4 tips for dealing with door locks

July 28, 2015

Your door locks are a top line of defence when protecting your home. Here are tips in keeping your door hardware solid and safe and what to do when a lock won't turn. 

4 tips for dealing with door locks

1. A no turn-key operation

  • If it's difficult to turn your door lock, first try an application of penetrating oil spray to clean and lubricate the mechanism. Have a cloth in hand to catch any resulting runoff.
  • If this doesn't turn things around, the problem may be a poorly cut key; have a new one made from a functional original.

2. Remove a trapped key

  • It's not uncommon for older locks to trap keys as a result of dried-out, misaligned pins.
  • Get your key out by giving the lock a dose of penetrating oil spray and then rotating and jiggling the key.
  • The key should come right out, but if it doesn't, pinch the key as your other fingertips touch the lock for leverage, and slowly work out the key.

3. Open a frozen lock

  • If a lock responds to wintry weather by giving you the freeze-out, loosen it by spraying a little of the lubricant into its mechanism (avoid oil-based lubricants — they'll only make matters worse).
  • Another way to thaw things out is by carefully preheating your key with a match before inserting it in the lock.

4. Upgrade your hardware

  • No matter how solid your door, it's ultimately only as strong as its heavy metal. Here are a few hardware upgrades to consider if you want to beef up your home's security.
  • Add a heavy-duty dead bolt. A dead bolt is a low-cost, high-value addition to your security system. Varieties include double-cylinder dead bolts, which are keyed on both sides, and single-cylinder dead bolts, keyed on one side. Whichever type you choose, make sure it has a grade 1 security rating, and connect it securely and solidly to the frame.
  • Add a strike box. A strike box toughens up your entry and deters intruders by replacing existing strike plates with a structure that includes a metal pocket, oversized plates, and a solid connection into the wall stud behind the doorjamb with eight-centimetre (three-inch) screws. To accommodate this addition, you'll need to enlarge both the hole in the jamb and the cover plate recess.
  •  Three-sided metal reinforcement plates add an extra layer of security by encasing a door around its handset or dead bolt. To select the correct size for your door, measure its thickness, the handset or dead bolt hole diameter, and the distance between its edge and the centre of the handset or dead bolt (known as the setback). A reinforcement plate will typically extend the door's edge a bit, so you may need to deepen the hinge mortises on the other side of the door to prevent catching and sticking.
  •  If you're not the first to live in your present abode, re-keying the entry locks is yet another way to enhance its security. Rekeying kits matching most lock brands can be found at hardware stores and home-improvement centres and work on both entrance and dead-bolt locks. They also allow up to six locks to be rekeyed for the same key.
  • You'll be able to do a larger-scale screening of unexpected visitors with a wide-angle peephole viewer. This easy-to-install safety accessory is designed to fit any door up to  five centimetres (two inches) thick.
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