How to protect your garden furniture and outdoor accessories from summer thieves

How to protect your garden furniture and outdoor accessories from summer thieves

he beginning of spring/summer will always see homeowners heading to their outdoor space to relax on their new Lazy Susan (I hope) garden furniture set. However, with the lighter nights being ushered in and some of this great summer weather we’ve seen over the Easter weekend, recent study by insurance company Aviva has highlighted a stark warning. They’ve found that thefts from such property locations as garages, gardens and garden sheds soars by up to 25% once British Summer Time starts. The research also found that garden tools such as electric drills, jigsaws, sanders etc were among the most popular items for thieves during 2010. As a result, those with elegant garden furniture might want to follow some of Lazy Susan’s tips to keep their prized possessions safe. We would urge all homeowners to make sure their sheds and summerhouses are properly secured and remember to clear up the garden every evening so there’s nothing left lying around that could tempt opportunist thieves.

The price comparison site, Confused.com, have recently warned green-fingered homeowners that they should ensure their home insurance is covering valuable outdoor items such as garden furniture and accessories, anything left in garden sheds etc. Simon Lamble, the website’s product director, said garden shed burglaries increase significantly during the summer months due to outhouses not being properly secured. “It is imperative that, when taking out home insurance policies, homeowners consider the contents of their sheds, garages and any other outbuildings, and insure them accordingly,” he added. According to the firm, the average garden equipment costs £800 and it pays to have “significant cover”. Gardens offer rich pickings these days, with bikes, lawnmowers, garden tools, garden furniture and children’s toys all targeted by thieves, and the average haul totalling around £900, according to insurance company Aviva. So follow Lazy Susan’s advice and this summer we can beat the thieves at their own game and help protect our properties…

Improve garden security
There are some simple steps you can take to protect your garden, such as putting away your garden tools, paddling pool and trampoline at the end of the day, locking your sheds and out-buildings, and replacing any old rusty padlocks. You should also always close gates and repair any damaged fencing, and if you have bulky items which cannot be locked away, such as a large gas BBQ or garden furniture, then do what you can to hide or cover them. Invest in some ground anchors to secure your garden furniture and ornaments to the ground and consider taking photographs of expensive items such as potted plans, ornaments and furniture so you can identify them if stolen. Its also a good idea to write your postcode on these items with an ultra-violet pen.
Beat the thieves
Loose items such as ladders and wheelie bins are perfect ‘tool’ for opportunist thieves to use in order to gain access into your home, so always make sure you shut them away and place them out of sight if you can. Plant prickly plants such as holly and roses under window sills, install strong security lighting, and remember that a gravel path can make for a good thief deterrent because of the ‘crunchy’ noise it makes when walked on.
Check your insurance cover
It’s easy to splash the cash on your garden (a recent trip to a local garden centre just left the Lazy Susan coffers £400 lighter!), but if you’ve spent a lot of money, then you really need to check your home insurance to ensure you have adequate cover in place. Patios, outbuildings, sheds, fences, walls and gates are normally covered for damage under your buildings policy, as they’re classified as fixtures and fittings. However, moveable objects such as garden furniture and equipment count under your contents insurance. Given that gardens are more prone to theft and damage during the summer, now is a good time to review your cover and ensure you’ve not undervalued your contents.
Insurance policies vary
Insurance policies will provide cover for theft of contents from outbuildings, garages and garden sheds, and this could be up to a limit of around £2,500. Contents in your garden will also be covered, and this could be up to a limit of around the £500 mark. However, the level of garden cover offered by contents policies tend to vary considerably from insurance company to insurance company. You need to make sure that you check this, as some have very different exclusions and limits. Policies will generally only cover you if items are locked securely in a shed, and some insurers will require you to inform them in advance of any particularly valuable items. Also note that bikes may not be included, and that you may have to pay an additional premium for cycle cover. Finally, if you treat your shed as a second home, make sure you check your policy details to ensure your mini television, playstation and beer fridge don’t push you over your policy its limit.

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The need to secure your garden furniture is becoming more evident to Lazy Susan every day. Our love of the outdoors leads us to the purchase of comfortable garden furniture, often at significant cost and therefore, you need to know that it will be in the garden when you want to use it. A few simple precautions will prevent or at least deter the thieves:

Take precautions
The most effective way of keeping thieves out of your garden is to make life as difficult as possible for them. Reduce the number of places they can hide by keeping hedges and shrubs low at the front of the house, and install security lighting in areas that are cast deep into shadow at night. Gravel is an excellent deterrent as it’s noisy when walked on, so the ‘crunching’ will alert you to any intruders, and it goes without saying that ladders and tools should never be left lying around, as not only do they make rich pickings for opportunist thieves, but can be used to break into your home, garage or shed. Construct as much fencing and lockable gates as possible around your garden and that way you’ll at least make it more difficult for thieves to gain access and to remove any large pieces of garden furniture. Plant a living barrier around the garden, such as thorny shrubs. This will not only give you something beautiful to look at but also restrict access to your garden.
Lights and alarms
As well as alerting you to the presence of unwelcome visitors, security lights and alarms are good deterrents, as thieves prefer to operate in darkness and silence. There are two types of outdoor security lights – those which come on automatically when it gets dark and stay on all night, and passive infra-red (PIR) or motion sensor lamps, which are activated by any movement in your garden and will fade to off after a set time. Up to you what will work best in your garden, but installing lighting is the greatest deterrent to crime. The lights can be either spotlights or floodlights and they need to illuminate the dark areas behind walls, trees, and other obstructions. The lights should be mounted high enough to prevent the thief from easily unscrewing them. Installing battery operated alarms is also an inexpensive stumbling block for the would-be thieves and you can install so that an alarm sounds when your gate or shed/garage door is opened. And if you’ve had things stolen from your garden in the past, then a closed circuit television camera overlooking the garden could provide a little additional security, with domestic systems now on the market that are quick to install and can now be found at DIY stores for under £80.
Property marking
It also makes sense to visibly mark your outdoor property with your postcode as such items are then harder for thieves to sell on, and easily identifiable as stolen. They can be etched or marked in ink, UV marker or with self-laminated stickers, which can wrap around any legs or handles. These are usually available from Crime Prevention officers, who should also be able to supply stickers advertising that property has been marked. Finally, write down any serial numbers, and take photos to aid with recovery and insurance claims if, despite your precautions, anything is stolen.
Gates
Gates at the back and side of the house should be the same height as the fence or wall, and secured with at least two good quality padlocks and bolts. Make solid wooden gates more tricky to climb by adding insets so there’s isn’t an obvious foothold, and check that the hinges are secure so that the gate can’t be easily removed from the frame and you should really weld the screws onto the hinge or at least screw them in as tightly as possible.
Garden sheds
Your average garden shed will usually contain hundreds of pounds worth of tools and other garden equipment, but they’re often overlooked when considering home security and insurance. And for that reason they’re an easy target for thieves. Ensure that yours is in good condition, and replace any rotten sections of timber and window frames if necessary. If you’re buying a new one, position it so that it faces your house and isn’t too close to a wall or gate, offering easy access to thieves. Fit key operated window locks on all windows that open, or if you never use them, screw them permanently shut. Add wire mesh or a grille on the insides of the frames, then hang an old curtain or piece of fabric so a casual observer can’t get a good look at what’s inside. Shed doors are often weak points, so secure with two closed shackle padlocks on strong hasps, one positioned a third of the way up the door, and the other one third of the way down, and reinforce the hinges with threaded coach bolts with backing plates or large backing washers which prevent the bolt being easily pulled through the wood. Property inside the shed should be locked, so that anyone breaking in can’t just walk off with it. Store smaller items such as tools in a lockable metal box or cage, and chain bicycles, lawnmowers, ladders and furniture to a floor anchor fixed into the floor, or link everything together with a lockable chain or metal cables.
Garages
Although garages are usually built from bricks and mortar and so are therefore significantly stronger than your average garden shed, windows and doors can be weak points, so they do require some sturdy locks. Secure up and over garage doors with locks fitted to the garage base or with mortice bolts fitted to each side, and double doors with heavy-duty coach bolts and a closed shackle padlock. Access doors, leading into the garage or directly into the house really need a five-lever mortice or deadlock, and mortice bolts top and bottom. As in a shed, you should lock small items inside a metal box or cage, and thread larger ones together with lockable cables, possibly anchored into the ground, a wall or fixed post.
Lock away garden furniture and ornaments
And finally, get into the habit of locking toys, tools and your garden furniture in the shed, garage or other outbuildings at night. You should only leave things outside which are too cumbersome or heavy to be moved easily. However, heavy items are still a potential target for thieves, so make sure you fix furniture and barbeques to the ground with anchoring devices, and use security brackets to prevent hanging baskets being whisked away. You may also need to anchor statues and expensive plants, and place stones or bricks in the bottom of large containers to increase their weight. Chain the furniture together – it’s effective as long as you use a large enough chain, one that is not easily cut and the furniture to the ground or the floor of the patio is another solution.

About Lazy Susan

Lazy Susan is a small family business that specialise exclusively in wicker, rattan and metal garden furniture, specifically cast aluminium. Visit www.lazysusanfurniture.co.uk to find out more and view our complete product range.

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