A resource for consumers, locksmiths, and security professionals.
Posted On by Ralph
Way back before I discovered my love for locks and security, I found myself locked out of my house. When you are locked out of the house, the first thing you start to do is panic. Everyone does so to different degrees. For me, it only lasted an instant. Because I thought I knew what I could do to get back inside. I thought that there was no way that I was locked out of my house. So this is what I did to get back into my locked house as a complete novice. And though I may not have been successful in all of my attempts, it does serve as the steps that you can follow if you are ever locked out of the house.
Choose how to open your locked door:
It was the first couple weeks of one of my first real jobs. I was just a kid, excited to start making some steady money. I woke up in time to get ready. No issues with the alarm. Ate breakfast. Made lunch. My parents and sister left for their respective jobs, having to drive a much farther distance. Then, I departed sometime later. Locked the door and went to my car, which I had saved up enough money for by working odd jobs. It was just an old Ford, but it got me from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’. But not that day. I reach for my keys. I didn’t have them. I was locked out of my house.
I walked back to the front door. Tried the lock. Then I remember that I locked it. And in a time before cell phones, that really meant I was locked out of my house. There is a moment of panic. I knew I needed to get to work. I knew that I had been about a half an hour early every day, so I have about that long before I am primed to be late. Here’s what I did to get back in after I found out I was locked out of the house.
I was locked out of my house for sure. Or at least the front door was not going to budge, so I decided to see if my ineptitude had worked in my favor some other way. I walk to the back gate. That is locked. So being a young man, I made short work of the thing and climbed into the backyard. How often I used to climb in through that gate still gives me nightmares about the state of that house’s gate security.
I go to the back door. It was also locked. There was one last door to check before I would have to admit that I was locked out of the house. Two sliding glass doors. I tried to look through the clear surface, and gauge if it was locked. But our sliding glass doors used an unconventional method of security. Tracks blocked with PVC pipe. And as I pulled the doors to the sides, I found that I was certainly locked out of my house.
Top House Lockout Tip #1:
Check every door when you are locked out of your house. Even if you are sure you locked a door, double-check it. Not only could you be misremembering, someone else may have opened the door after you locked it.
I looked at my wristwatch and saw that time was of the essence. So I quickly went around to all of the windows. This was the winter, so everything was shut. But I had no idea if each one was locked. Most of the windows had a mesh screen, which I removed and then began trying to lift the windows. None were opening. It seemed that I was still locked out of my house.
I would offer advice to anyone who is in a time crunch while they are locked out of the house, don’t do this in a hurry. I ended up breaking one of the screens. Surprisingly not while removing them, but when I was putting it back. The last one. I had just realized that I was very much locked out of my house still, and rushed to undo my damage and try something else.
Top House Lockout Tip #2:
Just because a window is not opening easily, it does not mean it is locked. Windows in older structures can stick. Get proper leverage and a good grip so you can be sure that the window is really locked.
In a last-ditch effort, I tried to get back into the house through the dog door. I was already a pretty big kid. Tall, slim build, but broad shoulders. Still, I thought that I could do it. I remembered in the past having to crawl through when the whole family was locked out of the house. And my mother always talked about a time where she was eight months pregnant with my sister and squeezed through. I was kicking myself for not thinking of it earlier. I thought, “I should have done this as soon as I noticed that I was locked out of my house.”
It was not meant to be. No matter how I moved, my shoulders would not get past the entryway. It was like moving a mattress into a playhouse. It just was going to fit. Also, the entire process made the dog very nervous. So I pulled myself out and figured that if I took off now on my bike, I would deal with being locked out of my house when my shift ended. So I grabbed my bike from the side of the house and rode past the car I had paid for, as I went to go earn the money to replace the window screen I broke. And at the end of it all, I was still locked out of the house.
Top House Lockout Tip #3:
Feel free to call on the assistance of a smaller person. This could be your child (as a kid I thought it was fun) or a diminutive neighbor. They don’t have to crawl all the way through. Just enter the dog door enough to reach the lock.
When I was at work, I called to see if anyone could swing by the house and let me in when I got off. (This was the first time that I had access to a phone, as cell phones were not around just yet). I didn’t have my keys, but I knew that either my parents or my sister would have theirs. Working part-time, I was going to be getting off before anyone else. No one could make it back on their lunch breaks. So I would have to be locked out of my house for a few hours.
Top House Lockout Tip #4:
Plan for the future. If you have not given a close relative or trusted friend/neighbor a spare key to your house, get one made today. Just make sure the person you are entrusting the key to lives close by. And if they move, remember to ask for the key back.
My boss let me off a little early and gave me a coat hanger. I told him that my family had told me about a spare key we had hidden, but he insisted that I take it with me. So I headed home on the bike with a wire hanger between my fingers and the handlebars. Searched for the key that I was told about. No luck. I was still locked out of my house.
The issue with the spare key, as it would turn out, was that it was moved. Just placed somewhere different on a lark. But no one remembered where it moved to, only the place that it had been. Remember that your spare key is only any good if you know where it is. Other than that, it is just a liability. A burglar may be able to find it, but you will just be locked out of the house.
Top House Lockout Tip #5:
When searching for a spare key you know exists, look in places it may have fallen. Check areas that someone could have mistaken for the original hiding place. It is unlikely that your spare key would be stolen without the house being burglarized, so look diligently.
I tried the coat hanger everywhere I could. The front door did not have a large enough gap for me to slip through, and the back door did, but I could not tell what was going on back there. It was not long enough to thicken up and still be able to reach the PVC in the tracks of the sliding doors. And I did not dare try to take the screens off the windows again.
So there I was after all of that time, still locked out of my house. And because I had been let off early, it was going to be a while before anyone showed up. The cold was bad enough, but then it started to rain. And there was no place to take shelter. I was locked out of the house and probably going to get pneumonia.
Top House Lockout Tip #6:
Try the coat hanger on every type of lock. Window latches, sliding door tracks, and thumbturns. You may have some luck fitting part of yourself through a dog door and using the hanger to extend your limited reach.
I saw that the ladder was left out, so in a moment of sheer brilliance, I tried to use it to get in through the second-story windows. There were no screens over the glass. This may be something that you could try. But using a ladder on the grass while it is raining, is not something I would recommend. I did not have the stability to give enough pressure to open the windows.
I am not sure that the windows were even locked. I think they may have been a little sticky. But with the ladder rocking so much, there was no way to give it an honest shot. Maybe if there was someone there to hold the ladder, it would not have been locked out of my house. But there was no one. And I was locked out of the house still.
Top House Lockout Tip #7:
If you don’t have a ladder, you can call on one of your neighbors for help. Even with your own ladder, you may feel more comfortable having an extra set of hands to hold the ladder so you can give opening upstairs windows a proper try.
The only one home in the whole neighborhood at that time of day was an old woman down the street. She let me use her phone book and phone while I stood on her porch. She didn’t even want me coming inside with how wet I was. The locksmith showed up while I waited on a neighbor’s porch. Not the porch of the old woman that let me use her phone. She told me I was “getting it wet”. (“It” being the porch). So I was locked out of my house and stranded under the closest shelter I could find to my front door.
The locksmith took out his tools. And in the rain, he opened my lock within a few seconds. I am pretty sure that it took somewhere around thirty seconds. It was certainly less than a minute. Which is still very impressive, but it doesn’t sound as good as a more hyperbolic declaration. And the lock was by no means tricky. If I had to guess, I would think that he just raked it a few times. And I went from being locked out of my house, to standing in front of an open door.
Top House Lockout Tip #8:
Make sure to contact a reputable and trusted home locksmith when you are ready. Reputation and experience are worth investing in. A truly cheap locksmith does the job right the first time and doesn’t cause any undue damage.
I went inside the instant I wasn’t locked out of my house, got the money to pay the man, and made sure to put my keys in my pocket. I was kind of interested in the picks and how he did that. The rain let up a bit, so he stuck around and talked to me a bit. Then the locksmith asked me if I wanted to try to open the door. He handed me a bump key and a hammer. He asked if I had the keys. Then he shut and locked the door, simulating being locked out of the house again.
I put the bump key in the lock, one notch removed. Hit it with the hammer, and tried to turn the knob, all in a single action. It was frustrating having to pull it out one notch after each strike. An issue I have since then learned to work around. But after a few whacks, I gave up. As a total novice, a bump key would not have helped me if I was really still locked out of my house.
Top House Lockout Tip #9:
When an amateur is using a bump key there is a danger of over-torquing the key and snapping it off in the lock. Leave this more advanced method to the professionals and save yourself from having to get a broken key out of a lock.
Next, the locksmith handed me the lock picks and gave me some pointers. He only told me how to rake the lock. It would be a while before I would learn the differences between raking and single pin picking. Longer still before I would take up lock picking as a hobby. I did, however, open the lock after some time. A few instances of letting the pins reset, but the process just clicked for me. Then the door clicked open, and I was not locked out of my house, even hypothetically.
I would like to say that trying to pick the lock was some sort of epiphany moment for me. That it was the moment the clouds parted, the rain stopped, and I knew then what I was born to do. Honestly, I liked it, but it had started to rain again and my main priority was getting into some dry clothes. It would be a while before I was reintroduced to lock picking. Even longer still before I would get my first lock pick set and a real introduction to locksmithing. But without on-site instruction for a professional locksmith, trying to pick the lock would not have helped me get back in after I was locked out of my house.
Top House Lockout Tip #10:
Lock picking requires tools and training. If you do not have access to these things, do not try to pick a lock to get back in your house. Feel free to practice the skill, but do so in more structured and less stressful circumstances.
I was already locked out of my house and had no interest in making the situation worse. So I refrained from what I would later come to know as destructive entry methods. All of the following methods are not recommended due to the risks of damage to your home and your well-being. It is not worth compromising your safety or the security of your home just to unlock a door. But seeing as though some people may be tempted by these extreme door opening methods, I feel it is necessary to explicitly outline what not to do when you’re locked out of your house.
The most pressing danger of breaking a window is hurting yourself. I’ve seen and heard all kinds of scenarios over the years with people trying to break windows when they are locked out of a car. Glass shards end up in people’s eyes, arms, etc. Even when steps are taken to protect eyes and arms when breaking the glass, you can still get cut reaching through the hole you punched. And if you don’t pick up every piece of glass, everyone’s bare feet are at risk.
Besides hurting yourself, a broken window is a hassle. Chances are it’s going to be more expensive to replace the glass than to call a locksmith. A broken window is also going to let in the elements, which is horrible if you are experiencing any type of extreme weather. And if you were going to do anything else with your day, you can cancel those plans in favor of trying to find a new window pane.
Even if you have access to a power drill, there is more to drilling a lock than just making a hole. Though it does take less time to learn and perfect than other locksmith techniques, it is certainly not an intuitive process for novices. When you successfully drill a lock, there are still more steps. Once the lock is drilled to the point where it can be open, many people still struggle to exploit the drill point in a way that will open the locked door.
After the lock is drilled, it will need to be replaced, incurring costs that could have potentially been avoided. You will need to purchase a new lock in the best-case scenario, but I have heard horror stories of low-quality locksmiths damaging doors while drilling the locks. I would put an amateur in the same league as a subpar locksmith, so save yourself a new lock and a new door, and don’t try drilling your own lock.
Kicking a door down can damage the door, the door jam, and the lock. In some cases, you will need to repair or replace all three. And I am always shocked by the number of people who throw out their backs or injure themselves because they don’t know how to kick. So save yourself a trip to the hardware store and the chiropractor and keep your feet on the ground.
It might look like fun. You might want to try it out for the story. I can’t stop you from doing something foolish, but I can strongly caution against it. I would recommend improving the security of your front door so it can’t be kicked down so that you are never tempted to try this type of thing in the future.
Like anyone, when I was locked out of my house, and I did everything I could to get back in. (Well, almost everything.) As it happens, calling a locksmith was the best option for me. But when you are locked out of the house, any of these methods may work for you. This is just what I did when I was locked out of my house. Each time a person is locked out of the house the circumstances can be different. Still, you should never shy away from asking for the help you need.
Original Publish Date: March 1, 2017