Security screen doors buying guide

Great for six-legged pests, but not so good against the two-legged variety.
 
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  • Updated:22 Feb 2005
 

01 .Safe as houses?

Entrance with security screen door

In brief

  • Buy a door that displays the Standards Australia logo. While other doors may meet the standard, this is the easiest way to be sure.
  • Have the door installed in a way that meets the Australian standard for installation.

Security screen doors are designed to let you safely open up the house to air and light while you’re at home — upstairs or out in the garden, say. They should prevent someone from sneaking quickly and quietly into your house when your main door’s open and nicking your stuff, and deter or delay potential attackers long enough for you to call for help.

While they provide some level of protection, given enough time and the right equipment, they’re still penetrable — some more so than others. Then there’s the installation — attaching it to a weak door frame or allowing enough space to get good jemmying leverage reduces its effectiveness as a security door.

Please note: this information was current as of February 2005 but is still a useful guide to today's market.


What's in a name?

Unfortunately in most states a product advertised as a “security screen door” may only secure you against flies: the term is meaningless unless the door can be shown to meet the Australian standard. However, in WA, any door advertised or sold as a security door must meet the Australian standard — something CHOICE would like to see applied nationally, and which the Australian Security Industry Association Limited (ASIAL) and the National Security Screens Association (NSSA) are lobbying for.

A proper security door must have a combination of several elements that make it secure. For example, a strong grille is useless if the lock’s easily broken. And a solid lock doesn’t help if the hinges can be jemmied from the frame in moments.

While you can check some aspects of quality yourself (see What to look for), others are concealed in the structure and impossible for a typical consumer to assess.

Looking for additional home safety? Check out our smoke alarm reviews on how to protect your home from a potential fire.

 
 

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02.What's out there?

 

The Standard

Your best bet is to buy a door that meets the Australian standard for hinged and sliding security screen doors — AS 5039. This standard came into force in 2003, superseding the previous one, AS 2803 (which many companies still refer to, and which still provides acceptable protection). The standard includes design and performance requirements for the various parts of the door, such as hinges, grille, corner joints, locks, screws and rivets. A company can’t claim that some parts of a door (hinges, grille, etc) meet the standard — it’s all or nothing.

It’s possible that a security screen door does meet the standard but doesn’t carry the Standards Australia label or make any claims. Companies have to pay to use the logo, and smaller companies in particular may choose not to. Then there are companies that claim their door meets or passes the standard, though again with no label.

A company claiming compliance with the standard should be prepared to provide proof if it doesn’t carry the label — so ask to see the test report, or get a written guarantee when a company makes such a claim.

There’s also a standard for installation (AS 5040, which replaced AS 2804), and you should ask the installation company for a written guarantee that its work complies with this standard. The standard for testing (AS 5041) includes the door’s ability to: withstand kicking in, pulling out and cutting the infill; prevent insects, arms and bodies passing through (depending on the door’s purpose); and withstand jemmying the door from the jamb.

The buying essentials

  • Do some homework to work out what your needs and wants are, taking into account the level of security you need, the style of door that suits your home best, features you want (the type of lock, the type of grille or mesh, whether you need to keep insects out, etc). Use the internet, look at home and garden-type magazines, or the ads in the Yellow Pages are a good place to start.
  • Check out credentials of the company and the individuals you’re dealing with. Do they belong to an industry organisation and are they licensed to carry out the work?
  • Shop around for products, prices and service, and get at least three quotes.
  • Ask lots of questions — the responses (or lack of) may tell you something about the company.
  • Don’t let yourself be pressured into signing on the spot if you haven’t had time to do your homework.
  • And once more, for emphasis, buy one that meets the Australian standard. 

Your options

The frame can be steel or aluminium, and the infill can be made from steel (bars or a decorative motif), an aluminium grille or stainless steel mesh. Fixing the grille to the frame can involve rivets, screws, a wedge (PVC or similar), welding or crimping. As long as the door meets the standard, choice comes down to looks and your budget. While price is one indicator of quality — and $400 is a recommended minimum — a high price doesn’t guarantee quality. Security doors will almost always be custom-made, because tolerances for installing them so they meet the standard come down to mere millimetres. We’ve listed some ballpark figures provided by NSSA (see below) as a guide, but it’s definitely worth shopping around: if you can get a Standards-approved door for less, you could be getting a good deal. The prices apply to a standard-size hinged door and include typical installation costs.

  • Aluminium: You can buy an aluminium screen door for around $200, but it’s likely to be little more than a flyscreen. For a little more, you can get a heavy-duty (but not security) screen door which may at least look secure so thieves choose an easier target. For a custom-made door that meets the standard you’re looking at $400–$500.
  • Steel: According to ASIAL, a steel door (if properly constructed and installed) is regarded as the most effective security screen door. A custom-made one will cost $500–$700 or more, depending on styling.
  • Stainless steel mesh (with aluminium or steel frame): Made from woven stainless steel mesh (which is coloured black), these doors promise security without spoiling your view with bars and grilles: it’s much like looking through a flyscreen. Some products have been tested to and meet the Australian standard, even though they may not look as formidable as steel bars or aluminium grilles — and that’s the attraction for many people. They cost from around $600–$700 .

Useful organisations

If the company selling and/or installing the door is a member of one of the following security industry associations, you know it has to meet certain quality requirements and you can lodge a complaint with the association if you’re not happy.

  • Australian Security Industry Association Limited (ASIAL)
    ASIAL represents approximately 85% of the security industry in Australia (not only security screen door companies). Its web address is www.asial.com.au.
  • National Security Screen Association (NSSA)
    This is an industry body that aims to “promote the maintenance of quality fabrication and installation standards, as well as ethical trading practices, so as to establish and maintain ongoing consumer confidence in our industry”. It’s made up of state organisations based in Victoria, NSW, Queensland and SA. There’s a searchable database of members on its website: www.nssa.org.au.
  • Buy a security door that meets the Australian standard. The latest version is AS 5039, although because it’s relatively new, you’re more likely to see reference to the previous standard, AS 2803, which is not as tough as the new standard, but still OK (see The Standard, for what’s covered). If the door doesn’t carry the Standards Australia label, yet the company claims it meets the standard, ask for a written guarantee stating the whole door complies with the standard, not just parts of it.
  • Ask for a written guarantee that the door is being installed according to Australian Standard AS 5040 (or at least the previous AS 2804).
  • In NSW and WA any company selling and/or installing security products must be licensed by the state police and a member of an accredited industry body. Ask to see the licence and also which organisation they’re a member of, in case you have a complaint.
  • Try to find out the reputation of the companies you’re dealing with: how long they’ve been in business and whether there have been any complaints against them. For example, you can call your state’s crime prevention or fair trading departments.
  • Ask whether the company has product liability insurance, so you know you’re covered in case you incur any damage or someone is injured due to a door being too weak or poorly installed.
  • Get several quotes for the type of door you want, and take your time comparing them.

All door types

  • Locks should be five-pin cylinder or equivalent — according to the standard, wafer locks are more vulnerable. A three-point lock may prevent the bottom or top of the door being Receiver channel depth diagramwrenched back by an intruder, and should also spread the force of an attack.
  • The standard recommends not using aluminium rivets in accessible positions — some companies use stainless steel rivets.
  • The door should have at least three hinges with fixed hinge pins that can’t be removed. A fixed steel pin (‘dog bolt’) that’s welded into the hinge leaf, rather than just pressed into it, gives additional protection. The bigger the pin, the better. Ideally the hinges should be recessed or the door should have a hinge filling between the door and the frame that doesn’t allow access for a jemmy, say. A single hinge that runs along the full length of the frame does the same job.
  • The frame should have a deep receiver channel for the grille. Make sure the connection between the main part of the frame and the receiver channel is sturdy.
  • The cords of the grille should be at least 7 mm thick. However, even the strongest grille isn’t worth much if it isn’t fixed to the door frame properly. On many doors the grille is riveted to the frame. Look for rivets that are clinched at the back of the frame, and that aren’t too far apart: at least one every 25 cm — ideally, every second connection point should be riveted. However, rivets may be badly aligned and therefore won’t fully connect with the grille. A grille that’s welded to the frame may be more reliable; again, no more than 25 cm between welding spots and ideally at every connection point.
  • The frame should be reinforced at the corners. Doors may have internal corner stakes, which you won’t be able to see, but fully welded corner joints are likely to be stronger.

Installation

Some requirements of the standard for installation of security screen doors (AS 5040) are:

  • The installer has to assess whether the door frame is strong enough to support the security door — for example, that the jamb is in good condition and firmly fixed to the building. If necessary, the jamb may have to be reinforced, such as with metal jamb covers.
    As door jambs often aren’t square, a metal frame may be needed anyway to even out irregularities. Be aware that all this may reduce the width of the doorway and cause problems when moving furniture or appliances in and out, or for wheelchair access. It could also increase the cost of installation.
  • The gaps between the security door and frame at the locking points mustn’t be more than 4 mm; between the frame and hinge points 4 mm (or 6 mm for steel doors); at all other points, gaps mustn’t be more than 5 mm, although at the bottom it may be more than this to compensate for an uneven floor.
  • Think about the lock and how easy it will be to get out of your home in case of fire or other emergency

Aluminium doorsAluminium door

  • While aluminium is less prone to corrosion than steel, the Australian standard still requires protection against corrosion by anodising or powder-coating.
  • Make sure it’s made from heat-strengthened (tempered) aluminium. 

 

 






 

Stainless steel mesh

  • Stainless steel mesh doorAttachment: We’ve seen one brand that uses stainless steel screws to clamp the mesh within the frame and others that use a PVC clamp. Both claim advantages over the other: the screw-clamp people claim screws hold the mesh in place better, while the plastic-clamp people claim there’s reduced risk of galvanic corrosion from aluminium (frame) coming into contact with stainless steel (mesh). We’ve seen no independent information that one’s better than the other — as long as it meets the standard, you’re likely to be safe with either. However, these doors are relatively new on the market: some longevity issues may become apparent in years to come.
  • There’s also some argument over the best type of mesh to use: some manufacturers use marine-grade 316 mesh (the claimed advantage is that it’s corrosion-resistant in salty environments), while another uses 304 grade mesh (its claimed advantage is that it’s stronger than 316). Again, as long as it meets the standard, you should be OK with either — but watch this space in case any issues emerge over time.
  • The frames of these doors are likely to be aluminium, so the points under Aluminium doors apply (see above).

 

 

Steel doorsSteel door

  • If it meets the standard it’ll be protected against corrosion. To prevent rust in other steel doors, especially if you live near the sea, consider getting one that’s been hot-dip galvanised and powder-coated. (Removing salt build-up with regular washing in warm soapy water can also help.)