Boarding up

Boarded up homes and businesses are, to many, a sign of better yesterdays and hard economic times. It’s true that in times of mass unemployment and stagnant economic growth, homes and businesses have been boarded up en masse, but the odd boarded up shop will always be visible even in a booming economy as business cycles come and go.

This guide will look at why homes and businesses may decide to board up, what are the important considerations when boarding up, what the process entails, the advantages and disadvantages of boarding up, and how to ensure that the job is done properly and professionally.

What does it mean to board up?

Depending on where you live in the UK, boarded up homes and shops may be rare or commonplace. Technically, boarding up literally comes from the plywood boards that are affixed to doors and windows to prevent intrusion whilst the business is in the process of closing, relocating, or if it has experienced a burglary, but it can also be an ad-hoc job, done to cater for the odd broken window as well.

Although plywood is amongst the most common ways of boarding up, many alternatives exist depending on the needs of the business or homeowner. uPVC and other synthetic materials can provide robust impact resistance, for instance, and steel or aluminium sheeting, gates, or temporary doors can also be used.

Why businesses decide to board up

Businesses may board up for many reasons, including:

  • Protecting abandoned, vacant, or unused buildings against unwanted entry.
  • Protecting customers and employees from broken glass after a window has been shattered.
  • Preserving the value of a property after its sale or abandonment.
  • Preventing or remediating damage from storms.
  • Preventing damage from events of social unrest (rioting, looting, etc.).
  • Discouraging or preventing squatters or looters from entering the premises.
  • Waterproofing buildings during extreme weather conditions.

Whatever the reason, there’s no shame in boarding up. Although the sight of a boarded-up shop may evoke signs of economic decline in a neighbourhood, a boarded-up business is certainly safer than a business that isn’t. The reason is that an abandoned business can attract unwanted behaviour such as squatting or looting if it’s evident that the business premises can be entered without its owners being aware.

Do boarded-up businesses attract or discourage burglars?

A prevailing economic theory known as the broken windows theory (or, to others, the broken windows fallacy) posits that neighbourhoods full of broken windows contribute to an urban environment that is conducive to further crime and unruly behaviour. Proponents of the broken windows theory believe that increases in criminal behaviour such as looting and public urination are effects caused by the existence of broken windows.

Another point of view, with regards to boarded-up businesses, is that a business that chooses to board up rather than to remain vacant and thus vulnerable to burglary or squatting, acts as a deterrent to burglars simply because entry is made far more difficult.

One needs only to look at the sharp economic decline of Liverpool from the 1970s until the mid-90s, during which time businesses up and down Victoria Street and up to the Royal Albert Dock (then the Albert Dock) were largely boarded up due to mass unemployment. During the Toxteth Riots of 1981, boarded-up business premises would have stood a far greater chance of remaining undamaged than those that were not boarded up.

What to look for when boarding up

If your business or home needs to be boarded up, a number of relevant questions should come to mind before contacting an emergency boarding up service or locksmith (more on locksmith services later), such as:

  • Urgency: does your home or business need to be boarded up on a moment’s notice? If you require someone on it without delay, such as after experiencing a burglary during the night, emergency services can have your windows boarded up within an hour, but you’re likely to be expected to pay a pretty penny for the service (possibly up to £200 for a single window in an emergency). If your business is planning to relocate or close altogether, non-emergency services by locksmiths can create an effective boarding up plan and complete the project within a given timeframe.
  • Duration: does your business need to be boarded up only temporarily, for a fortnight, or indefinitely? Interim boarding up, for example, may look very different from more permanent solutions.
  • Access: although your business may need to be boarded up, do you still intend to welcome customers or do you require the door to be securely locked due to permanent closure? Locksmiths can provide temporary lock and key systems or bar up doors for good, depending on whether or not you intend to operate on the premises whilst boarded up.
  • Reason: are you boarding up due to burglaries, or are squatters commonplace in your neighbourhood? Are you protecting your business from torrential storms and require waterproofing? Different materials and methods of boarding up may differ depending on the purpose.
  • Insurance: if you’ve claimed on your insurance policy, chances are you’ll need to use due diligence to ensure that your business is appropriately boarded up whilst repairs and remedial work can be completed, without risk of further damage. Professional services from locksmiths can ensure that your business satisfies the requirements of your insurance policy.

The boarding up process

Homeowners and businesses alike are boarded up, quite simply, with sheets of boarding material cut to size, lag screws, and some drilling and fastening for a simple job. The work can increase in complexity depending on the scale and scope of the project – for example; if replacement doors need to be installed. Whatever the complexity, there are a few things to note before contacting an emergency service or locksmith:

  • In the event of burglary, always contact police first. Locksmiths cannot enter the premises if a burglary took place since they may be interfering with a crime scene, and the police must first carry out any investigation.
  • After contacting police (in the event of burglary), contact a locksmith that performs emergency boarding up services in your postcode. Ensure that they are able to provide prompt and professional service so that you do not invalidate your insurance.
  • For long-term boarding up purposes, contact a locksmith and decide what services you require (i.e. steel/aluminium fencing, replacement doors, waterproofing, etc.) before committing.

Advantages and disadvantages of boarding up

Below are some advantages and disadvantages of boarding up your home or business:


  • You are actively protecting the property from further damage from burglars or weather.
  • You are satisfying stipulations from your insurance provider to ensure that further damage cannot be caused.
  • You may deter would-be burglars or squatters. Squatters are particularly problematic across the UK since the legal remedies for removing them can be lengthy and time-consuming (in other words, costly).
  • For temporary boarding up, you’re keeping yourself, your employees, and your customers safe from broken glass or debris whilst repairs are underway.


  • Boarded up homes and businesses look unsightly.
  • Boarding up costs money, particularly when emergency services are required.
  • In the case of broken windows theory, boarded up homes or businesses may indeed attract burglars or squatters, despite the difficulties in entering (they know for sure that you are not present, so time is on their side).
  • Boarded-up premises can signal to customers that your business is faltering or failing.

How locksmiths can help with boarding up

Finding a company near you willing to board up your home or business at a moment’s notice is made more complex than it needs to be because of common misconceptions. One such notion comes from the fact that many homes and businesses are boarded up, not by the owner, but by orders from the local Council or from police forces in certain circumstances (for example, forced police entry with a warrant).

Locksmiths are the main providers of boarding up services, but this particular service may not appear front and centre, as most people identify locksmiths with services such as key cutting and lock repairs. Since boarding up often involves repairing and replacing locks (e.g. after a burglary), boarding-up is certainly one function of locksmiths that ought not to be overlooked.

Locksmiths across the UK provide this service, sometimes at a moment’s notice and sometimes for specialised boarding up projects such as during renovations or relocation. As always, ask your local locksmith about their range of services to make sure they are able to provide the service you’re after.

Rated Locksmiths

When looking for a reliable locksmith to board up your business or home, don’t waste time browsing through Yell or other directories, simply get in touch with reliable locksmiths in your postcode through Rated Locksmiths. Our online marketplace of accredited locksmiths in the UK can help you get boarded up, as well as providing a wide range of other locksmith services for your domestic, automotive, and commercial needs.

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