Welcome to an edition of the Adventures of a Vancouver Locksmith. A series where we explore some of the more interesting jobs or situations we encountered. As one of the most popular locksmiths in Vancouver, I can’t cover everything I do in a month. So I will just include the stuff that I found interesting or something I think a commercial or residential client should keep an eye out for.

As always, if you need a professional Vancouver locksmith that puts your needs first, please call or text me at 604-363-2760 or email me at alex@locksmithvancouver.com. We offer same-day service and the best warranty in town!

The first item I would like to cover is the case of an improperly installed electric strike. I was called out to replace a mailbox lock at a location near Science World. The mailbox lock was not a problem. However, on the way out, I could not help but notice how odd the electric strike looked.

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When properly installed, you should not be able to see the body of the electric strike at all. Normally, I find electric strikes are sticking out too far because someone didn’t bother to install the right one for the size of the door stile, they did not install the mounting tabs correctly, or it’s all messed up because they didn’t know what they were doing.

I think this one maybe a combination of everything.

First, you do need a small section of the door removed or cut out to allow what we call the “keeper” of the electric strike to work. That is basically the black part of the electric strike and the “keeper” keeps the door locked. When you use your fob or get buzzed in, the keeper releases the latch and unlocks the door. 

On this door, someone created the cut-out on the wrong side of the door. It should have been made on the outside face of the door, and not the inside. Judging from how smooth the cut is, this was most likely done at the door factory which means either the contractor ordered the door incorrectly or the factory made a mistake.

Regardless of who made the mistake, the residents of the building are left with a damaged door that may also be a fire hazard. One of the things that can happen is that the damaged faceplate will fail one day and the deadlatch will slip to the other side of the door. After all, the faceplate is a very thin piece of aluminum.

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This is a picture of another job I did this month where that happened. The latch slipped to the other side and barricaded the door. The residents of this building could not open that door electronically or with a key until I repaired the door.

If there was a fire or another type of emergency, the residents could have been trapped and emergency services would have been greatly delayed in rendering aid. Simply put, people can die when these are improperly installed.

Second, when properly installed, the electric strike should sit flush with the door surface or slightly recessed. It should not stick out because that can impede the door from closing and/or cause excess damage to the deadlatch on the other side. 

I see this sort of problem a lot with electric strikes. It’s better to have the electric strike a tiny bit recessed into the door vs sticking out. It ensures the door always closes and extends the life of the lock components.

Based on my experience as a professional Vancouver locksmith and observer of human behaviour,  I think this is what happened. The door contractor or estimator submitted an order to the door factory but indicated that this was an inward swinging door vs an outward swinging door. If the door swung the other way, the location of the cutout and hinges would make sense.

These kinds of doors need to be ordered several months in advance and they probably cost the contractor around $10K to $20K. Eventually, it got installed which probably took two glazers about a week then the access control guy would have come to install the electric strike, fob system, etc. Around this point, someone would have noticed that the small little cutout was on the wrong side.

The contractor has two choices. One, immediately scrap around $20K to $40K worth of work in parts and labour. Wait 2 months for new doors, then call back all the tradespeople who have since moved onto other projects back to finish the front doors. Since it was your mistake you would have to compensate the developer and the new owners for the delays, so add another $100K to $200K additional costs.

Two, convince yourself that the little cutout on the other side is not a big deal. Maybe people won’t even notice it. Go on with the project as if nothing is wrong. Once you get paid, it’s not your problem any longer. Especially, as the new home warranty on locks is only 12 months anyway. If the strata council is unaware of the problem or does not know how serious of a problem it could be, why stir the hornet’s nest?

Personally and professionally, I would have found the liability issue too great to ignore. If there was an emergency and the door failed, the civil liabilities and damage to reputation could be enormous, particularly if there was a loss of life. Also, Insurance companies don’t like to pay out settlements when they can argue gross negligence.

If your building’s front door looks anything like this, please contact Vancouver’s professional locksmith at Archer Lock Services. You can call or text me at 604-363-2760 or email me at alex@locksmithvancouver.com

The second interesting service call involved a client who lost her keys to her Abloy deadbolt. Without going into great detail, Abloy deadbolts are high-security deadbolts and are generally considered top of the class. In fact, Abloys are the preferred high-security locks of the Government of Canada. All branches of the Canadian Armed Forces use Abloys along with the RCMP and Coast Guard. If you visit the Parliament Building in Ottawa, you will find Abloys installed everywhere.

I have installed quite a number of Abloys all over Vancouver and the Lower Mainland. They are virtually lockpick-proof and drilling them out is an absolute nightmare. So whenever I sell an Abloy, I tell my client to never to lose their keys. And just in case they do, keep their Abloy Key ID card with them or on their phone. That way, we can cut them a new key vs drilling one out.

Getting back to my client who lost her keys at around 10 pm, she had called at least one other locksmith before she called me. They were only too happy to help until she told them it was an Abloy deadbolt. At which point they refused to serve her as it was “too hard” of a job.

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As a professional Vancouver locksmith, I understand their pains. When I was a less experienced locksmith, I did have to drill out an Abloy deadbolt in Gastown and I will never forget the experience. 

I got called out to a job in Gastown by a restoration company. There was flooding from an upper-floor unit and they needed access to this apartment. Unfortunately, the owners do not live in the country and installed an Abloy deadbolt for the high security it provides.

You can forget about drilling out this lock. Even professional contractor-grade drill bits have a hard time finding any grip on that slick super-hard boron alloy surface. After wasting about $100 worth of drill bits in a futile attempt, we had to resort to a 5” high-powered angle grinder with a diamond cutting wheel.

Did I mention that we set off the fire alarms and had to call the Vancouver Fire Department? Then call the fire panel company to turn off the fire alarms? And, we are only halfway through the nightmare.

The second half of the nightmare involved cutting a large cross into the deadbolt all the way through to the surface of the door. This had to be done to allow enough space to remove the 20+ discs that make up the Abloy key cylinder. Most 5-pin locks have about 100,000 key combinations, but these discs allow Abloys to have about 360 million key combinations. Great for security, but a pain for me.

After all the discs are removed, the cylinder drum can be turned to unlock the door.

So what happened this time? Well, I had gotten more experienced and wiser. Along the way, I discovered a tool that allowed me to drill out an Abloy in less than 15 minutes. Even the latest Protec2 Elite Cylinders won’t take more than 30 mins with this tool.

The only downside is that the tool dulls quickly so you can only use it once or twice before replacing it. Also, it’s a special order from Europe so it’s a bit pricey and the cost is transferred to the customer. However, the savings in time, sweat, and sanity are definitely worth it for both myself and the client.

I won’t reveal what the tool is because of security reasons. Like many trades, the quality of the tradesperson’s tools is an indicator of the qualifications of a tradesperson. I have found the more experience I have, the more tools I acquire to make my jobs faster, easier, and of higher quality. 

If you have an Abloy lock and are locked out, please call or text me at 604-363-2760 or email me at alex@locksmithvancouver.com. We make the hard jobs look easy!

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