Does window security film work?

This is a question which gets asked a lot, but the problem is that it isn’t specific enough. And maybe that is the first lesson someone should understand when asking about security.

What TYPE of security is someone talking about?


Against WHAT type of intruder?

Everyone knows how different prisons are classified, for example there are Minimum Security Prisons and then there are Maximum Security Prisons and across North America there are even prisons which are  called Super-Max prisons. It follows that the higher the level of security of a prison the more dangerous the criminals who are being held inside. 

Back to our question, Does window security film really work? The most likely answer is NO it doesn’t work. I’ll explain why. It has to do with the comparison of Minimum and Maximum Security. 

I need to assume that the security film is being used to prevent a break-in by a criminal, and understanding the motivation of a home break-in it is easy to see that delaying the entry into your home by a few seconds is not going to classify as “It Worked!”

Forced entry into a home typically involves the use of some type of tool or weapon. Window films do SLOW DOWN a break in process but they rarely ever stop it dead in its tracks. Here’s why.

Security Window Learning

Common everyday windows and doors are designed and constructed with two thoughts in mind.Burglar breaking in to home

1. Keep the inside temperature constant

2. Allow easy operation.

Common windows and doors do nothing for security, except the most minimal, which is easily overcome by even a mildly determined intruder. Regular windows and doors may be superior at keeping out the pitter patter of the rain or the puffs of wind from a thunderstorm, but they simply are not designed or constructed to stop a determined aggressive person from breaking in.

The idea that you can take such a minimally designed product and turn it into some super resistant heavy duty intruder deterrent is nonsensical. 

You can’t just throw a little film onto a fragile substrate and expect it to act as a form of serious security, it just doesn’t make sense.

Buyer Beware when looking into window films, it is a non-regulated industry and any manufacturer can say whatever they want to get you Stopwatch Timeto buy their product. But heres the truth. Window films will only slow down a break in, they will not stop it. And by slow down I mean, if it takes 5 seconds to break regular glass with a hammer then it will take maybe 20 seconds to break the same glass if it has a film on it.

So in a small way this may frustrate a small portion of weak-hearted intruders, but it will be no match for the serious and angry intruders who want into your home.

The better question to ask yourself about window films is not, Do they work? rather ask yourself this. 

Do I want to frustrate all intruders or only the weak willed ones?

If you only want to stop the small percentage of weak willed intruders then window film is a valid option, but there is no guarantee it will work. On the other hand if you do want to seriously inhibit or make it very very difficult for even the most determined intruders then window film will simply not do the job.

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Security window Film

Security window film is designed to make the most fragile spots of your building envelope a little tougher to break. Glass is extremely fragile and is very easy to break. This represents a massive vulnerability to your home from a security point of view. If someone wants in all they have to do is find glass in a window or door and smash it, in some cases they don’t even need to use and tools and can do it with their body. 

Broken Glass

These spots in your building’s construction are called “Soft Spots” and they are a target for intruders.Burglary Target on home

Soft Spots offer an easy way to get into a home to begin to steal items or worse. Window films are designed to make these soft spots not so soft. But in most cases, window security film is more of a psychological pacification for the home owner than it is a real security measure.

Most homes are not built with security in mind, in fact the the entire home construction market is almost completely lax in considerations of security. New products are thinner and made of cheaper and cheaper materials, regular construction is going in the opposite direction of security.

It doesn’t matter if your home is old or new either, it is very likely that your home does not have robust security built into it’s design. To solve this problem there are a large number of ‘After-Market’ products which one can add on to ones home to try to make it more secure. But in the end this just amounts to putting on a minimal layer onto a very compromised layer. It just isn’t a good way to go if you are looking for real security.

Window films are an aftermarket product to be place on structures which have almost no security built-in in the first place.

Another consideration is that window films only go onto the glass in a window or door and they do nothing to enhance the hardware or the Wood Window Construction Detailframes of the window or door.

From a practical point of view window films should be called “Glass strengthener films” because that is what they do, they make glass a little stronger, and that’s all they do.

The two things that window films have going for them are

1) it’s cheap

2) its not a big deal to install.

So if you are looking for a no-muss no-fuss, quick and cheap way to make the glass in your windows just a little bit stronger, then window film is for you.

On the other hand if you are seeking real security from determined intruders who may be on drugs or very desperate then Window Film may not offer the level of security you are looking for.

 Security Glass Window

Security Glass is a specific description of a material which is both transparent and has qualities or characteristics which make it very resistant to impacts. Much has been written about this in other parts of this website but right now it is important to make the distinction between Security Glass Windows and how the words are used.Window Film vs Laminated Glass

The first thing to understand is that Security Glass is a typically used in places where there are valuables which may be the target of thieves. Public locations like banks, jewelry stores, high-end store, retailers who carry expensive items, or almost anyplace where there is a significant amount of cash, all of these types of places may use security glass windows. But there is a very important point to be made here, in 99% of the cases mentioned above, the security glass window is a fixed element, meaning it is not operating.

Retail Security Glass windows or similar security glass applications are almost always fixed non- operable slabs of some polymer or polycarbonate or acrylic. They are heavy, they are strong, they are almost impossible to breakthrough and as a result they are also directly built into the environments where they are providing safety and security.

Much like a transparent wall, it is not part of the building which is moving. By contrast windows in a home are designed to be able to open and close for the purpose of letting air in and out. 

Windows which open and close are called “operable” and this is a big distinction from non-operable security glass windows. Operable Security Glass Windows need to be able to do all the things that stationary security glass windows do as well as be easy to open and close. this isn’t a small requirement, particularly when one considers that security glass is a very heavy product.

Operable Security Glass windows are a robust combination of heavy duty laminated glass placed in a robust sash which is attached to a hardened frame via strong hardware and is integrated into the building envelope.

That’s a lot of engineering and design considerations to bundle into one product. 

True Security Glass windows which operate are actually quite a rare item. Swiss Shade and Security has been at the leading edge of the industry regarding High Security Operable windows and doors, we look forward to assisting you with your high security needs.

Awning Windows – Awning Window Security

Awning Window
Milgard window

Awning windows are similar to casement windows in many ways therefor many of the same arguments made above regarding casement windows are the same for awning windows. The main difference between  casement and awning windows are similar to the comparison of double hung and sliders.

That is, awnings use similar hardware to a casement but in a different orientation. Awning windows have the sash connected to the frame by hinges on the top of the window, so the sash swings out from the frame much  like the cover over a mail slot.

Similar to the casement window, awnings only use the most light duty of hardware because the requirement of the hardware is to keep out wind and rain, it is not designed to keep out thieves or intruders. For the same reasons as the casement and double hung, after market treatments do not have the ability to convert a common awning into a security awing, it simply doesn’t work like that.

Fixed windows (Non-operator) – Fixed Window Security.

In a fixed window there is no sash and no operating hardware. it is simply a glass unit mounted into a frame. It could be imagined that for a fixed window it would be possible to place security glass into it. But this concept should be considered from an engineering point of view and looked at rationally.

Frame construction of common (or typical) windows is a mass production, lowest price wins, state of affairs. This means that the only level of certainty you have when buying a typical window is that it will keep out most wind and rain. There is never security built into common frames, and it would be dangerous to think so.

So it is impossible to take a regular window frame and put high security glass and to be able to reasonably call the window a “security window”.

At best it should be called “a security glass unit inside a common window frame”.Burglar coming in window

In the aftermath of a break-in and robbery to someones home, there is always a very detailed investigation into what the exact weakness was that the intruder exploited. The purpose of this article is to elucidate upon the different characteristics of window construction and to breakdown the possible weak-points of common window designs. More importantly, this article is designed to give you the education before hand of what you need to think about regarding window security. 

Keep Learning about Window Security Types and Films