When it comes to safeguarding your home and loved ones, one of the most effective security measures is ensuring the integrity of the locks. Whether you've recently moved into a new house, experienced a security breach, or want to upgrade your home's security, knowing how to change locks is an essential skill every homeowner should possess.
This article aims to provide you with a step-by-step tutorial on changing locks at home and tell you how to select the proper locks at every entry point of your home.
Note: Doors are a common vulnerability that burglars frequently exploit in homes. Explore our in-depth guide to securing your home, which includes the top 21 effective methods to deter burglars.
Rekeying vs. Changing Door Locks: Which One to Choose
Rekeying and changing door locks are two different methods for enhancing the security of your door. But when to rekey or change the locks? Each of these two methods has its advantages and situations where it is more appropriate.
Rekeying involves changing a lock cylinder's internal pins and springs to make the existing keys ineffective. It does not replace the entire lock or door hardware. There are scenarios where you can choose to rekey the locks rather than changing the whole hardware. For example, rekeying is a cost-effective way to maintain security without replacing the entire lock if you've lost or stolen your keys. If you have multiple locks with different keys, you can rekey them to use a single key for all locks.
Changing door locks means completely replacing the existing lock with a new one, which includes new keys and hardware. Changing door locks sometimes requires more time and effort. If the existing lock is damaged, outdated, or compromised in any way, it's a good idea to replace it for improved security. You can also change the locks when you want to upgrade the security of your property, such as installing a high-security lock or a smart lock system.
How to Change Locks: Step-by-Step Tutorial
Compared to rekeying the lock, changing the whole door locks provides higher security, especially when upgrading to modern or high-security locks. Here are some steps you can follow.
1. Choose the Right Lockset and Gather Your Tools
The first step is selecting a new lock that fits your needs and matches your door hardware. Before the installation, you should have all these tools in hand. You will need a new lockset with keys, a screwdriver, a tape measure, a pencil, and a hammer. Some locks will also have a strike plate.
2. Remove the Old Lock
Then you should remove the old lock. To begin, close the door securely, making sure it's locked. Next, remove the screws securing the inside door knob or lever, allowing you to separate the interior and exterior portions of the lock. Afterward, unscrew the strike plate from the door frame and, with caution, carefully extract the old latch mechanism from the edge of the door.
3. Measure and Mark
Measure the size of the borehole diameter and the new lock's backset, which is the distance from the edge of the door to the center of the hole. Mark these measurements on the door using a pencil.
4. Prepare the Door and Install the New Lock
If your new lock comes with a new strike plate, you can use a chisel and hammer to create a shallow recess. But this recess needs to align with the latch. Then, you can install the new lock by following the manufacturer's instructions.
Some typical steps include: Insert the latch mechanism into the borehole and securing it with screws. And then attach the exterior portion of the lock. Keep in mind that the keyhole is on the outside. At last, fasten the interior part of the lock, align it with the screws, and tighten them securely.
5. Install the Strike Plate
After placing the new lockset correctly, you must attach the strike plate on the door frame with screws. You need to ensure it lines up perfectly with the latch.
6. Final Adjustment and Test
At last, you can test the lock to ensure it operates smoothly. For example, check if the latch retracts and extends correctly. Adjust the lock's alignment or latch if it doesn't work smoothly. You can also lubricate the lock with lock oil for optimal performance.
When and Why Should You Change Locks
Changing locks is a crucial step to enhance home security and maintain control over access to your property. There are several situations and reasons why you should consider changing your locks.
Moving into a New Home
When you move into a new house or apartment, you can change a new lock to ensure that you are the only one having access to your property because you can't be sure who has copies of the keys from previous occupants or contractors.
Lost or Stolen Keys
Lost or stolen keys can be another security risk. If you've experienced this, changing your locks is the best way to maintain safety. This act ensures that the missing keys can't be used for unauthorized access.
Damaged or Worn Locks
Locks can deteriorate over time due to wear and tear. Damaged keys are less reliable. If your locks are old, malfunctioning, or damaged, it's advisable to replace them for optimal security.
After a Break-In
If an attempted break-in or your house has been burglarized, you must change your locks immediately. Changes are that burglars will target your home once again. Moreover, your existing door locks may have been damaged or compromised during the accident.
If you've shared keys with individuals you no longer trust or want to provide access to your home, changing the locks is a good idea to prevent unauthorized entry. For example, if your roommates have moved out or there is a divorce or a significant change in a household's composition.
Cost to Get Your Locks Changed
The cost of getting your locks changed can vary due to several factors, such as the type of locks you have, the number of locks to be changed, whether you hire a professional locksmith or do it yourself, and your location.
Replacing a single basic deadbolt or knob lock will cost from $35 to $220, including the labor and the cost of the new lock. However, if you choose a smart, high-security lock, the price may be over $300. Labor charges for a locksmith can vary by location and the job's complexity. On average, locksmiths charge between $50 and $100 per hour.
DIY vs. Professional: When to Seek Help
There are occasions when you need help to handle the complicated installation process. You may need to call a professional for help. Some typical circumstances include:
- Lack of experience: If you have not installed locks or rekey the door before, it's easy to make mistakes that could compromise your security. Professional locksmiths have the expertise to do the job and ensure your locks function properly.
- Complex lock system: If your home has advanced or high-security lock systems, such as electronic smart locks or biometric locks, it's better to seek help from a professional locksmith specializing in these systems. These locks can be intricate, and improper installation can lead to security vulnerabilities.
- Older locks and hardware: Replacing vintage locks can take time and effort. If you've moved into an old house or are dealing with a damaged and worn lock, it's wise to consult a locksmith. They can assess the condition of your locks and recommend whether replacement or repair is necessary.
- Master key system: A master key system is a hierarchical system of keys and locks allowing different access levels within a facility or property. In a master key system, there are multiple locks, each with its unique key (known as a change key) and a single key (the master key) that can open various locks. Changing locks in a master key system requires specialized knowledge to ensure that all keys in the design work correctly. A locksmith can handle this complex task.
How to Choose a New Door Lock
Choosing a new door lock is the first step of the whole installation process. Several factors should be taken into account to make an informed choice.
The primary purpose of changing locks is to enhance home security. So, when choosing the door lock, you should carefully evaluate the lock's security rating. This rating is typically indicated on the packaging. The most common industry standard for security is ANSI/BHMA (American National Standards Institute/Builders Hardware Manufacturers Association) grades, with Grade 1 being the highest for residential locks.
Different locks usually have distinct locking mechanisms. Deadbolts, for example, come in single-cylinder and double-cylinder options. Single-cylinder locks are operated with a key on one side and a thumb turn on the other, while double-cylinder locks require a key for both sides. Double-cylinder locks offer extra security but can be a safety concern in emergencies, as they need a key to unlock from the inside.
Type of Lock
There are various types of door locks in the market, including deadbolts, knob locks, lever handle locks, and smart locks. You can choose the style that suits your specific security needs. For example, deadbolts are often recommended for higher security for older houses with existing door hardware.
If you already have a smart home system, consider purchasing a smart lock and integrating it into your home automation setup. For example, some smart locks allow you to monitor your entry points from anywhere via a smartphone app, while other models offer different keyless entrance options.
Types of Popular Door Locks
The type of door lock is an essential factor to consider when choosing a new lock. Some popular options in the market include the following ones:
Deadbolt locks are the most common locks in the market. There are two types of deadbolts: Single cylinder and double-cylinder deadbolts. Deadbolts generally resist forced entry methods such as lock picking, bumping, and drilling. They can provide a higher level of security due to their design. These locks are typically made of strong materials like solid steel or brass, making them durable and capable of withstanding physical attacks.
Knob locks are characterized by their round or cylindrical knob-shaped handles, which are used to operate the lock. Unlike deadbolt locks, knob locks are not typically used as the primary security mechanism for exterior doors due to their lower level of security.
These locks have a simple locking mechanism. When you turn the knob from the inside, it engages or disengages the lock. Using these locks on interior doors in residential settings, such as bedroom and bathroom doors, is highly recommended.
Lever Handle Locks
Lever handle locks, or lever handle sets or lever locks, are a type of door lock commonly used in residential and commercial settings. They differ from traditional knob locks because they have a lever-shaped handle for operating the lock mechanism. To lock or unlock a lever handle lock from the inside, you typically push down or press the lever handle until it engages with the latch mechanism. Lever handle locks also come with a key, allowing you to unlock the door from the outside.
For smart home system users, smart locks can be the best option. Smart locks are equipped with electronic components and can be controlled remotely via smartphone apps or integrated with home automation systems. They offer convenience, security features, and the ability to monitor access. Many advanced models allow keyless entry via PIN codes, fingerprint recognition, or Bluetooth connectivity. Some models even have a built-in camera for daily monitoring.
How much does it cost to change a new lock?
Several factors can influence the cost of changing a lock, such as the type of lock you have, how many locks you need to change, and whether or not you hire a locksmith.
A basic deadbolt or knob lock replacement will cost between $35 and $220, including labor and the new lock. However, if you choose a smart, high-security lock, the cost may be over $300. A locksmith's labor charges can vary depending on their location and job complexity. Locksmiths charge an average of $50-100 per hour.
Can I change my locks myself?
Yes, you can change your locks yourself, and many people do so for various reasons, including convenience and cost savings. However, changing new locks at home requires essential tools, DIY skills, and the confidence to perform the task correctly. You can follow the guidelines above. If you need help to finish the installation process, call a professional locksmith for help.
Is it easier to rekey or change locks?
Rekeying locks is typically more effortless, cost-effective, and suitable when you want to maintain your existing locks but update the keys and security, especially for those DIY enthusiasts. Changing locks, however, requires more installation skills and time.
Should I change all locks in a new home?
It depends on your specific needs. If your new home has damaged, worn, or outdated locks, you can choose to change them all. However, changing all the locks requires more time and effort. While changing all the locks is recommended, some homeowners can prioritize specific entry points, such as the front and back doors, while rekeying or changing locks on less critical areas like interior doors or sheds.
Changing locks is a fundamental step in ensuring home security. This step-by-step guide has demonstrated that you can successfully change locks on your own with the right tools, a bit of DIY skill, and careful attention to detail.
Selecting the right lock is a crucial decision. Your decision should align with your security goals and preferences, from security levels and materials to lock types. Did you ever change your locks when moving into a new home? How did you achieve that? Please share your experience and this article with your family and friends if you find it useful!
If you are looking for other methods to enhance your door security, check the following posts.