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What you can do to stop copper thieves

*NOTE – This article was originally written in October of 2006 for the newsletter.

Salvage yards across St. Louis rarely ask where their customers get the scrap metal they bring in. That’s a shame, because they might be getting it from YOU! Copper thieves can turn a great rental or rehab building into a nightmare. Replacing the pipes can be costly and time consuming. Water damage caused by the resulting leaks can be even worse.

Other than standing guard 24/7, there is no failsafe way to eliminate this threat. There are, however, steps that you can take, which can make your property a less attractive target:

  • Paint your exposed pipes – One method, which can be extremely effective, is to paint the exposed copper piping throughout your property. A good coat of spray paint can be the most cost effective method to copper theft deterrence. Salvage yards will not accept copper if it is painted. They only way thieves could get money for your painted copper, would be to undergo the time-prohibitive process of stripping off the paint.
  • Good exterior lighting – Although not really that helpful against daytime thieves, good exterior lighting can make your property a lesser target. Motion detector lights are often the best choice. These lights will help cut back on electricity costs and light pollution, but still offer added security.
  • Quality locks – To get to your copper, a thief has to gain access to the property. That’s where the locks come in. If all entryways into the property are secured with single and deadbolts, their job will be a lot harder.
  • Secure basement windows – One of the most often overlooked trouble spots are your basement windows. The basement windows in most older houses usually have thin glass and are made of wood. If this is the case at your property, you should consider replacing or sealing off the trouble windows.

Matt Kastner

Matt Kastner is an Investment Real Estate Consultant at St. Louis Real Estate Society in St. Louis, Missouri. He is also develops properties on the side through Threshold Properties. When he isn't representing investors in the purchase or sale of multifamily properties, rehabs, foreclosures and other income producing properties, he is often taking on rehab projects himself. He lives in South St. Louis and has been in the real estate business since 2004.

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2 thoughts on “What you can do to stop copper thieves”

  • Securing AC condensers | St. Louis Real Estate Investment & Development Blog

    March 31, 2008 at 4:52 pm

    […] theft or vandalism. The main security issue facing landlords in St. Louis and around the country is copper theft, but there are many other temping targets at any property. One particularly expensive and […]

  • Mike

    April 1, 2008 at 11:30 am

    What a great post Matt.

    We had a terrible experience with this last summer. During the hottest week of the year thieves made away with 35 line sets off of a 70 unit high-rise we own/manage.

    We ended up installing both a local and monitored alarm with motion activated cameras that snap shot of anyone getting on the roof.

    There have been no incidents since but summer is fast approaching.

    Great blog, keep up the great work. M


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