How to create a year-round garden:take a tour of the ultimate ‘outdoor room’ designed by Abigail Ahern

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With a coffee table overhung with a chandelier, a snug two-seater and curvy armchairs ranged around a fireplace, as well as a kitchen and dining table, Abigail Ahern’s back garden has to be the ultimate outdoor room.

When she moved to Hackney with husband Graham 13 years ago, Ahern, an accomplished interior designer but a self-confessed non-gardener, approached the outside space with caution. “At first I did what everybody else did, and had stuff down the perimeter and nothing in the middle,” she says, “but as I became more confident, I realised the same principles I applied to inside could apply to the outside.

“One of these is that you never have everything on the perimeter. I like to design interiors so you can’t walk in a straight line from one end of the room to the other, because there’s always something in your way. It’s the difference between walking in a field, where you can see all around you which is really boring, or in a forest, where you’re not sure what’s around the next corner. That’s what I wanted to do here.”

This atmospheric retreat, with weathered decking, leafy tree canopies and stashes of logs for fires indoors and out, looks like it was built in the heart of a forest. That is, if it weren’t for the cowboy cacti — realistic fakes that Ahern sells in her Islington shop and has tucked in among the hydrangea bushes, adding a touch of Santa Fe to the patio — and the petrol blue cabin at the rear, a £100 eBay find upcycled by Graham.

The roomy patio with York stone paving looks as cosy as the living room on the other side of the huge, two-storey glass doors. Another Ahern design principle is to supersize features and furniture to make a space look larger, so naturally, as well as chandeliers in every room of the house, an outsize chandelier of tiered driftwood pieces hangs over the black lacquer coffee table.

Lighting is a game changer, indoors and out, says Ahern. “I have a problem finding outdoor lights I like, so I put indoor lights outside, and have them professionally rewired.” These include a standard lamp and a Sixties pendant shade, while the bonus of overhanging electric cable is that the mile-a-minute vine scrambles along it, creating playful garlands of green above the patio.

To the right of the patio-cum-sittingroom is the dining area, defined by an Indian zinc-topped table from Petersham Nurseries and a customised concrete kitchen from Dutch company WWOO.

“The company customised the kitchen to fit around the Big Green Egg, a barbecue cooker I’m obsessed with ever since I designed a set for a TV programme with Heston Blumenthal, who uses it all the time. You can bake on it, roast with it and it’s all temperature controlled. We put something in on a Saturday morning, slow cook it for 10 hours and come back in the evening and supper’s ready. We even cook the Christmas turkey on it.”

Playing with different textures is a big part of Ahern’s design philosophy, and is apparent in her choice of materials in both hardscape and planting. The decked garden path that leads down to the cabin is a clever fake from Millboard that resembles old, weather-worn oak timber, and is edged down either side with a deep ruff of variegated tufted grass Carex oshimensis Everest.

Pebbles — another textural contrast — are her choice of flooring on either side, giving Ahern the freedom to gradually plant both areas over time. On one side is a wall of rustling bamboo, which she planted so she could look down from her bedroom window and enjoy the constant movement, and on the opposite wall, a sheet of evergreen jasmine. “We planted about 20 tiny plants and now the scent of the flowers in summer is beautiful,” she says. “I’m mad about watering all the time to make them cover the wall.”

 

[Source:- homesandproperty]

 

How to change Alexa’s name

Image result for How to change Alexa's name

By default, saying “Alexa” near an Alexa speaker will activate the voice assistant and it will begin listening for your requests or commands. It takes some getting used to, but after a while, talking to a speaker and calling it by a human name begins to feel fairly natural.

That said, if you have someone in your household by the same name or your television constantly activates your speaker, you may want to consider changing its name. Here’s how you can change the wake word of your Alexa device.

Changing the wake word

If you have multiple Alexa devices around your house, you may notice that they all activate when you say the wake word. You don’t need to assign a different wake word to each speaker, as the Echo Spatial Perception feature ensures only the closest speaker will respond.

However, if you’re having unwanted activations changing the wake word will certainly help. To change the wake word of your Alexa device:

  • Go to alexa.amazon.com or open the Amazon Alexa app on iOS or Android.
  • In the Android or iOS apps, click the hamburger button in the upper left corner to expand the side menu.
  • In the side menu, select Settings.
  • Click on one of the devices under Alexa Devices to open the settings specific to that device.
  • Click Wake Word.
  • Click to open the drop-down menu and select either Amazon or Echo.
  • Click Save.

Now, instead of saying “Alexa” to activate the speaker, you will have to speak either “Echo” or “Amazon,” depending on which wake word you choose. Some users on Reddit have discovered a fourth wake word option, Computer, appearing after a recent firmware update.

Changing the device name

In addition to inadvertent activations, with Alexa starting to pop up everywhere, it’s likely that your list of Alexa devices in the Alexa app or web client will get out of hand rather quickly.

With different settings for each Alexa device, it’s important to differentiate them in the app to avoid confusion and for easier troubleshooting, should something go wrong. Here’s how:

  • Go to alexa.amazon.com or open the Amazon Alexa app on iOS or Android.
  • In the Android or iOS apps, click the hamburger button in the upper left corner to expand the side menu.
  • In the side menu, select Settings.
  • Click on one of the devices under Alexa Devices to open the settings specific to that device.
  • Beside Device name click Edit.
  • Type in a new name and click Save Changes.

Unlike changing the wake word, changing the device name will not alter how you interact with the Alexa device in any way. What it will do, however, is make it easy to tell multiple Alexa devices apart within the Alexa app.

Setting a personal name to your Alexa speakers will also make it easier to select the correct one to play music with using Spotify and other connected apps.

Changing the name of an Alexa speaker won’t change how it appears as a Bluetooth device. The Bluetooth name will stay in its original format (e.g. Echo-XXX) even after you change the device name. Fortunately, you can often change the name of the Alexa device in the Bluetooth settings of the device you pair it with.

 

 

 

[Source:- CNET]

How to care for houseplants in winter Follow these expert tips

African Violets Blooming In Potted Plant On Window Sill

During winter months the growth of most houseplants slows down and, apart from plants that keep growing, it is best to reduce watering until the spring.

Let the compost dry out before adding tepid water and drain away the excess so the pot doesn’t stand in water. There is no need to feed a plant that is resting.

Houseplants like an even temperature and not an overheated room that drops dramatically overnight. For this reason, avoid putting plants on a window sill that will become very cold at night. If possible, move plants away from radiators and draughts as both will cause damage.

Knowing the original environment the plant came from will help you recreate the best conditions. Add more moisture to tropical ones by misting frequently or stand the pot on a saucer filled with gravel and a little water.

Keep temperatures warmer for desert plants. Cyclamen and Azaleas are not happy in high temperatures, though African violets, Steptocarpus (Cape primrose) and Poinsettias are. Tough foliage like Yucca, Palms and Aspidistra are better in cooler rooms.

Keep leaves looking their best by removing dust gently with a soft cloth or brush and then wipe with a moist cloth.

[Source:- Housebeautiful]

How to take care of your orangery, conservatory and garden room this winter

Orangeries - Auburn Hill

The winter months are some of the most exciting and yearned for; crisp country walks, cosy log fires and chunky blankets. But if you are lucky enough to have a conservatory, orangery or garden room, the winter season can pose a threat.

In order to be able to continue to use this room to appreciate the pink winter sunsets and robins on the lawn, you must be prepared to take several steps. Paul Matthews, managing director at Auburn Hill, explains exactly what you need to do:

1. GUTTERING AND DRAINAGE

The guttering and downspouts that many orangeries and conservatories possess are known to become blocked in both the autumn and winter months, as the leaves fall and the weather becomes unfavourable with lashings of wind and rain.

Clearing them of debris and leaves is not going to be the highlight of your year, but it’s going to pay off long term. If guttering becomes blocked during the wet weather, gutters can leak, and this inherently leads to internal damp and mould growth – far from ideal at any time of the year!

By doing this, you also have the opportunity to identify any part of the guttering that is old, tired and a little worse for wear, or if it is damaged. If this is the case, the problems should be replaced or repaired immediately before the water can infiltrate the brickwork.

While dry days are ideal for this chore, frosty days also make it a little easier – just make sure you have someone with you to ensure accidents don’t occur while using a ladder.

2. TREES AND SHRUBBERY

As the temperatures plummet and the air gets damp – we would rather retreat indoors to practise hygge rather than continue cutting the lawn and preening trees and bushes. But it’s incredibly important that you make trimming your garden a priority if it’s home to the aforementioned flora.

As the wind is whipping around your garden, hearing next door’s gate being thrown around should be your biggest worry – not the branches from your Japanese cherry tree about to crack the glazing in your orangery.

Trees, hedges and bushes should be trimmed right back to prevent them causing damage to your orangery or conservatory. Branches that are dead or weak should be removed completely as these pose the biggest threat to your home extension.

[Source:- Housebeautiful]

HOW TO FIND THE PERFECT PILLOW

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The Benjamin hotel in New York City offers guests an extensive pillow menu. Their sleep experts tell us how to find the perfect pillow for sweet dreams.

 
At New York City’s The Benjamin, a luxury hotel in Midtown East, everyone takes a good night’s sleep very seriously. To that end, the hotel has instituted the Rest & Renew sleep program, which offers everything from blackout drapes to earplugs to a pillow menu. All front-desk staff are trained to help guests find the perfect pillow. This innovative program is headed by sleep medicine expert Rebecca Robbins, a professor and co-author of the book Sleep for Success!.

Here are some of Rebecca’s tips for finding the perfect pillow for the best possible sleep.

1 Spend as much as your budget can afford
“A mattress and pillow are the foundation of a good night’s sleep,” Rebecca says. “When folks come to me, I say, spend as much budget as you can afford on them. We spend one-third of life sleeping; the more tailored to your sleep and the more luxurious the pillows and mattress are, the better the quality of your sleep. It’s a win-win.” And a big part of the experience is the pillow, she says.

2 Figure out how you sleep: Side, back or stomach
“A pillow menu is increasingly common in the hospitality industry,” Rebecca says. “Often they are gimmicky, but for The Benjamin, I was very excited that we can educate guests about sleeping positions so they make informed decisions.”  Rebecca and The Benjamin segmented it into three sleeping-style types: namely, back, stomach and side sleepers. The underlying premise, according to Rebecca is that back sleepers need a firmer pillow, side sleepers a moderate-thickness pillow, and stomach sleepers need a thinner version.

3 What about “mixed” sleepers?
I explained to Rebecca my own habits: I start out on my side, and inevitably wake up on my back. “We typically say the position you start out in and feel coziest is the one you usually stay in. So you’re probably a side sleeper,” she says. “In that case I would recommend a pillow of moderate thickness,” she says. Personal preference will play a role too, she says.

4 What’s a common pillow purchasing mistake people make?
A common pillow-purchasing error: “Getting distracted by a nice package,” Rebecca says. Focusing on the size, colour, fabric, and even the brand of the pillow without awareness of how you are sleeping is a big no-no, she says. People get caught up in trends and latest-and-greatest promises, without a thought as to how they actually spend their time sleeping, resulting in a pillow choice that isn’t right for their sleep habits.

5 When is it time for a new pillow?
Pillows need to be replaced every one to two years, she says. A pillow protector will dramatically extend its life, possibly up to three years. As a reluctant pillow purchaser, I am shocked. “But I wash mine regularly even though I don’t replace them,” I protest. “That will keep the dust mites down, but try the pillow fold test,” she says. That entails folding a pillow in half. If the pillow bounces back to its flat state, it’s still good. If it stays folded in half, it’s time for it to go. “Try it tonight,” she says. I do. My clean three-year-old pillows all fail.

6 Test the new pillow
Make sure you test-drive a new pillow before purchase, Rebecca says. That means trying it out in the mattress or bedding store. “One thing to keep in mind is that price is significantly related to quality,” she says. Bargain pillows won’t be much of a bargain if they cause poor sleep or if you have to replace them quickly.

The Benjamin’s pillows
Perhaps you’ve stayed at a hotel with a pillow menu. The pillows have wry or sophisticated names and make big promises about improving the quality of your sleep, but they don’t always provide information on how to match the pillow to your sleep style. The Benjamin’s pillow offerings will give you an idea of the variety of pillows on the market today — it’s not just the feather fill of the pillow fights of yore. High-tech (and low-tech) materials, surprising ingredients and tailored shapes will take you by surprise if you haven’t shopped for a pillow lately.

Here’s how the experts at The Benjamin break it down:

Cloud 10
This pillow features a whopping 10 million air beads to keep your head cool and provide firm support for back sleepers.

Lullaby
If you love listening to music to put you in a restful state, but your sleep-mate objects, the Lullaby pillow is one of the coolest new offerings on the Benjamin’s pillow menu. You can actually hook up your MP3 or iPod to this thinner pillow for stomach sleepers.

Anti Snore
The Anti Snore pillow helps to lift the chin up to alleviate snoring. It’s great for back sleeping snorers as it helps to keep the airway open at night.

Swedish Memory Foam
Memory foam isn’t new on the market, and those who love it swear by it as it molds to comfortably cradle the head during sleep. This pillow is for side or back sleepers.

Water filled
Good old-fashioned water fills this pillow that is recommended for stomach sleepers. A vinyl cushion is filled with either cold or warm water and can be adjusted for firmness or support levels. It also can help reduce headaches or neck pain.

Sleep for Success side pillow
This pillow style is probably closer, in shape and description to the pillows you’re used to. Which can be a good thing if you’re a picky side sleeper looking for a pillow that is similar to the ones you’re used to. This one features a two-inch baffle design.

Sleep for Success back pillow
A firmer version of the previously mentioned side pillow, this one has a firm outer chamber and a soft center chamber.

Five-foot body cushion
Even pregnant women and post-surgery patients’ needs are considered at The Benjamin. This five-foot long cushion is great for aligning the spine and relieving joint pain.

 

 

[Source:- styleathome]

How to care for your orchids: maintenance tips and what not to do

Three different types of orchid: (left-right): Phalaenopsis, Paphiopedilum and Vanda.

There are over 25,000 types of orchids, and contrary to popular belief, they are extremely easy to look after.

To a certain degree, the orchid actually appreciates negligence, and while bringing instant colour to your home, with the right care, they can give a long-lasting flower display. Get some top maintenance tips below, including how to make your orchids last longer.

GENERAL CARE AND MAINTENANCE

Is your orchid shedding its flowers, or has it turned yellow and limp? Find a solution below to these common ailments. 

Problem: If your orchid sheds flowers or flower butts, this is an indication that your plant hasn’t got enough water or sunlight.

Solution: Give it a more luminous surrounding, and soak its roots once a week.

Problem: Yellow leaves can be caused by exposing your orchid to too much sunlight.

Solution: Place your orchid in light surroundings, but not in direct sunlight e.g. a side table near the window would be the perfect location.

Problem: Limp leaves are indicative of a water deficiency or, in contrary, water excess. If the orchid’s roots are grey, this means your orchid is suffering from water deprivation.

Solution: It’s best to soak your orchid in a bucket or sink for 10 to 15 minutes. If the orchid roots are brown, this indicates that your orchid was given too much water. Sometimes, the orchid will grow new roots (after its bloom).


3 WAYS TO MAKE YOUR ORCHIDS LAST LONGER

  1. Place your orchid in a bright place but refrain from placing it in direct sunlight.
  2. Water it once a week, you can do this by dipping its roots into a bucket or sink, just ensure you let it drain properly before putting it back into its pot. In winter, it’s best to water it every 10 days.
  3. Prolong its bloom by giving it plant food once a month.

WHAT NOT TO DO…

  • Orchids dislike a slight draft, direct sunlight, and being in hot conditions.
  • Refrain from placing the orchid near a fruit bowl too as the fruit bowls produce gases that have a deteriorating effect on flowers.

 

[Source:- Housebeautiful]

How to create the perfect winter garden wonderland

Lantern in a winter garden

The festive season may be here but don’t neglect your outside space. While you’re busy beautifying your home and getting your tree ready, you can also create a magical space in your garden.

In fact, all it takes is a little planning and activity. Here, garden specialists Oeco Garden Rooms give their tips on creating the perfect winter garden wonderland.

1. GARDEN LAYOUT

Having the right garden layout from the get go is the most important thing, not only for the summer months when the flowers are in bloom but also the winter as the plants start to die off; this is where you will see the bare bones of the garden and if it is not laid out properly it can look gloomy and untidy.

Wall gardens, hedges and raised flower beds are all great ways of adding structure to the garden, providing designated areas for different activities and can be repurposed for different times of the year.

2. ADD SEASONAL COLOURS TO YOUR GARDEN

Adding seasonal colours such as red and white will make the garden more inviting and flowers such as Hellebores are a great choice. These flowers, sometimes known as the Christmas rose are pastel pink and white in colour and produce big leaves that fill the space in the garden. They flower for a long time as well, generally lasting between late winter and early spring.

Another white flower to consider is Clematis Jingle Bells; these flowers have a bold white colour and typically flower from December to January. Clematis Jingle Bells will need some pruning to keep the size down as they can grow up to five metres high.

Fir trees are the quintessential winter wonderland accessory especially when it snows; they are evergreen and require very little maintenance, but be sure to choose a small species of fir tree as some can grow up to 80 feet tall.

For a festive touch in your garden, why not opt for a holly tree. Make sure that you get a male bush are these are the ones that produce those signature red berries. For those who do not have the space for a Holly tree, Cotoneaster horizontal is or Pyracantha are a great choice for adding a pop of colour to the garden.

3. THE WINTER SCENT

While the inside of the house smells of cinnamon, spices and oranges to evoke the festive spirit, the garden is largely forgotten, but there are various ways of creating the sweet smell of winter in the garden with scented flowers.

Planting Witch Hazel is a great choice to add a wintery scent to the garden; its large yellow flowers release a delicious scent of liquorice into the air. Winter honeysuckle is also a good choice, producing a lemony-fresh scent.

For those who want an evergreen shrub that has little maintenance then Sarcococca is the perfect fit. Commonly known as the Christmas Box or Sweet Box, Sarcococca produces small white flowers with a lush, leathery foliage and best of all it exudes a fragrant honey scent during the winter.

4. DECORATE YOUR WONDERLAND

Your winter garden wonderland wouldn’t be complete without some decoration. Fairy lights and lanterns are a great way of creating light in an outdoor space and can be hung on trees, draped over bushes or hung from outdoor structures like sheds, garden rooms and decking.

For those on a budget, there are plenty of things to do that won’t cost a lot of money including tying festive ribbons to tree branches, hanging wreaths around the garden and decorating trees with baubles and tinsel.

5. BUILD A FIRE PIT

Many people give the garden a miss during the winter months because of the cold, but adding a heat source is easy and cheap and provides an outdoor space that can be used all year round. Patio heaters and chimera’s are a great way of adding heat to the garden, and building your own fire pit is a cheap way for the whole family to gather around and enjoy.

6. ATTRACT ROBINS TO YOUR GARDEN

If there is one bird that evokes a winter wonderland, then it’s a robin redbreast. These majestic birds are strongly associated with Christmas, taking a starring role in many festive cards since the mid-19th century.

Robins will often come when other birds are around, so make sure that you put plenty of food out for all the birds. Black sunflower seeds and seed balls are great for attracting various species of birds, but be sure to avoid dried lentils as only certain birds can eat them. Robins are also fond of crushed nuts so placing some on a bird table is sure to get them knocking.

[Source:- Housebeautiful]

How to Hack Your Own Network and Beef Up Its Security with Kali Linux

Kali Linux is a security-focused operating system you can run off a CD or USB drive, anywhere. With its security toolkit you can crack Wi-Fi passwords, create fake networks, and test other vulnerabilities. Here’s how to use it to give your own a network a security checkup.

This post is part of our Evil Week series at Lifehacker, where we look at the dark side of getting things done. Knowing evil means knowing how to beat it, so you can use your sinister powers for good. Want more? Check out our evil week tag page.

 

 

[Source: Lifehacker]

Refresh and Revive: How to make the perfect green juice

Refresh and Revive: How to make the perfect green juice

‘Spring-clean your diet with a delicious green juice,’ says health expert and yogi Kimberly Parsons, author of Yoga Kitchen and owner of London’s world-renowned Retreat Cafés. Try her favourite green juice recipe here as she shares her top tips on how to add a dose of ‘liquid sunshine’ to your day…

Before you start however, grab yourself an impressive juicer design, such as Panasonic’s exciting new slow-speed MJ-L500. This stylish and slim-line model gently crushes and presses fruits and vegetables to extract maximum juice, without damaging important nutrients and enzymes. And after a week of juicing, you can make use of its frozen attachment, which is ideal for preparing iced drinks and frozen desserts on a Friday night!

‘By adding an alkalising green juice or smoothie to your daily routine, you’ll enjoy an instant pick-me-up and benefit from a lasting energised feeling,’ says Kimberly Parsons. ‘The best time to have your juice is in the morning, on an empty stomach when it’s at the most active and able to fully digest and absorb the nutrients we give it. To make sure we hold onto those healthy nutrients, make sure to drink your green juice at least an hour before any caffeine-fuelled teas or coffee.

‘For those of you just starting out on the juicing road, you may like to add some sweetness, such as apple, pineapple or coconut water. You can juice just about anything, but my only rule with juicing fruits is that they should never constitute more than 30% of the overall juice.

My top 7 ingredients for a green juice include:

CELERY

At 95% water and only 7 calories per 100g, you burn more chewing it, but the phytochemicals it contains provide flavour and calming properties. As a natural diuretic, it rids the body of surplus fluid, so it is perfect for women with monthly bouts of swollen hands, feet or breasts.

FENNEL

Calming to the digestion, it reduces intestinal cramps and bloating and works as an anti-inflammatory. Fennel has also been found to help release endorphins into the bloodstream, and so may help relieve depression and dampen anxiety.

GREEN LEAVES SUCH AS SPINACH, KALE, CHARD, WATERCRESS AND ROCKET

Green leafy vegetables give iron and chlorophyll – aka ‘liquid sunshine’ – to your juice. The chlorophyll transports oxygen to our cells.

BROCCOLI

I love to use the stalk, which is good for digestion.

HERBS SUCH AS PARSLEY, MINT AND CORIANDER

Used for centuries, fresh herbs have unique nutritional and healing properties. Be experimental as you can’t go wrong with these!

GINGER OR TURMERIC

Anti-inflammatory and great for stomach upsets and improving the absorption of nutrients in the body. Ginger will add a little ‘heat’ to your juice.

LEMON OR LIME

These are a natural anti-bacterial, full of nutrients such as vitamin C and beta carotene. Just a ¼ of a lemon will cut through the bitterness of the greens.

Try Kimberly Parson’s Green Goddess Juice recipe

Serves 2

Ingredients

50g (2oz/1 cup) spinach leaves

1⁄2 lemon, peeled and pith removed

2.5cm (1in) piece of fresh ginger, peeled

3 celery sticks

1 large fennel bulb

1 cucumber

Method

 

[Source: Panasonic]

Learning to Pick Locks Taught Me How Crappy Door Locks Really Are

 

About a month ago, I picked up a training lockpick set. I’ve always been curious about how lock picking works and how difficult it really is. In the process of learning, I discovered not only how easy it was, but how to look beyond the lock when it comes to protecting my home.

Before you get too hopeful, no this won’t be a guide on how to pick locks.We’ve done that already during our Evil Week series, and we still think it’s good to learn how security measures are broken so it doesn’t happen to you. However, understanding how locks work isn’t the same as keeping them safe. And protecting against a lock pick isn’t the same as securing your home.

Most Locks Are Stupid Easy to Pick

When I first got my lockpick set, it came with a set of keys on a ring locked to the lock itself. It was almost a challenge. “You want the keys to this lock? You’ll have to pick it first.” To my surprise, I had the lock open inside of five minutes. Granted, this was a transparent lock that’s specifically designed for training. If this were a regular lock on an actual door, it would have taken me considerably more time (and it did, the first time I tried it), but I was amazed at how simple it was. In fact, with a little practice, I was raking the pick across the pins in one quick motion and unlocking it in seconds. I still have a harder time picking locks in Fallout 4.

Naturally, my next thought was “Is this what’s protecting my house?” So, I decided to research a bit into how much door locks differ from this training padlock. The answer? Not much. There are some ways that locks can be made more pick resistant. For example, some Medeco locks use pins that not only need to be elevated to the correct height, but also need to be rotated a certain way before the lock will open. Of course, “pick resistant” locks are just that. They make it harder to pick a lock, but it’s by no means impossible. It just might take a little longer. More importantly, common door locks usually don’t have these features.

So, how do you know if the lock on your home can be picked easily? The ANSI Grading System is a good place to start. This is a voluntary, independent grading system that the lock industry uses to self-evaluate how good a lock is at preventing break ins. Grade 3 locks are the weakest, rated as the minimum required for residential security (which should give you an idea of where your house’s lock ranks on the security totem pole), while Grade 1 locks are the strongest.

Out of curiosity, I decided to look up how secure the lock is on my home. I have a Yale double-cylinder deadbolt. It’s easily the nicest lock of any home I’ve ever lived in, and it’s still only an ANSI Grade 2. It’s better-than-average for a residential lock, but it’s still not the best you can get. If you want the best lock on the block, Grade 1 is where it’s at. These locks include pick resistant features, tougher materials, and reinforced strike plates. However, as we’ve discussed before, putting a fancy lock on your door may just advertise to thieves that you’ve got some cool stuff in your house. If you’re going to get a Grade 1 deadbolt, at least make sure it doesn’t look much different from normal ones.

Once I started learning about lock picking, I found myself in a few forums dedicated to teaching the art. The more I explored, the more I learned that while lock picking is a fun hobby, it’s not the most efficient way to bypass a lock. Modern pin tumbler locks have been around for centuries, and people have found better ways of breaking into them. Here are just a few methods:

  • Bump keys: A bump key is like a regular key, with slots for the pins filed far enough down to fit any lock. A quick bump is all it takes to line up every pin in a lock and open it. It’s scary easy. While each bump key still has to match the profile ridges, most home locks use only a few key shapes to begin with. Bump keys can be made from regular blank keys you find at your local hardware store or you can buy ready-made bump keys online. Hell, you can even 3D print bump keys, if you were so inclined. A thief with a few of these on his key ring could easily open most home locks. Worse yet, he might not even look like he’s breaking in. He might just look like he’s fiddling with a particularly stubborn lock.
  • Lock snapping: Some locks are vulnerable to a particularly nasty type of attack called lock snapping. With this technique, applying a small amount of pressure in the right way would actually break a lock in half, rendering it useless. This is a big problem in certain parts of the UK, where many homes were equipped with fragile cylinder locks that could be broken with minimal force. This technique was so common, professional thieveswouldn’t bother picking the lock. Most locks aren’t going to be vulnerable to this type of attack, but by the time it was discovered, millions of homes already had these flawed locks installed.
  • Credit cards: If you’ve ever wondered why you need a deadbolt on top of a regular lock, it’s because of this. With the credit card method, you can wedge a small, flat piece of plastic in between the door and its frame. If the lock you’re opening has a slanted edge (which allows you to close an already-locked door behind you), you can force it open enough to pry the door open. Deadbolts don’t have this slanted edge and must be locked using a key, so they can’t be opened this way. Yes, this is the method used in every movie and TV show ever, and yes it does actually work sometimes.

All these methods are only about bypassing locks. That doesn’t even come close to all the ways that someone can break into a house. If you’re an experienced thief that’s looking for the easiest way to get through a locked door, any one of these methods will be more efficient and easier than kneeling in front of a door with a couple of thin pieces of metal, gently moving tiny pins that you can’t see into place. Lock picking, as a means of break-in, is really a last resort.

Most Thieves Break In Without Picking Your Lock Anyway

Once you learn how easy it is to pick (or bypass) a lock, it’s easy to get hung up on preventing it. After all, every thief in their right mind would learn this skill if it were so easy, wouldn’t they? As it turns out, not really. According to theWashington Post, the most common home burglaries are committed by male teenagers who live within a couple miles of your home. In other words, these aren’t pros. They’re brats.

Impulsive criminals tend to use more brute force methods to get into a home, rather than tediously picking a lock. Thieves might simply kick the door down (which reinforced strike plates are designed to prevent), smash a nearby window, or enter through the back door that you forgot to lock (whoops). According to FBI statistics, as of 2010, a full 60.5% of all burglaries involvedforcible entry, which includes either breaking doors and windows, or threatening the occupants inside.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that door locks are useless. It’s true that if someone wants in badly enough, they can find a way to get in. However, smashing windows or kicking down doors is a surefire way to get noticed. Threatening people directly is even worse if you get caught, since it comes with additional charges. If those are the only options a thief has, they might be more willing to go to your neighbor’s house with the key under the mat, instead of yours.

Security Is All About Outsmarting Someone Else

Years of movies and video games taught me that picking locks was what all master thieves do. It’s so cool, and you look smart doing it. And I will admit, it’s fun to learn and practice. I feel a little better knowing that if I’m ever locked out of my own house, I have an option besides sitting on the sidewalk and whimper until my girlfriend comes home.

However, learning how to pick locks didn’t teach me a damn thing about how to stop a thief. Instead, I learned how thieves really operate. The more I researched how to get into locked rooms, the more I understood how a would-be criminal would approach the problem of getting into my house. With that knowledge, I found a few key takeaways:

  • Making your house less attractive is the best deterrent. If a thief wants to get in, your lock isn’t going to stop them. So make sure they don’t want to get in. Don’t leave the giant boxes for all your expensive gadgets next to your trash can. Keep your blinds closed. And as attractive as they may be now that you know how easy locks are to pick, don’t put those crazy expensive smart locks on your doors. All that says is “I have stuff worth stealing in here.”
  • Make it hard to hide outside your home. Lock picking isn’t attractive because it takes time. The more time a thief spends outside your home, the more likely they are to be spotted. Make it even easier to spot a thief(and thus more likely they won’t try) by installing automated motion lights outside. Reduce the amount of shrubbery near your front door. The more hidden your front door is, the easier it is for a thief to sneak in.
  • Hide your valuables, even inside your home. Don’t stop your home security at the front door. Assume a thief can still get inside if they want to (because they can), and hide your most important valuables. You can also leave a bit of cash lying around to give a thief an easy score, which might discourage them from trashing the house to find your real valuables elsewhere.

Learning how to pick a lock was a fun exercise. It gave me insight into how the basics of physical security work, but it also helped highlight what really matters. When it comes to protecting your home, you don’t have to build a fortress. You just have to outsmart the person who’s trying to break in. Whether that’s by convincing them you’re not a good target, or simply minimizing the damage done if they break in, the more you can think like a thief, the better you can protect yourself from their attacks.\

 

[Source: HFN]