What to Do with the Security Bars on Your Historic Home

Oct 20, 2020 12:55:43 PM Christina Wilson

A question that comes up for the owners of some historic homes in and around Washington, DC, is what to do with the old security bars - sometimes called burglar bars - on the windows. The purpose of the bars is to deter home invasion. Many homeowners opt to remove the old bars now that there is a broader range of home security options available. However, when they are mounted in or attached to old brick, this can present an additional challenge.

Should I Remove the Iron Security Bars?

Some homeowners may prefer more modern security methods, such as digital alarm systems, and wish to remove the iron security bars from their windows. Others prefer an unobstructed view or to install a window air conditioner. Removing iron security bars should only be undertaken by a historic masonry expert. In many cases, the security bars are mounted into the masonry window framing, requiring extensive repair of the historic masonry. 

Modern masonry contractors often do not have the expertise to deal with historic brick and mortar, manufactured differently from new products. Failure to use the proper brick and mortar when making these repairs can cause problems with moisture evaporation and resulting water damage to the exterior brick and interior components of your home. 

A historic masonry contractor like Renaissance Development LLC can use the process of tuckpointing to replace the historic bricks and mortar with similar materials that will preserve the integrity of your home’s exterior. 

If the iron security bars are mounted into the wooden window frames, removal can be much simpler and your brick and masonry window framing will not be involved. Sometimes this may make it necessary to replace the windows, and certain guidelines must be followed to preserve the historic nature of your home’s appearance. 

Should I Replace the Iron Security Bars?

Homeowners wishing to keep the iron security bars and preserve their home’s exact appearance can replace them with similar bars that include safety latches allowing them to be opened from inside the home.  Although most historic homes are not required to have these newer-style security bars to comply with fire codes, especially if there are other egress paths, it is an added safety measure for your family. 

Once again, if the security bars are mounted into the masonry, care must be taken to remove them carefully and then repair the historic brick and mortar through tuckpointing, using the proper materials. Your new iron security bars should be mounted to the wooden window framing and not to the new masonry. No special permits are needed for installing new iron security bars in the Washington DC area. 

However, if your home is located in certain historic districts in the DC area, you may need to obtain a permit before altering the façade of your historic home. Contact the Washington DC Office of Planning at 202-442-7600 or visit their website for more information. 


The seasoned professionals at Renaissance Development LLC work with area clients to ensure a professional removal or replacement of window security bars and any necessary repairs to your historic masonry. Contact us today for more information or to schedule an appointment. 

Categories: Renovation, Exterior brick

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