Effective physical security is based on the concept of defence in depth, the creation of multiple layers of security.
Defence in depth is characterised by interdependent concentric layers of security controls, with each layer consisting of increasingly complex measures designed to protect people, property and information.
In the case of void property this would consist of the following:
Perimeter fencing - boundary marker denoting ownership
Concrete barrier blocks - to prevent vehicle access to the site
External mounted Video verification systems - detection
Windows and doors boarding-up - delay intruders
Boarding up of windows and doors is one layer of a physical security system, the primary purpose of which is to both deter those that can be deterred and to delay those that can’t.
No security control measure is 100% effective against a well-equipped and determined adversary, therefore the primary aim is to harden a site to an extent whereby the risk / reward analysis conducted by the adversary swings in favour of seeking easier targets elsewhere.
If deterrence is not an option, the next aim is to delay the intruder long enough to initiate a response, such as Police or mobile security attendance on site.
Boarding-up is an effective non-technical measure, but only if the correct boarding-up system is used, installed professionally and tough enough to deter or delay.
There are a variety of options available to property owners and landlords when considering boarding up a vacant property. But with so many types of boarding-up options available, it can be hard to determine which ones are best for your empty property.
In this blog, we’ll be covering all the different types of boarding-up options you can implement to protect your vacant property.
Different types of Boarding-up Options
Timber Boarding up (OSB Boards):
One of the most popular options is timber boarding (OSB Boards). This is a cost-effective option, but it doesn't offer much protection against intruders. The use of timber boards is often restricted to the Locksmith trade and are used to cover broken windows following a recent break-in.
Timber boards are easily cut to size, quick to install and often the cheapest solution.
Often they are secured directly to the window frame, essentially damaging the window, or direct to the brick work using secure fixings. They are however, easy to penetrate, rip off and burn. Timber boards offer minimal protection and are therefore never a long term solution for securing void properties.
A better alternative is to install steel perforated sheets, SITEX security screens or compression secure steel screens.
Steel Perforated Sheets:
Steel perforated sheets provide a heightened level of security when compared with timber. The benefits of PS screens include:
Visible deterrent to criminals
Creates a steel barrier over the window
Perforation lets light through to allow internal viewing
Resistant to arson attack
Cut to size to fit into window reveals
Fairly cheap long term solution
The benefits of Perforated steel screens over timber boarding are obvious, however similar to timber they are fitted directly into either the window frame or brick wall, once again damaging the fabric of the property.
There are also limitations in using Perforated Steel sheets on listed properties, often resulting in Perforated Steel screens being fitted to the inside of the window (internally), which significantly reduces the effectiveness of this solution due to the ease with which such screens can be kicked out once the glass has been smashed.
Securing Perforated Steel screens to the brickwork can also cause deterioration of the brickwork, especially if the building is of older construction.
Depending on the condition of the building Perforated Steel screens may need to be secured to custom built timber frames inserted into the Window’s reveal, a time consuming process that offers limited protection against attempts to gain entry through force.
The availability of increasingly powerful battery powered hand tools such as abrasive wheels, further reduces the effectiveness of Perforated Steel screens. A cordless angle grinder would be able to cut a big enough hole through a Perforated Steel screen to enable an intruder to gain entry in quick time.
Another issue with the use of Perforated Steel screens is the lack of sustainability due to the need to cut sheets to size. With each subsequent re-use of the sheets they become smaller and smaller to the point where they are no longer useable.
Perforated Steel sheets are not a long term sustainable solution.
SITEX (Type) Security Screens:
Sitex security screen panels became popular in the 1990’s after their introduction by a leading security company. They quickly became the preferred solution for securing vacant properties requiring a heightened level of security.
Sitex security screen panels are secured by either drilling holes in the window frame and inserting cables which are then secured internally across the window by a steel bracket, which is then attached to the panels creating a very strong seal, or more commonly the glazing is removed when using this method of boarding up solution.
The benefits of utilising Sitex security screen panels include:
A highly visible deterrent to trespassers
Robust and long lasting
Perforations allow light and ventilation
Installed from the inside for maximum security and minimum damage
Can be fitted over doors, windows and other entry points
The use of Sitex security screen type panels has considerable benefits over drilled in Perforated Steel screens, however, the use of such a solution also comes with considerable drawbacks. The removal of windows is time consuming, costly and also requires a level of expertise to ensure they are refitted correctly, often at added cost.
The removal of windows and their replacement with perforated steel panels allows light into an empty property, but their use also removes the environmental seal protecting the property’s internal areas from dust, pollutants and moisture.
In essence you are effectively exposing the building's interior to the environment, not a great idea during colder months!
Fluctuations in temperature could potentially lead to damage resulting from burst pipes, build-up of mold and damp.
Sitex security screen panels are an effective security control for your vacant property and therefore have their place when used to protect certain properties, however as stated, this solution is not without its drawbacks.
Compression Security Screens:
Compression security screens are fitted within the window's reveal through the use of jacks positioned horizontally to create an incredibly secure seal. The jacks form the frame to which security steel panels are securely fixed. This innovative method of boarding up has the following benefits:
Quickest method of installation
Multiple contact points create a rigid secure barrier
Bolted panels cover all shapes of enclosure
Rapid removal and re-use of panels
No requirement to remove windows
No drilling in to window frames or brick work
Damage free secure barrier
Maintains environmental seal
Compression security screens have been designed to provide a rapidly deployable boarding solution that is as secure as Sitex security screen, as quick to install as Perforated Steel screens, but doesn’t require the time consuming removal of windows or cause damage to the property.
Many property owners often face hefty 'making good' costs when repairing the damage to windows and frames caused by Perforated Steel sheets or Sitex security screens.
Compression security screens due to their design can be fitted externally on windows above the ground floor, quickly and cost effectively, thereby creating a strong barrier protecting the entire property.
An added innovation is the use of Vinyl sheets printed to represent windows fitted to the screens, which creates a visually attractive finish, a nice touch especially if the building is located in an upmarket commercial district.
Frequently Asked Questions
How can boarding up a property help deter vandalism and theft?
Boarding up an empty property can be an effective way of deterring vandalism, theft and occupation by squatters. By boarding up windows, doors and any other entrances or exits, you make it more difficult for intruders to gain entry into the building.
This can help to protect the vacant property from potential intruders who will find it much harder to break in. Furthermore, boarding up properties can also make them more visible to passers-by, helping to reduce the chances of further crime taking place in the area.
Additionally, well maintained boarding can also help to protect against weather damage and keep out pests.
All these factors combined mean that boarding up is a great way of protecting your empty property from undesirables.
Are there any legal considerations I should know about when boarding-up my property?
Yes, there are legal considerations that should be taken into account when boarding up a property.
Before you start the process of boarding up, it is important to first make sure that you are in compliance with any local restrictions, health and safety and any other regulations set by your local authority.
Additionally, make sure that the type of boards used are safe and secure and meet building code requirements, especially in the case of listed properties. This is why it is always advisable to use the correct boarding solution, installed by competent professionals.
What are the costs associated with boarding-up a property?
The cost of boarding up a property will vary depending on the size and condition of the building. Generally speaking, materials such as timber or metal will be required in order to properly board up the property and secure it from intruders, with different solutions priced accordingly.
Additionally, labour costs should also be taken into consideration when budgeting for boarding a property, since it usually requires multiple people to carry out the job.
Some of the solutions discussed require a greater use of labour, especially Sitex security screens due to the removal of glazing. All in all, the costs associated with boarding up a property can range from a few hundred pounds to several thousand depending on the scope of the project.
Often boarding up solutions are provided as a direct purchase or more commonly on a rental basis, with rental costs calculated on the number of windows requiring boarding up, complexity of installation and duration of requirement.
As stated previously, there are often hidden costs that need to be taken into account, such as the cost of making good following the removal of boards, dependant on how many holes have been drilled into the brickwork, damage to glazing etc.
Boarding up still remains one of the most cost effective methods of securing void properties when compared to the costs associated with manned guarding or the removal of squatters.
As you can see, there are numerous boarding options for landlords and property owners to choose from. While deciding on the best option for your property, remember to compare the pros and cons of each option.
As stated earlier, effective security is predicated on the concept of defence in depth, therefore any solution adopted should form one layer of a multi-layered approach, especially when you consider that every barrier will eventually be overcome if potential adversaries are equipped with the right tools and expertise, but it’s worth remembering that we aren't dealing with highly trained bank robbers equipped with laser cutting technology, rather unsophisticated opportunists looking to gain entry quickly without being detected, such as squatters or materials thieves.
Boarding-up provides an effective deterrence encouraging adversaries to seek softer targets elsewhere and as a useful delaying mechanism when used in conjunction with detection technology such as video verification (monitored) systems and mobile response units.
About the writer: Justin Quigley, is a recognised security expert in the protection of property through the introduction and deployment of technical and non-technical security measures, including CCTV towers, video verification systems, fencing, perimeter protection technology, hostile vehicle barriers, alarms and analytical camera systems. He is a prolific writer on the subject of crime prevention, security technology and void property security.