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Is boarding up property a good idea? What are the options

Ringo House boarded up property

Boarding Up Your Property – When, Why and How

Whether your property’s residential or commercial, urban or rural, vacant or occupied, there are many structural, accidental or criminal incidents which can make boarding up for health, safety and security purposes essential.

The popular options across the UK mostly offer a choice between steel screens and timber boards. Both types of product can be ideal for secure boarding up, but knowing when, why and how you might need to do so may help you to identify which one offers the best fit for your situation. To start, consider those primary risk factors for structural, accidental and criminal incidents which can require the benefits of boarding up.


When? Whether vacant or occupied, extreme weather, wear and tear, and neglect can have an impact on properties which may lead to severe structural damage. Structural incidents are most common when :

  • The property is already in need of repair, such as while awaiting planning consents for refurbishment.
  • In a location which is vulnerable to environmental risks, for instance, flooding, landslides, high winds and extreme weather.
  • IProperty is unoccupied long-term. Smaller incidences of weather damage, for example, a single loose tile, or small pipe fracture can lead to more extensive structural damage if left unnoticed and unaddressed.

Why? Boarding up a property, particularly one which is vacant long-term, is beneficial against the effects of weathering and problems of structural decay. Consider boarding up where property show signs of structural damage, which will help prevent problems from worsening, (i.e. boarding broken windows to stop wind and rain damage ravaging the property’s interior.

While repairs are underway, board up to prevent trespass, accidents from debris and theft of items such as contractors’ tools and equipment.

If flooding through storm damage or poor surface drainage is a concern, deploying flood prevention barriers may also reduce the risk of flood-based structural issues.

How? Both timber and steel boards can be effective following structural incidents:

Solid steel barriers offer durability which can be essential in extreme weather zones. The custom-fit option for steel screens makes it possible to secure broader access points like garage doors. Steel screens can also be installed to the interior of the property, so it’s still possible to board up securely even when there’s significant external damage.

  • Timber boarding can close off the property swiftly, for emergency or short-term safety and security.


When? Many local areas, whether city hubs, town communities or village neighbourhoods now enjoy outdoor events as a way to encourage visitors and community spirit. From fairgrounds and festivals to processions and carnivals, such events can be a winner for the local economy, but businesses and homeowners can lose out with expensive clean-ups following accidental damage, unintentional or even ill-intentioned problems.

Why? Take Notting Hill, for example. While this internationally renowned carnival means fun for visitors, homes and businesses in Notting Hill are often left to clean up broken windows, trespass from ad hoc picnics and even hazardous waste from urination and defecation in residential gardens.

How? Both timber and steel screen boarding can be temporary and installed with minimal damage to properties. Perforated steel screens still allow light into the property, ideal if they’re in use over the festival period, while security fencing could offer an alternative to secure access points such as driveways and gateways.


When and why?

Opportunist criminals mainly target vacant properties, even those temporarily empty, such as in-between tenants or during a prolonged absence from home during hospitalisation or holidays. The crimes commonly committed by opportunist criminals include:

  • Theft

If an opportunist criminal successfully gains access to an initial ‘visit’, it’s common for them to return – but often with others and a vehicle – for another chance. Leaving the access point unsecured, perhaps a window they’ve broken or a lock they’ve forced makes it much easier for criminals to re-enter the building and can also invalidate your insurance.

  • Arson, vandalism and graffiti

Less common – but not unheard of – in occupied properties, unless part of a wider crime such as burglary, arson, vandalism and graffiti are a common scourge of vacant property particularly.

In the UK it’s now illegal to squat in residential property but not in commercial property. So when a property becomes vacant in the short or long term, while all types are vulnerable to trespass and illegal occupation, it’s a significant concern in the commercial property sector. The process for removing squatters can be costly, while damage through trespass and illegal occupation associated with anti-social behaviour can add significantly more to property owners’ costs. Boarding up a property which is vacant is an essential action when it comes to squatter prevention and can offer value for money compared to the potential cost of evicting and cleaning up after squatters.

  • Illegal dumping

According to DEFRA, the UK saw a 7% rise in fly-tipping and illegal dumping in 2016/17, and many property owners don’t realise that when dumping takes place on private ground, i.e. within their property’s boundary line, then they are responsible for the clean-up costs. Timber boards are particularly effective as a quick-to-install, physical security measure for perimeters, to help avoid both illegal fly-tipping and illegal occupation of the land.

Why? Emergency and preventative boarding up can offer security against criminal incidents as it provides:

  • A visible deterrent to other criminals.
  • A solid barrier preventing further break-in or trespass.
  • Additional security against wilful vandalism, as both timber boards and steel screens can be installed using anti-tamper screws.

Although it can be argued that the value of boarding up a property after incidences of an attempted or actual break-in or vandalism might be negligible, it’s a preventative action to stop the situation from worsening.

It can also make a difference to your liability when it comes to insurance claims as many insurers only payout for claims where there is evidence of forced entry. So, if you’re aware of a broken window or previously forced lock but don’t take action before another criminal enters or anti-social crimes occur, then your claim may not be successful – you may even be liable if an ensuing crime (such as arson) causes a public safety situation.

How? Effective boarding up security against criminal activities such as vandalism, graffiti and arson, can be achieved through:

  • Timber boards secured from the outside of the property. Timber boards are frequently used for temporary, emergency boarding up immediately after a criminal event.
  • Steel screens installed on the interior. These screens facilitate long-term security but also allow light in so that inspection and assessment surveys can take place without removing the screens. The durable nature of steel means that either perforated or solid steel screens are particularly useful in preventing vandalism and arson.

All options can be cut to fit and installed by security professionals without damaging properties. It’s also possible to hire rather than purchase security boarding, which can be particularly useful and cost-effective when it comes to protecting properties vacant during holidays or between tenancies.

Finally, understanding where to board up can also help. Although specifically, this depends on the type of property, basics should always include those access points:

  • Doors, including casement and basement doors, garage and annexe doors.
  • Windows, not forgetting skylights, casements and vents (as appropriate).
  • Gateways, including property boundaries and entries.

Further information on the differences between timber boards and steel screens for proactively protecting your property is available on the SafeSite Security Solutions Knowledge Base

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