As we move out of summer and into autumn, now is the time to ensure your home locks are all in good condition and working properly. In this blog post, we will give you jargon-free, step-by-step advice on the things you should be checking for, how to maintain the locks in your home and what to do if you need an emergency locksmith.
As the nights draw in and we move into the gloomier months of the year, the risk of being burgled actually rises by 63%. This is due to the obvious benefits for a thief who is working under the cover of darkness; burglars and opportunist thieves are much less likely to be spotted by neighbours or passers-by, and the properties that are empty (and therefore come with less risk to the burglar) are much easier to spot in the first place.
Your locks are an integral part of your home security — if your doors and windows are well-built and fitted, then they will offer some protection, but without the locks they may as well not be there at all.
For this reason, you should treat lock checking and maintenance as an annual task to be completed at the end of summer. This way, you can move into the colder months fully assured that your home is as secure as it can be.
Complete a lock inventory
Take a tour of your whole property, including any outbuildings such as garages and sheds, and compile a list of all external locks. This should include the locks present on both your doors and windows, and should also include any additional security features, such as padlocks, door chains and garage door defenders. Obviously, you’ll only have to do this once – unless you change or add locks to your home.
Once you have a comprehensive list of all external locks, you can go round one by one to check and clean them. While this may seem time-intensive, it’s actually extremely useful to have your locks on record, and that way you can tick them off as you go along, ensuring that none are overlooked.
Test your locks
Working through your list, check each lock for the following:
- The lock and all attached parts (such as the handle) should be well fitted and in good condition. Look out for loose screws and dented or damaged areas. Any issues that can’t be easily remedied by yourself should be looked at by a locksmith.
- Test the lock with all relevant keys to ensure it opens and closes smoothly. Watch out for keys which you have to jiggle in order to lock or unlock the mechanism. This may indicate that the key is a copy of the original. Prolonged use of a key which doesn’t quite fit properly may cause the lock mechanism to break internally after a certain amount of time. Use only the original keys where possible and any copies should always be cut from the original key, never from another copy.
- When you lock and unlock the door/window, check that the locking mechanism itself doesn’t stick or make a noise. If it does, clean and lubricate the lock, as this often solves the issue. A continuation of the problem may indicate a more serious problem which will need to be looked at by a professional.
- Do you have to lift, push or pull the door/window in order to align the lock? This may mean that it’s become warped or has not been installed correctly. Where the issue affects a door, this may well mean that it is no longer hung properly, in which case it may need to be re-fitted.
- Make a note of how many keys you have for each lock so you can check that they’re all present and correct each year. If you know that any keys are missing, it may be worth replacing the affected locks just in case they have fallen into the wrong hands. You should make spares for any locks which only have one key and keep them in a safe and secure place.
Clean your locks
When locks are left for years without being properly cleaned, dirt and grime can build up within the lock and cause the inner mechanism to stick, as well as making the key hard to turn. Over time, this will put stress on certain components, severely shortening the lifespan of the lock and putting you at risk of it breaking at the most inconvenient time.
Clean your locks by wiping them over with a damp cloth. If there is dirt or grime around the lock itself and you must use a cleaning agent, ensure that it’s compatible with the material and avoid getting any cleaner inside the lock, as this can cause abrasion and damage to the mechanism.
Do not spray water or cleaner directly into the lock hole. To keep the inner mechanism clean and lubricated, we recommend using white grease (also known as lithium soap or white lithium) in a small squeeze tube. Squeeze a small amount into the lock and run the key in and out a few times – wiping off the key in between – in order to distribute it properly and remove grime.
It is not recommended that you use petroleum-based products or cooking oil to lubricate your locks, as this can cause problems further down the line.
Upgrade old or broken locks
You may have some locks in your home which are rather dated, yet are still in good working order. While it may feel that they don’t need replacing, it’s worth remembering that modern locks will withstand forced entry much more effectively. Many older locking mechanisms have weak points which have since been identified and taken advantage of by criminals. Even if your older locks work, they may have inherent faults which make them vulnerable — something which is unlikely to be an issue with a new lock.
Unfortunately, your locks don’t even have to be that old to be considered dangerously out of date. Euro cylinder locks, which are very common on front and back doors, are likely to have an at-risk weak point if the door was installed prior to 2008. If pressure is applied to the lock, the inner structure can snap, automatically unlocking the door — this takes seconds and requires no specialist equipment. If you have to lift the handle to lock your front door, then it’s likely you have one of these locks.
Any pre-2008 euro cylinder locks should be replaced as soon as possible with the anti-snap version. Anti-snap euro cylinders have a rather deceiving name, as they are actually designed to snap at a designated weak-point near the front of the lock. Pre-2008 euro cylinder locks will snap in the middle, which destroys the locking mechanism. When an ‘anti-snap’ lock is snapped, the locking mechanism stays intact and therefore ensures continued security. You will still need to have the lock replaced should it be targeted, but your home will remain locked and out of bounds to the potential thief.
Install additional locks
It’s always worth considering adding extra locks or security features to your doors and windows, particularly if they’d be easy for a burglar to reach or if they’re located in a more private spot, where the thief cannot be easily seen. It is entrances like these which will be the most attractive for lock picking or lock snapping, so an additional lock would be a wise thing to install.
- For external doors, additional bolts at the top and/or bottom of the door can boost security considerably. Door chains and night latches are also recommended.
- French doors can be secured using a Patlock (pictured below), which fits over the handles and prevents them from being used, even when the lock has been picked or snapped.
- Window security can be upgraded by fitting sash blockers, casement locks and snap locks — the right type of lock for you will depend on the type of window you have.
- Garage doors can be fitted with additional locks, and you can also block up-and-over doors from being opened with a garage door defender, which works even where the lock has failed.
If you need a locksmith…
If you have found any security issues which need to be addressed, or if you suffer a break-in and require an emergency locksmith, Evander can help. We have a nationwide team of fully trained locksmiths on call 24/7, 365 days a year.
In the event of a break-in or if your home has sustained damage through vandalism or accident, we always recommend that you contact the police in the first instance (if appropriate), followed by your home insurance company. As the preferred property services provider for the majority of the top home insurers in the UK, it’s likely that Evander will attend your home under instructions of your insurer.
If you do not have home insurance, or if you would prefer to organise it yourself, then you can get in touch with us directly on 0345 145 0130 at any time, day or night. We can replace damaged locks with temporary, secure solutions while a like-for-like or improved replacement is organised. We can also perform board-up services to ensure your home is not left open to further problems.
Whether the issue is urgent or not, contact us today. Our friendly and knowledgeable team are happy to give advice and help with any questions or queries you may have about your locks and your overall home security.