Getting into your house is probably not something you spend much time thinking about. You grab your key, turn it in the lock, and you’re in. But sometimes, that simple process can become more complicated, for any number of reasons. Your locks may be old and sticky. You may have bought a new property and not know if a former occupant has a key. In these situations, it’s best to rekey or replace your lock. How each of these works will be explained here.
Rekeying a lock requires a locksmith to take and disassemble the lock. They will take out the wafer tumblers that allow the key to turn in the lock and insert a new combination. This new combination will prevent the previous key from letting someone in, but allow access for a new one. They will need to make a new key to fit this combination. After that, the hardware is reassembled and you’re ready to go. Rekeying one door lock takes about 10-15 minutes for an experienced professional, assuming it is a simple job. Rekeying a lock is cheaper than changing one (because with changing a lock, you pay for both labor and new parts, whereas rekeying only requires labor), so be wary of anyone who tries to get you to pay for changing a lock unnecessarily.
(Changing a lock can be done fairly easily, too, but it’s only recommended in scenarios such as:
• you want new locks (because the old ones have rusted)
• you want to upgrade your locks to more secure or electronic ones.)
Realtors recommend taking this step before you close on a recently purchased property. Your realtor likely has extensive experience with this matter and can probably even refer a locksmith to you. You can also check Angie’s List or Home Advisor to find locksmiths (or other home maintenance experts) to help you. It may also be a good idea to rekey locks if a roommate, housemate, or former partner or spouse moves out, for security reasons, or if a former tenant in a rental property fails to return a key after being evicted. You’ll feel much more comfortable knowing you are the only party with unrestricted access. Similarly, rekeying can be an effective way to keep people out of a room or office they don’t need to enter. The process of configuring your key so it is the only one that can access a room is called master keying. Master keying can also be used to allow one key to open multiple locks. Even if you haven’t recently experienced a change in your housing situation, losing your key (or a copy of it) may be cause for rekeying if you’re worried about someone else finding it and being able to enter your house.
Replacing a lock involves removing an existing piece of hardware (such as a doorknob or deadbolt) and installing a replacement for the same holes. It requires some extra work on the door itself, including mounting new holes, adjusting the jamb strike (the part of the door the lock is installed on), and fixing the door alignment. This is usually done if a lock is sticking, old or damaged, or otherwise not functioning completely correctly.
A number of scenarios could happen to cause this.
• For example, even something as small as insect nests can damage the locks’ hardware.
• More commonly, rust builds up, causing decay and corrosion.
• Frequent use of the lock causes the keyhole to widen to the point that the plug splits in half, which will prevent a key from working correctly.
• Similarly, the lock plug can wear, affecting its functionality.
• The top spring of a pin tumbler (one of the parts that fits together and “matches” a key) can wrap around the plug.
• Pinholes on the lock can warp to have an oval rather than round shape.
• Metal burrs can form inside the lock, causing “grinding” when trying to use a key.
• The internal parts of new locks are also treated with a rust-preventing lithium grease (usually red, white, or light brown), but over time this wears off, causing the lock’s internal hardware to need to work harder than designed to. This will eventually cause the lock to malfunction. Lubricating these internal parts periodically is essential to proper lock maintenance. A locksmith (or Internet tutorial) should be able to advise you on how to do this.
All of these happen largely inside the lock mechanism and cannot be diagnosed without inspection by removing, taking apart, and examining the doorknob or deadbolt. However, if you notice your lock is not working properly, calling a locksmith is probably a good idea. Once the issue is identified, replacing the lock takes about 30 minutes to an hour. (This is somewhat longer than rekeying, due to the additional work that must be done on the door. It also tends to cost more, considering the need for new hardware.)
Rekeying or replacing locks will ensure that you can get into your house or specific rooms easily and safely (or prevent others from doing so). A locksmith or other qualified home repair professional can help you with this. Use this article to help you know which option is better suited to your needs.