Do Door Chains Work?


To be on the safe side, it’s highly advisable to always check who’s on the other side of your front door before opening it. For additional security, some people might recommend installing a door chain –after all, they’re cheap, easy to install and allow you to see your caller from the safety of your home. But do they work?

Do door chains work? Door chains give you a bit of protection when you open the door as they allow you to open it slightly so that you can communicate with the person outside while still preventing the person outside from forcing their way into your home. That said, door chains cannot replace strong entrance locks or quality deadbolts as they typically have very short screws, which can easily rip out, especially if they’re improperly installed or of poor quality. Additionally, standard door chains are not suitable for UPVC/PVCU front doors, limiting them to wooden and timber doors.

Not all door chains are equal. Like any other security equipment, there’s the good, the not-so-good, and the useless. Read on to discover more about this security device, including whether or not they are effective.

What is a door chain?

A door chain, sometimes known as a security door chain is a simple device that allows you to control communication with individuals standing outside your door. This device is made up of a small chain attached to the door frame, which in turn attaches to a track on the door to enhance security. Door chains are often used in combination with other types of locks to secure a door. 

What is the purpose of a door chain?

Door chains are meant to allow a person inside a house to open the door slightly so that they can communicate with individuals outside or exchange small objects through the door while keeping the individuals outside at bay and unable to gain unauthorized access.

Door chains can also be put to use when the door doesn’t need to be opened. These devices can only be used from inside when the door has been opened, which means that if the locks on the door have somehow been compromised, a door chain can draw more attention, cause some delay, or leave behind more evidence of force being exerted to gain unauthorized access.

How to attach a door chain to your front door

Installing a door chain is a simple home improvement that you can do by yourself, especially if you have DIY experience.  You will need the following tools:

  • Door chain kit
  • Screws
  • Drill
  • Pencil
  • Spirit level

Here are some step by step instructions to keep in mind:

  1. Decide the height at which you would want the door chain to be positioned. Make sure that the height you choose is easy for everyone living in the house to reach.
  2. Locate the strongest part of your door. This is usually the wide rail fitted horizontally across the middle of the door, known as the lock rail.
  3. Having figured out where you want the main chain keep to go, look to the door frame to position the chain. Depending on your needs, you can fit the chain bracket horizontally or vertically.
  4. Make clear marks in the screw holes for the chain. 
  5. Drill plot holes for the door chain bracket screws. Use screws that are at least an inch long. You will often find that the screws that come with the chain are not long enough and could easily rip out if the door was forced open.
  6. Use a screwdriver to fix the security chain bracket into the pilot holes you create. If you’re using a battery-powered screwdriver, you might want to consider fitting the screws in at a slight angle rather than driving them in straight. This is because with the latter the spinning motion of the drill chuck could rub against the door reveal and do some damage.
  7. Hang the security chain in the provided slot.
  8. Place the security chain keep onto the lock rail opposite the chain bracket you just installed. Drop the chain into it and then slide the fitting towards the door center to tighten up the chain.
  9. Use a small spirit level to confirm that the chain keep is level.
  10. When you have determined exactly where the keep has to go so that you can easily fit as well as prevent the door from being opened too widely, mark its final position using a pencil.
  11. Drill your pilot holes as previously done.
  12. Fix the keep into its final position.
  13. To test the fit of your door security chain, open the door while the chain is engaged and ask a friend to try to remove the chain from the outside. If they are unable to do this, you have successfully attached your door chain.

Advantages of a door chain 

  • Door chains are easy to install and use
  • Using a door chain provides a bit of security when dealing with strangers.
  • A properly installed quality door chain will be resistant to interference from the outside, requiring physical force to get the door to open, which will leave obvious signs of evidence.

Disadvantages of a door chain

  • Door chains typically come equipped with very short screws which can easily rip out. Any amount of force that is capable of compromising a deadbolt will also compromise a door chain.
  • Elderly people, uncoordinated individuals, and people with hand tremors may have a hard time connecting a door chain to the track.
  • Door chains are generally unsuitable for use on UPVC/PVCU front doors. This is because the material is not strong enough to support devices that are fitted with steel screws unless they’re secured into the internal metal framework.

How can you improve the effectiveness of a door chain?

  • Use longer screws

When fitting door chains, it’s highly advisable to use the longest screws possible. If the circumstances allow, you might be able to fit the brackets using coach bolts, with the mushroom head on the outside of the door. Alternatively, you can simply attach the chain using screws that are 1/8 inch to ¼ inch shorter than the door’s thickness. Both options will significantly improve the strength of the door chain.

Alternatives to door chains

If improvements just don’t do it for you, there are several alternatives to consider:

  1. Lockable door chains – A popular alternative to the standard door chain is a lockable chain. This one allows you to open the door using your keys as you normally would, and then insert another key through the gap and into the cylinder present on the door chain bracket to release it. Lockable door chains are suitable for UPVC doors, glass panel doors, and aluminum doors.
  1. Door chain restrictor – Another alternative is to fit your door with a chain restrictor that features a ring. This security device is suitable for composite and UPVC doors and will fit any door that has a door lever-type handle.
  1. Door swing bar lock – Also known as a door limiter, a door swing bar lock is made up of a U-shaped bar that fits to a hinge on the doorframe, and a knob on the front door. Door bars are somewhat stronger than door chains, so they cannot be defeated as easily as their counterparts. Some high-quality varieties feature some screws that fit at 90 degrees to the force direction, and like with door chains, you will want to use the longest screws possible, as well as coach bolts if the frame and door allow for their use. 
  1. Security screen doors – Security screen doors come with a second set of locks or hinges that limit access to your house. If you intend to keep intruders out, this is a more suitable alternative. Security screen doors also allow you to open your main door and communicate with individuals standing outside. Some varieties even feature mail slots. Another upside of these doors is that they provide secure ventilation. The main disadvantage is the cost, which is almost as much as that of a regular door, and you have to buy the locks separately. Installation of security doors can also be time-consuming.
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  1. Intercoms, peepholes, and mail slots – These can also serve purposes that are similar to the door chain when dealing with strange callers, plus they function without having to open the door. That said, it’s worth noting that these devices do not offer additional protection to the door itself.
  1. Alarmed door chains with DNA spray – This is a fairly recent addition to the door chain varieties. It functions by activating a screeching alarm if the intruder attempts to force the door open when the chain is attached and at the same time spraying the intruder with a DNA trace chemical that is unique to your home. As you might expect, this alternative is pricier than your standard door chain.

Final thoughts

Your door is the main entrance into your home, and so you should take measures to ensure that it’s secure. For the best results, consider using a combination of security devices, like good locks, a quality, a peephole, and a quality door chain or a preferred alternative. 

Last update on 2021-05-12 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Melanie Asiba

Melanie is an author. She enjoys traveling, reading and trying out new things. In addition to writing for Apartment ABC. Connect with her at [email protected]

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