How can we prevent burglars from climbing walls?

Posted August 31st, 2023 by SimpliSafe

How can we prevent burglars from climbing walls?

In addition to entering through unlocked doors and windows, burglars can often break into homes by climbing walls or fences to access front and back gardens. Once the burglar is past this barrier, they may find it easier to get inside your home. Plus, they could be shielded from view by your garden fence or wall, which means opportunistic thieves are less likely to be spooked by passers-by.

To help prevent burglars from gaining access to your property, it’s very important to secure your outside space by installing anti-climb fencing features. However, some common anti-climb measures (such as barbed wire or metal spikes) are restricted or illegal for domestic properties, not to mention a total eyesore! Keep reading to discover anti-climb measures for home security and the UK laws surrounding their use.

UK anti-climb fencing laws

According to the Occupiers’ Liability Act, UK homeowners have a duty of care to all visitors on the premises – even those who aren’t meant to be there. This means you could be liable if someone is injured on your property by a dangerous item that you deliberately put there. Homeowners can’t be criminally prosecuted under this law, but if any visitor or trespasser is injured by an aggressive anti-climb measure like barbed wire, glass or metal spikes, the injured person could sue you for compensation in civil court.

However, this doesn’t mean you can’t use any anti-climb measures. While deliberately harmful items like barbed wire and sharp spikes are not recommended for regular domestic properties, you can use other anti-climb measures that can make it harder for intruders to scale walls without deliberately hurting them. Learn more about these measures below.

How to deter burglars with anti-climb measures

You can use a wide range of anti-climb security features to help deter intruders. Using multiple features is the best way to boost the security of your property, so make sure you consider all of these points when working on home security.

1. Install a security system

A great deterrent is a visible security system, including outdoor cameras, video doorbells, entry sensors and motion sensor alarms. Most opportunistic thieves will leave to find a better target if they spot a security system on your property, but even if they still attempt a break-in, your valuables should be safe because the professional monitoring centre (if on a plan) will alert the police upon a visually verified incident.

If you’re looking for a comprehensive home security system with professional monitoring, SimpliSafe offers a wide range of home security packages, including sensors, outdoor sirens, video doorbells and indoor and outdoor cameras. For a truly bespoke security solution, you can even build your own security system and only choose the features you need.

2. Install a trellis

One of the most basic home security tips is to install a high garden fence or wall, as this will be harder to climb and opportunistic thieves may not be able to look over and assess your property. However, new walls, gates or fences over 2 metres tall require planning permission in the UK, and if your property borders a public highway, you may need planning permission for any fence over 1 metre tall. 

In addition, very tall garden fences or walls can make small gardens feel even smaller, whilst also blocking a lot of natural light in the summer. So how do you increase the height of your fence or wall to an optimal height of between 1.8 and 2 metres without spoiling the appearance of your outdoor space?

The simple answer is that you could install a trellis on top of your garden fence. This decorative feature can increase the height of your fence without blocking too much light thanks to the gaps between the wooden slats. Plus, by adding some climbing plants around the trellis, you can add even more beauty to this feature and prevent it from looking like an obvious security measure – adding spiky plants could be a great way to deter burglars even more.

One thing to remember is that the overall height of your fence includes features such as trellises, so your fence can’t be over 2 metres tall once you install the trellis unless you have planning permission. You should also consider the durability of your trellis – a strong trellis may actually help a burglar climb to the top of the fence, whereas a weak trellis could be easily removed. Choose a medium-strength trellis that will unlikely support the weight of an intruder and will increase the height of your fence to avert prying eyes. 

3. Install anti-climb spikes

Although sharp metal spikes and other dangerous anti-climb security features are not recommended for domestic properties, as you could be liable for injuries caused as per the Occupiers’ Liability Act, you can use plastic anti-climb spikes that can cause discomfort to intruders but not injury. These anti-climb spikes are blunt and closely packed together, making it very difficult and uncomfortable for burglars to climb over them.

However, since these spikes could still indirectly harm an intruder if they caused them to fall off your fence or wall, we would recommend that you install signs if you plan to use these anti-climb spikes on the top of your garden boundary. The signs must be easily visible and must clearly explain the danger – a yellow and black sign with the words “Danger: Anti-Climb Spikes” and a basic image should be clear enough. Not only would these signs protect you legally if an intruder were injured, but they could also act as a deterrent themselves because opportunistic burglars may be less likely to attempt a break-in if there are obvious home security measures in place.

4. Use anti-climb paint

You should also install warning signs if you choose to apply anti-climb paint along the top of your fence or wall. Anti-climb paint is a type of non-drying paint that can stay slippery for years, preventing trespassers from being able to climb a surface without falling down. As this paint could potentially cause injuries from falling, you should install a sign that says “Warning: Anti-Climb Paint” if you decide to paint any surfaces.

One option is to use this paint along the top of your wall or fence to thwart intruders, but you could also apply it to features like drainpipes that burglars may use to climb up your property to get to access points. Wherever you apply the anti-climb paint, you should make sure that visitors or passers-by won’t accidentally come into contact with it, as this paint can be difficult to remove and very unpleasant! For this reason, you should avoid painting it all over your fence or wall, especially if your fence borders a public footpath or someone else’s garden.

5. Install a spinning or rolling fence topper

Another security feature you could install on the top of your garden fence or wall is a spinning or rolling fence topper. If a burglar attempts to climb your fence and grabs the fence topper when they reach the top, the topper will simply spin and make their hold very unstable. This can make it much harder for them to actually get over the fence.

These spinning or rolling toppers are also great at keeping unwanted animals out of your garden, such as your neighbours’ cats. For human intruders, even just seeing the spinning fence topper may be enough to persuade them not to attempt a break-in.

6. Use bright lighting

If you’re looking for deterrents, bright lighting is an effective way to prevent burglars from climbing walls or fences. Bright lights can make opportunistic thieves very uneasy because they will make their actions more visible to anyone nearby, and because lights may suggest that someone is still at home.

However, keeping your lights on 24/7 isn’t always the best strategy for deterring thieves. If a burglar spots that your lights are always on, this could suggest to them that you’ve left home and have kept some lights on as a precaution. Motion sensor lights can often be much better at spooking thieves and driving them away once they activate the lighting, or you could use a smart lighting system that turns your lights on and off according to a set schedule while you’re on holiday, mimicking your normal lighting usage.

7. Plant spiky shrubs

Hoping to blend security and aesthetics? A great way to improve the appearance of your garden whilst also deterring intruders is by implementing some garden security measures - plant spiky shrubs along walls or fences and underneath ground floor windows.

Species such as Holly, Pyracantha and Hawthorn are great for defensive planting around the border of your property. Not only can they act as a deterrent, these prickly plants can also potentially alert you to an attempted break-in if you hear someone cry out after falling into a spiky bush.

8. Move tools and large objects

Did you know that you could be unwittingly helping burglars break into your home? If you leave tools lying around in your garden and large objects that could be used as step-ups to scale a wall, intruders could use these to break in more easily.

Always put tools away in a safe place once you’ve finished using them, such as a locked shed. Plus, you should move large objects such as wheelie bins away from walls and fences, as intruders could use these items to reach the top of the wall and jump over (or they could climb the outside of the wall and use the object to get down more easily and silently).

Frequently asked questions about anti-climb fencing and walls

What can I put on top of a wall to stop people climbing it?

Common anti-climb features include anti-climb spikes, prickly shrubs, trellises, anti-climb paint, spinning fence toppers, bright outdoor lighting and home security systems. Not only do these features make it harder for intruders to climb your garden fence or wall, but they also act as visible deterrents and help keep opportunistic thieves away.

However, we wouldn’t recommend installing more dangerous anti-climb features like barbed wire, glass or metal spikes on the top of your wall or fence, as you could be liable under the Occupiers’ Liability Act if someone were injured – even an intruder. Plus, even if you wanted to install these features (which isn’t recommended due to the risk of injury and the hostile appearance of these features), this would only be permitted on top of walls that are more than 2.4 metres high, and a wall of this height would require planning permission.

Can I put spikes on my fence to stop intruders?

You’re allowed to use anti-climb spikes to deter intruders, which are blunt, plastic spikes that are uncomfortable to climb over. Since these spikes could still potentially cause an injury if they caused someone to fall, you would need to install a sign to warn people about them. This sign can also act as a deterrent and stop people from climbing your fence or wall.

Is anti-climb paint legal?

Yes, it’s completely legal for you to use anti-climb paint on your property. However, we would recommend installing a warning sign to cover yourself legally and not applying the paint where it could come into contact with members of the public. Instead, you should only apply this paint in places where it would only affect an intruder, such as along the top of your garden fence.

Does leaving a light on deter burglars UK?

Bright lighting can be an effective deterrent because it makes burglars feel exposed, or it can suggest that the property is occupied. However, leaving a light on 24/7 can sometimes have the opposite effect, as this may suggest to a potential intruder that no one is home.

Motion sensor lighting and smart lighting can be much more effective. This type of lighting can spook opportunistic thieves and make it seem like the property is occupied. Plus, having a visible security system that includes smart lighting is a deterrent in itself, since burglars are less likely to attempt a break-in if they know the house is protected.

How can I make my front garden more secure?

For back garden security, the rules are pretty simple. Tall fences or walls are helpful for preventing strangers from peeking into your garden and assessing your valuables and access points. You can then enhance the security of this boundary by adding anti-climb spikes, anti-climb paint or a spinning fence topper.

However, for front gardens, it’s generally a good idea to opt for a much lower boundary to improve visibility. Trespassers can feel more apprehensive about approaching your front door when there’s no fence or a very short one, as anyone in the street may be able to see them. You could also plant some spiky plants underneath the ground floor windows and install a visible security system to enhance your home security.

Whether you need to install a new home security system or upgrade your current one, SimpliSafe has everything you need, including high-quality cameras, sensors, video doorbells, keypads and much more. Get in touch to learn more about our security products or customise your own ideal security system.