That satisfying clank made by your home's exterior door locks as the key turns may be comforting, but it might also be giving you a false sense of security. Even though the average homeowner usually locks and unlocks their door several times each day, little thought may be given to the condition of the locks, the maintenance required to keep them working properly or even the possibility that someone might gain access with an old key.
The Problem with Buying a Home with "Perfectly Good Locks"
All too often home buyers are handed the house keys at the closing table and then decide not to have the locks changed or rekeyed because the existing ones appear to be in good condition. This is risky from a security standpoint because there is no way to be sure that person who sold the home or other previous owners collected all existing keys from every person who might have been given one in the past, including:
- ex-spouses and partners of previous owners and occupants
- children and friends of the previous owners and occupants
- service and repair technicians who may have performed work in the home in the past
- real estate agents who have listed or shown the home for any previous owner
- neighbors or anyone who might have performed house, pet or babysitting services
If any of these keys are labeled with the home address, they could easily allow an unscrupulous person to gain entry and become a threat.
The Fix: Make sure that all exterior home door locks are professionally rekeyed or replaced as soon as you take possession of the home after closing. In order to avoid recreating this security risk, avoid giving out extra keys to anyone other than immediate family members.
The Problem with Keeping House Keys in Pockets, Purses and Consoles
Keeping track of the house keys often means keeping them close. Clothing pockets, purses and automobile consoles are common locations where many stash their keys. While this may be convenient, it is not always a good idea. Dust, spills and even pocket lint that accumulates in these areas can lodge inside the crevices of the key and then be carried into the locking mechanism where it can make the lock difficult to operate or cause it to malfunction without warning.
The Fix: For a temporary solution, inspect keys often and clean them frequently with a bit of rubbing alcohol on a lint-free cloth to remove any built up residue. For a permanent, more convenient fix, ask your locksmith to install door locks that use digital keypads on the main access points of the home. This solution not only does away with dirty or misplaced keys, it also has the added benefit of allowing homeowners to change the entrance code easily, as a security measure should the code become compromised.
The Problem with the Quirky Lock
Some quirks in life are amusing and make life more interesting, but a quirky lock should never be placed in this category. A lock that requires the user to perform any sort of specific ritual or contortion before it will open is a lock that is about to fail.
The interior workings of each lock are designed to react precisely and uniquely when the key is inserted. If the key become difficult to insert or fails to open the lock easily, it may have been damaged or the lock's mechanism may have become misaligned. Continued use of a key in this situation can worsen the damage to both the key and the mechanism, until it fails completely.
The Fix: If your door lock or key becomes difficult to use, try lubricating the interior mechanism of the lock by rubbing the lead of a pencil against the teeth of the key and then inserting the key into the lock and attempting to turn the key. Repeat this process a few times to help the graphite from the lead pencil completely lubricate the workings of the lock and alleviate any existing friction. Remember, that not all pencil lead is made from graphite, so be sure to check the package label before using.
If the door lock continues to be difficult, or quirky, you will need to consult a professional locksmith who will be able to disassemble and realign the lock mechanism so that it works properly once again. If the lock cannot be repaired, the locksmith can help you select a new locking system that will fit your needs and your budget. You can find a locksmith in a phone book or online at a site like http://www.suburbanlock.com.