Lock FAQ


  • Single vs. Double-Sided Deadbolts
  • Electronic Locks
  • When to Rekey
  • Warning Signs ofLock Failure
  • The Best Lock
  • Handlesets
  • Keying Locks Alike
  • Residential Mortise Locks
  • Break-in Protection
  • Bump Keys
  • Lock Maintenance
  • High Security Locks
  • Scam Locksmiths

Q: Single Vs. Double-Sided Deadbolts

A: We never recommend installing double-sided (keyed on both interior and exterior sides) deadbolts. Some homeowners desire double-sided deadbolts when there is glass in the door or in close proximity that would allow a potential intruder to break the glass, reach in, and unlock a single-sided lock. But double-sided locks also present a possible hazard to the homeowner. In case of fire or other emergency, they can interfere with the evacuation of the home. Quite simply, if the smell of smoke awakens you in the middle of the night, you do not want to worry about finding or using a key just to get out of the house. This is especially true when there are children or visitors in the home. Other than the fact that a key must be used to unlock the door from the interior, double-sided locks provide no greater security than a single-sided one.

Q: Electronic Locks

A: Electronic locks offer convenience, but offer no more security than a mechanical lock. Most have a mechanical key override. They are very useful if there are children in the home that can use a code to unlock the door – there would be no key to potentially lose. Most allow more than one code and are relatively easy to change when desired. Proper installation and alignment is especially critical with electronic locks, since most give you no warning if they fail to lock properly.

Q: When to Rekey

A: Locks should be rekeyed or changed if you cannot account for all copies of the key, if you do not know how many copies exist, or any time there is a change in ownership – including new homes.

Q: Warning Signs of Lock Failure

A: The latch or bolt is the most likely part to fail. This is often caused by binding pressure from an improper installation. The bolts and latches should extend and withdraw smoothly and completely. If you need to push, pull, or lift the door to operate an entry lock or deadbolt, there will be binding pressure against the latch or bolt. Broken or inoperative deadlatches interfere with proper lock operation. If the deadlatch is broken, fails to extend with the latch, or falls into the strike plate, service is needed. If a key binds or rotates further than normal, have the lock serviced before you find yourself locked out – or in.

Q: The Best Lock

A: An inexpensive lock properly installed offers more protection than an expensive lock that is improperly installed. Most residential locks are graded 1 to 3. Grade 3 locks are suitable for most residential applications. Grade 2 locks usually offer better protection against manipulation of the lock parts inside the door, will sustain heavier usage, and offer longer-lasting finishes. Grade 1 locks are the heaviest duty, but can also be quite expensive. The cost is rarely justified for standard residential usage. If you prefer levers to knobs, it is worth investing in a Grade 2 lock because they have heavier springs that will prevent the lever from sagging for a longer period of time.

Q: Handlesets

A: Handlesets look great, but offer no added security. In fact, most have only one locking point – the deadbolt. A standard entry lock and a deadbolt give you two locking points, which will offer much greater protection against forced entry than a single locking point.

Q: Keying Locks Alike

A: As long as the locks have the same keyway (use the same key blank), they can usually be keyed the same. Most brands available at hardware stores offer one of only two very common keyways. In order to key all locks in a home the same, some locks may need to be replaced so that they can all use the same key blank.

Q: Residential Mortise Locks

A: Modern locks are mounted in a 1 1/2 or 2 1/8 inch diameter hole centered 2 3/8 or 2 3/4 inches from the edge of the door. Older homes may have mortise locks, which are a box-like unit installed in the edge of the door. Updating these locks may involve a remodeling kit or cover plates on each side of the door, the door edge, and the door jamb to cover the openings left by the mortise lock installation.

Q: Break-in Protection

A: The most common method of unauthorized entry is simply kicking or forcing the door open. Generally, it is the door or door frame that fails, not the lock itself. Many locks come supplied with screws that are only 3/4 of an inch long for mounting the strike plate. We recommend replacing these with wood screws as long as 3 inches in order to tie the strike plate into the 2×4 framing around the door. Additionally, there are reinforced strikes, door edge and door frame reinforcements, and hinge pins available that make forced entry attempts far more difficult.

Q: Bump Keys

A: Bump keys have been used for decades, but have recently made news because of information spread on the internet. Bump keys are basically modified key blanks. There have been cases of criminal use of bump keys. The same techniques locksmiths use to make a lock more difficult to pick will generally make the lock more difficult to bump open as well. Lock manufacturers are making new locks available that have been designed to prevent bumping. Unfortunately, some of these designs have proven to be easily bypassed by other methods. Since bump keys are basically specially cut key blanks, installing locks with less common keyways is also a viable prevention technique.

Q: Lock Maintenance

A: Most locks will give you many years of dependable service. Proper installation and alignment is important. With few exceptions, locks are installed so that the pins are on top, meaning the key is inserted with the cut side up. This reduces the chance of problems caused by dust, dirt, and debris getting into the lock and interfering with the operation of the pins and springs inside.

Locks need occasional lubrication – the frequency depending on usage and environmental conditions. Graphite is an excellent lubricant. Several aerosol lubricants containing teflon or other “dry” lubricants are also very good. Most of these aerosols will clean as well as lubricate. Avoid oily or petroleum-based lubricants which will actually collect dust and debris, causing more problems in the long run.

After spraying the lubricant or cleaner in the lock, insert and withdraw the key without turning it. Wipe any debris off the key each time. Use more lubricant if necessary. Only after the key comes out clean should you insert and turn it. It is also a good idea to occasionally remove the lock and lubricate the moving parts of the latch or bolt.

The lock mounting bolts should be tightened snugly and evenly. Over-tightening may cause binding. If a lock does not work smoothly after cleaning and lubricating, loosen the mounting bolts and the latch mounting screws. Operate the lock. Sometimes, a slight misalignment between the lock and latch can be corrected by operating the lock while retightening the screws and bolts.

Q: High-Security Locks

A: Remember – even the highest quality lock may be easily bypassed if not installed correctly. Most high-security locks offer more in the way of key control than break-in protection. They often use patented keyways, usually requiring special identification and authorization in order to obtain duplicate keys. Generally, they are more useful in commercial applications than residential.

Q: Scam Locksmiths

A: Because of the emergency nature of many locksmith calls, criminals try to take advantage of the situation by offering low prices over the phone, then adding charges after they arrive on site. Usually, they prey on folks locked out of their car, home, or business. Picking a locksmith out of most phone books can be a risky proposition. Yellowbook® has done a nice job of limiting listings of illegitimate locksmiths in the Indianapolis area, with only about one third of the locksmith listings found in other local phone books. As with most contractors, referrals are often the best way to find a reliable locksmith.

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