Buying a Security Door in Medellín for Improved Home Security

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Typical Security Door
Typical Security Door

Home security is important in Medellín and Colombia.  I have installed a security door in two apartments I rented in Medellín for improved security and improved peace of mind.

I travel several times each year for work.  My Colombian wife is also frequently in school so our apartment is sometimes empty.  So we feel much more secure with a security door.

My wife also feels more secure with a security door when she is home alone. We also travel together on vacation each year leaving the apartment empty for a week or more at times.

I am not really a fan of alarm systems as I had a bad experience with an alarm system in the U.S. My home in the U.S. was broken into and many things were stolen when I was away on business.

This was even though I had a monitored alarm system. Plus there are ongoing costs for a monitored alarm system.

Last year I met an expat with an alarm system living in El Poblado and he told me that his apartment was still broken into when he was away. A criminal kicked in his front door and the alarm response was after the criminal was already gone.

He said his loss included two laptops, an expensive camera and a couple watches.  Plus his small safe containing cash was broken into – for a total loss of well over $10,000.

This was in an apartment building in El Poblado with a 24×7 porteria. After I told this expat about the security door I had installed, he quickly installed a security door.

I have seen statistics that most criminals can burglarize a home in less than 10 minutes so an alarm system with slower response really can’t help.

Statistically most home invasions are actually made through exterior doors.  Most break-ins are not through windows, as most people believe. So a security door can be a first line of defense against an illegal entry into your home.

Also in the U.S. someone is reportedly home during three out of every ten home burglaries. This demonstrates there is risk of your home being broken into even if you are at home.

Typical Security Door With Wood Exterier
Typical security door with wood exterior

Benefits of a Security Door

A security door is very strong and can much better withstand and deter home invasion than a regular door.

A criminal is extremely likely to bypass an apartment or home with a security door and focus on breaking into a home with a door that is easier to break into.

Many of the standard exterior doors found on apartments and homes in Medellín are made of wood.  Some are even hollow wood doors. They normally also have inexpensive wood frames. They are relatively easy to break into.

Some standard doors in Medellín also use cylinder locks that are very easy to break into with lock bumping using a bump key.

In comparison, security doors typically have a strong and sturdy frame, often made from steel or wrought iron.  This makes these doors much more secure than common exterior doors with wooden frames.

Security doors are typically made using a steel interior.  They may have a wood exterior to match existing doors. Security doors are also resistant to bullets.

They also typically have bars/deadbolts on three or four sides. When I lock my current security door there are actually 15 bars/deadbolts that lock.

Security doors in Medellín typically have heavy-duty bump-resistant locks. A locksmith normally can’t break into these locks, as they are nearly impossible to open without an original key.

Security doors are specifically designed so they are not easy to break into. So there is a downside.  If you forget your key or lose your key it may require a major expense to physically break into the door and then repair it.

Security door in my current apartment
Security door in my current apartment, exterior matches other doors in the building

Where to Buy a Security Door?

You can find security doors for sale in HomeCenter.  But they only come in a few standard door sizes and there will be an additional charge for installation.

The first security door I bought in Medellín several years ago was from Puertas Colmena for an apartment I was previously renting in Belén.

I negotiated with the owner of the apartment I was renting and the owner eventually paid for half of the security door. The door was a standard sized door that Colmena had in stock.

The total cost of the door including installation was 2,450,000 pesos and I paid for half. The installation took two days including some cement work and painting.

I also installed a security door in my current apartment in Sabaneta. Similar to my first security door, I negotiated with the owner of the apartment and he agreed to pay for half of the door.

We got quotes from two companies – Puertas Colmena and Difusion – and Difusion was a bit cheaper. Plus my apartment owner had a good experience previously with Difusion so we decided on Difusion.

The entry door of my apartment in Sabaneta is larger than a standard door so a custom security door had to be manufactured.

The door manufacturing took about a month.  The door installation including some cement work and painting took three days. The new security door matches the old door exactly. The total cost of the custom Difusion door including installation was 4 million pesos and I paid for half of this.

Note if you install a security door in a rented apartment make sure to inform the owner.  You may be able to negotiate with the owner to pay for part of the door, as I was able to do twice.

The Bottom Line

Security is important in Medellín and you will see many first and second floor homes and apartments in the city with bars in windows. Some apartments and homes in the city also have security doors.

Both apartment buildings where I installed security doors have 24×7 porterias (doormen). But these 24×7 porterias will not necessarily protect against home invasions, as home invaders could be other residents or visitors.

In my previous apartment building where I lived in Belén I am aware of at least two apartments in the building that were broken into.  This happened even though this building has armed guards. Both of these break-ins were through inexpensive wood front doors.

After we installed a security door in our previous apartment and after the break-ins, the apartment building administration even sent out a notice to residents about the break-ins and recommended installation of security doors.  After that I noticed several other residents in the building installing security doors.

While I’m not aware of any break-ins in my current apartment building in Sabaneta the bottom line is we feel much more secure by having a security door. We now have no worries when we leave our apartment empty, even for an extended period.

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13 COMMENTS

  1. Hello Jeff,

    I appreciated your info abt the security door! The thought crossed my mind for when I move to Colombia bcuz I lived in Morningside Heights (East Harlem)in the bad old early 90’s when I was attending Columbia University…

    A couple things – a lot of my friends had break-ins during this crack epidemic in Harlem and DUMBO (Brooklyn) where we moved after Harlem the late 90’s…

    A lot of them bought these special locks that were set in the middle of the door and had 2 arms that straddled both ways into the frame of the door…I forgot the name of these locks, but maybe it would be worth bringing one of those to Colombia to install…I think they are like $500…

    Also another issue is the burglars would smash the wall on either side of the door bcuz it was basically only sheet rock – so no matter how strong the door was the adjoining wall was easy to sledgehammer through and enter the apt that way…

    So I guess to be absolutely safe it would be worth reinforcing the walls with steel on either side of the door…Probably better for fires also…

    Just a thought!

    Thanks again for the suggestion!

    Best Regards,
    Richard London

    • Hi Richard,

      Exterior walls in Medellín tend to be made of concrete or masonry – you won’t find sheetrock/drywall so walls aren’t as easy to break into. There is almost no wood frame home construction in Colombia and there is very little use of drywall in Colombia even for interior walls. I had to buy a hammer drill to drill holes in walls to enable hanging things on walls in all the apartments I have rented in Colombia as none of the walls use drywall.

  2. Hello Jeff,

    I found the name of the lock i was referring to in my earlier post – Fox Police Locks…

    I am not sure if they have anything similar in Medellin?

    Anyway…just thought I would put the info out there and see what you thought…

    I really enjoy “Medellin Living” Keep up the great work!

    Best Regards,
    Richard L.

    • I haven’t seen something like Fox Police Locks for sale in Medellín.

      The security doors sold in Medellín look to be an improvement over this as the door is replaced with a much more secure door with a metal interior plus the locks and deadbolts/bars are built into the security door instead of an add-on like a Fox Police Lock.

    • Many houses in the Old City have similar locks to the Fox Police locks. With the elaborate front doors it is often impossible to install a modern security door as mentioned in Jeff’s post.

  3. This information may be useful to many – thanks Jeff! After living many years in Canada and the US I have a question: Does “stand your ground” policy exist in Colombia? Are firearms ownership allowed, if not concealed carry than at least to keep lawfully purchased firearm at home, including for self-defense?

    As we all know, criminals never follow the rule of law and are always armed. Law abiding citizens must not be deprived of their God given right to self-defense not to become sitting ducks in their own homes each and every time a violent, armed criminal breaks in.

    Also, as I know from my own experience, criminals are less willing to risk their lives if they suspect that the resident may be at home and he may be armed and ready to defend himself with lawfully acquired firearm in full compliance with the law. Criminals are never afraid of jail, but they normally do not want to risk their life.

    A shotgun in hands of a licensed (where required by law) and responsible law abiding citizen is as good as a reinforced door for crime prevention purposes. Of course it never hurts to have both. We know about doors from this great post – thanks again, Jeff! It will be great to know about guns in hands of good law abiding people.

    • Firearm ownership is permitted in Colombia but you must be licensed with the government plus firearms and ammunition must be purchased from the military, as the military is the only organization legally permitted to sell firearms and ammunition in Colombia. This document covers firearm regulations in Colombia in detail – http://www.davekopel.com/2A/IP/colombias-national-law-of-firearms.pdf.

      Note that Colombia currently has a nationwide ban on carrying firearms that is until the end of the year and I suspect this may be extended.

  4. One thing that I was told was that the outer door of your apto is considered to be part of the
    “FACHADA” and not part of the apartment. One can not just change it without permission of the building mgmt.

    • I’ve done this twice and didn’t need permission of building management but they checked to make sure it matched the color and style of the front doors on other apartments. Both of my apartment owners said the door is part of the apartment but they needed to inform building management about the change and assure building management the door would match. The apartment across from mine in the building I am in is also a security door and I just asked the owner and he said he didn’t need permission of building management to install his security door.

  5. Hi Jeff,

    thanks for your article. I recently moved into my new apartment which I own across from the swimming pools in the deportiva in belen. We have the doors that you describe except that we have two bolts top and bottom with the same 3 in the middle as you have. Yesterday my neighbor on the second floor was broken into during the midday and they totally rammed that door in with some large object I would guess. I did notice while inspecting the broken door that the frame is too thin I think to stop the ramming as one can see that easily on better inspection and that is exactly what happened. This is a five floor walk up with a very small entrance and no security at the moment. Of course now we are having a meeting after the event. I concur with your assessment of alarm systems as these thieves I think were out of there within 5 minutes of breaking the door. She didn’t have much and I think they only got a tv. I was a little disheartened to read that even that is not totally secure. Is there any way to make sure one has 99% security short of having a guard AND an alarm system….thanks again for the article.

  6. I honestly really like those doors but what’s to stop someone from cutting a small hole in the drywall next to the lock, sticking their arm threw and unlocking it? It’s hard to prepare for everything I guess but putting a iron door next to a fragile wall seems pointless

    Loved the article though. We’re making the trip in June

    • I don’t know if it’s a common feature on security doors here, but a double deadbolt lock (requiring a key to open the lock from either side) would prevent the exploit you mentioned.