A resource for consumers, locksmiths, and security professionals.
Posted On by Ralph
Everyone knows to change a lock when it breaks. But there are so many things beyond a lock’s functionality that can signal that it is time to update your hardware. Specifically, there are moments in your life where circumstances around your security change, and locks need to be changed to match the adjustment.
Life changes that demand lock changes include:
There is no set time frame for reliably changing locks. You can wait until an event prompts a lock change or until the lock begins to lose functionality. In most cases, one’s lifestyle will not create a schedule for changing locks. But there are abrupt changes or unique situations that should elicit lock changes. If you ever feel that your locks are not able to keep you safe, change them.
Yes, door locks wear out over time as a result of use and weathering. Every time a lock is turned or a key is inserted metal is grinding against metal. After a certain period of time (which is always highly variable) the shape of the lock internals and even the key will change. The changing shapes lower the functionality of the locks until it is definitely broken.
If you are looking for a lock that can change access protocols fast and easily, electronic locks are the simplest and least invasive locks to change. These locks include token-based card/chip readers, biometric locks, and keypad locks. All other locks that use keys to physically manipulate actuators need to be specially made for fast lock changes or will need to be at least partially deconstructed to change access.
The starting cost for a locksmith to change locks is $50 ($35 for labor plus a $15 service fee). This is only for the price of the lock change service and does not include the price of parts. You can save money by rekeying locks instead of changing the hardware, with a starting price of $19 (plus service fee). However, rekeying a lock is not always an option.
The best money-saving method for changing locks is to do the work yourself. But if you need to save money with a professional service, see if you can rekey the lock instead of changing the lock entirely. The less of the lock you need to replace, the less money it will cost. The more work you can do yourself, the less expensive the process will be.
The best professional option for lock changes is a locksmith. Both the cost to rekey a lock and the price of changing locks are negligible compared to the piece of mind of having the work done properly. You are not just having the work done by someone else. You are getting the experience of a specifically trained technician who can also advise and suggest solutions you may not be aware of.
It is always advisable to change the locks on your new home so that you do not need to worry about all of the existing spare keys. Not just that the past owner might have, but that the past owner may have lent out over the years. There is no way to know the history of a home’s security, so do not carry over any of the past vulnerabilities.
You cannot rely on the word of the homeowner, because they may not be aware of certain threats. For example, the realtor will have likely made spare keys to show the home, take photos, stage, etc. If any of the renovation crews needed access to the home, they would also need keys. So should you change locks when you buy a home? Yes. Consider it one of your moving costs.
Even if you aren’t moving in, someone might be moving out. Renters who are leaving a property may turn in their keys, but that does not mean they are giving you every copy they have made. Even if you have “do not duplicate” stamps on your keys, this is not enough to ensure no copies were made. Most hardware stores have self-serve key cutting machines, which will copy anything as long as the machine has an available blank.
Certain high-security door locks will use patented keys that cannot be easily copied, but because they were a resident and had access to a working key, it is possible to get duplicates. As a landlord, you want to limit your liability and do what you can to protect your tenant, their property, and your property. If you are a tenant, ask about changing locks on your apartment after a roommate moves out.
A former partner is provided almost unchecked access to your life and your locks. When that relationship ends, it is time for that access to end as well. One of the lessons lottery winners have taught us about security is that even the people closest to you can harm us when they feel spurned. If you are going to cease contact or remove someone from your life, protect yourself by changing your locks.
Even in well-meaning or amicable break-ups, there may be things left unsettled or items people feel entitled to. It may not be helpful to think of it as home invasion prevention, per se, but you don’t want your door opening in the middle of the night just so someone can get their baseball mitt or the TV they supposedly paid for. On a more serious note, if children are involved, you need to worry about preventing kidnapping. After all, the most common culprit for kidnapping is a biological parent.
An overly obsessed individual is not always the result of a relationship ending, but when there is some targeting you in this way, it is a good idea to change locks. You are not changing your lock to change access but are instead attempting to upgrade your door’s security. One of the ways to do this is with a lock change. This is not where your efforts should end, but it is a good start.
Anything overtly harmful this person does will be grounds for police or legal intervention, so you want to protect yourself against the covert acts that will not garner actionable evidence. That means make sure they are not entering your home without your knowledge. When you are being targeted, and someone wants to reliably undermine your security without your awareness, they may resort to criminal lock picking.
One of the most important steps to take after a burglary is to change your locks. This should be done to both increase security and access. Many people don’t know this but houses that have been burglarized are likely to be targeted again. This is because news of easy targets spreads quickly through the small circles of career criminals.
Once your home is broken into, home burglary statistics go out the window, the chance of repeated victimization skyrockets. Get better locks, and make sure your home cannot be broken into in the same way. Most criminals are lazy, and if you can get a good baseline of security, they will leave your property be. But you must demonstrate your intention to protect your home after a burglary.
Locksmiths are almost always present when forced evictions are being carried out. However, it is important not just to rely on them to gain entry to the home but also to change the locks. Even if the removed tenant hands back all recorded keys, there is always a chance another has been made.
In particularly volatile circumstances, you may try to generally improve your apartment security. Similar to other ended relationship concerns, you should beware of an evicted tenant’s reprisal. Also consider that if this person has ever been locked out of the apartment during their residency. They might have worked out a way of how to get back inside without a key.
This may seem like something better suited for office security, but there are several situations where a home may be visited by paid employees. Whether it is construction crews, gardeners, housesitters, or housekeepers, many homeowners will have non-residents with semi-permanent access to the home. When your contractor changes, you should change your lock.
In most cases, rekeying your lock is going to be enough to get your security back on track after a staff change. However, if you are going to use workers consistently on your property, look into lock options that allow for more convenient access control. Before you replace a deadbolt, consider whether or not to get something with a key code option.
There are a couple more instances where you may want to consider changing your locks. These situations will not always require a lock change, but you should be aware when they do. The two circumstances we are going to touch on below are by no means the only events that could contextually call for a lock change. Use these ideas as a springboard for further considerations.
If you know where you lost your keys, and they are gone for good in an area where even if they were found, they could never be tied back to you, you do not need to change locks when you lost your keys. It is when you cannot find a hidden key, or you strongly suspect your keys have been stolen, that you must change your locks.
Of course, start by trying to find your lost keys before settling on the presumption that they have been taken or lost in a vulnerable location where the finder can put together what lock to use them on. Once you are sure that your keys are lost, and there is a strong chance the finder of the keys knows what lock they pair to, change all affected locks.
In most cases buying a used car does not require any lock changes, just as a dealership having access to your key code does not put you at risk. This has more to do with the level of exposure you are facing. When you are buying a used car from a single individual who is tangentially connected to your social network, you may want to consider at least rekeying the car ignition.
What is putting you at risk is that the person handing you the keys can easily find out where the car is going to be stored. And even if they are not a threat themselves, this information can travel to unscrupulous individuals. Also, be wary of situations where the seller says they do not have a spare key. And do not purchase cars from untrustworthy sellers out of desperation.
If you are changing your lock appropriately as your security vulnerabilities shift, you are going to get the best out of your security investments. Some property owners may want to consider investing in locks that are easy to change access to such as digital or electronic locks. Be aware that there are also seemingly innocuous events that in context may require a lock change.