Q We own a holiday cottage, and for the first time we’ve had repeated break-ins and some theft. To increase security, I was thinking of chaining a few valuables down. Is there a chain that can’t be cut with bolt cutters?
A The short answer is yes, you can get cut-resistant chain. It’s hardened throughout its thickness, and its flat face distributes the force of the bolt cutter’s jaw over a wide area, thereby diffusing it. There are also industrial high-strength welded steel chains that are through-hardened. The larger diameters of these chains, especially the 16-, 20- and 22-mm sizes, are extremely difficult to cut due to their girth and hardness. (Note I say difficult, not impossible; there are industrial bolt cutters that have jaw sizes as large as 20 mm and are designed to cut hardened steel.)
Industrial chain is rated by grades; the higher the grade number, the more steel alloying elements it contains and the more resistant it is to the variety of loads a chain encounters, especially in tension. Grades 70, 80 and 100 are among the hardest and toughest available. Here’s the kicker, though. We’re talking expensive: chain that costs R500 to R1 000 per metre; it’s likely to be more valuable than what you’re chaining down, a fact that might not be lost on an enterprising thief, who might just make off with the chain itself!
Regardless of how strong the chain is, you’d also need a cut- resistant padlock, such as a shrouded model. You might also have to attach the chain to something secure, such as a concrete footing. Likewise, hasps, bars and bolts have to be thick and impregnable. It doesn’t take much to deter a lazy thief, but it takes a lot to keep out one who’s determined to get in, if for no other reason than to prove his point. Any weak link (if you’ll excuse the pun) invites trouble in the form of a bolt cutter, an oversized crowbar or – don’t laugh – a chain hooked to a large pickup. I had a neighbour whose home was burgled by a thief who used the rear bumper of his pick-up as a battering ram, which he put through the front door.
I might be stating the obvious here, but holiday house owners have relied on some pretty low-tech security measures over the years. First, make friends with local families and fellow owners. In all but a few communities, people look out for one another. Next, don’t store anything in the house or an outbuilding that you’d be afraid to lose. Keep power tools, chain saws, outboard motors or other gear elsewhere. There may be a local business that can store equipment for you for a fee, or a nearby storage facility. Sure, stopping on the way to the house is a nuisance, but so is having your property stolen.
Finally, alert the local authorities when you’re away. Some rural police departments have added four-wheel-drive vehicles and ATVs to their fleet, making it possible for them to patrol remote areas.