suite of indoor and outdoor burglar bars. People love their outdoor bars because they feature aesthetically pleasing curlicues and spear points. Grisham offers a variety of window bar sizes and a unique quick-escape kit so you can disable the security bars for a quick exit in an emergency. Depending on the size, outdoor Grisham bars cost between $25 and $45. Grisham indoor bars sell for $30 to $40.
If you care about innovative design and flexibility, go with Mr. Goodbar
In our research and experience, we haven’t seen any window bars as innovative as the ones made by Mr. Goodbar. The company offers interior window security bars that are permanent, swinging, or removable. They feature tamper-resistant mounting hardware and an interior bar that spins freely, making it very difficult to cut through. Premium design and adjustable features come at a price, though, and Mr. Goodbar products are not cheap. When we’ve purchased from them before, their Canada-based service went above and beyond. Fixed bars for a small window will retail for $45, while the large swinging models sell for around $230. Here’s Mr. Goodbar options at Home Depot.
Mr. Goodbar’s swinging model with Quick Release System. Quick release makes it possible to disable the security bars and get through the window in case of an emergency. The Quick Release System is sold separately.
Mr. Goodbar window bars feature an internal roll bar that makes it difficult to cut through. If you try to cut, the metal bar just spins, negating the sawing.
These brands also make good products and are commonly found at your local big box home improvement store:
How much will burglar bars cost?
The simple answer: it depends on how many windows you have and how fancy you want them to look. Most burglar bars are sold on a per-window basis.
The market can be divided up into three tiers:
- Premade, DIY-installation options you can buy from Amazon or any home improvement store for between $25 and $60 per window. They usually include a metal frame and 3-4 bars per window.
- Decorative, premade bars with curlicues, engraved leaves, or spears. These will cost a little more but can also be purchased online or in many home improvement stores. Depending on the size of your window, these could cost between $150 to $500 each.
- Custom burglar bars. These have to be forged by wrought-iron craftsmen for your specific home and can cost as much as $600 to $1000 each. The cost does usually include installation.
Hiring a professional to install exterior window bars will likely cost between $100 and $150 per window. The most cost effective-way to go is to just purchase indoor security bars and install them yourself. Installation can also be done by a general contractor if you’d rather have someone else use a drill.
How to choose indoor or outdoor bars
If you’re not sure you want security bars outside your home, that’s okay. Burglar bars can be installed either inside the window or outside, depending on your preference.
Outdoor window bars are the most common ones you’ll see. They’re the best at deterring potential intruders because they look scary. In fact, outdoor security bars are near-impossible to break without drawing much attention. Neighbors are likely to call the authorities if they hear or see someone sawing into the metal bars on your windows. It’s worth noting that while bars are generally a deterrent, they can also draw unwanted attention.
You’ll have to attach outdoor bars to the structure of your home, so they’re not very accessible to renters. Depending on the structure of your home, you might also need a contractor for bar installation.
Worse, for many homeowners, outdoor bars tend to be ugly — unless you’ve decided to spend money on an expensive, decorative work of art. This is why many HOAs ban window bars.
Indoor window bars are a good alternative for anyone who’s put off by the idea of outdoor bars. Indoor bars are less visible from the outside, so a picky HOA might overlook them, especially on ground floor windows that don’t face the street. There are also lots of custom options available.
Indoor bars tend to be easier to install and remove on your own. When one of The Prepared’s team installed Mr. Goodbar interior bars in their home, for example, it only took a power drill, measuring tape, and about 20 minutes per window.
Indoor bars usually include a swing function to make it easier to clean the inside of the window, or get out in an emergency.
With indoor security bars, intruders have to break your windows before they can even attempt to get through the bars. That’s actually something many homeowners see as a positive. If someone smashes a window, you, your security system, or a neighbor will probably hear an intruder and call the police, scaring them away before they can get in.
Safety features to look for
A few extra design features on security bars can turn what would be plain reinforcements into something more sleek and impenetrable. Thoughtful design features can also keep you and your family safe if something like a fire should force you to escape through a window.
Tamper-resistant features can be included in the screws you use to install the bars and in the bars themselves. These tamper-resistant screws are nearly impossible to back out. You’ll be able to drill in the screws, no problem, but an intruder won’t be able to remove the hardware without special tools. Instead, they’ll probably make a lot of noise and attract attention.
One-way tamper-resistant screws. Once screwed in, they are very hard to back out.
Another worthwhile design feature: an internal bar that spins so it can’t be cut with a saw. Like something out of a vaudeville film, this spinning bar will frustrate would-be intruders to no end and force them to give up.
Experts strongly recommend using bars with quick release latches, and in some areas it’s part of local building codes. If your home catches fire, you or your loved ones should be able to escape through a window.
If you have custom wrought iron bars made by a local craftsman, be sure to ask about this option.
Companies like Mr. Goodbar and Grisham design these release latches in a way that’s easy for people inside of the house but impossible for people outside to reach. For example, a wire or bar might run a few feet away from the bar. When you pull the release, the bar is unlocked and can swing open.
Grisham emergency release lever for an indoor security bar system. The release is set away from the window to prevent a burglar from accessing the release pin.