How NOT to open locked doors without a key
One of the most frequent types of calls we receive is from clients who have been locked out of their home or business for some reason or another. Some are even locked inside their unit and cannot get out – especially problematic if you are in a unit above the ground floor. Personally, I think being locked in is worse than being locked out because your home or office is now your own prison cell.
After hearing how much a service call costs (especially during after-hours and on weekends), people tend to get very creative in their efforts to save a bit of money. Often, they just make things worse and it will cost them more money and trouble in the end. So here are a few ways NOT to open locked doors without a key.
Why you should not do Forced Entry
Clients experience turnover as a normal course of operations and keys just disappear for one reason or another. Or they get thrown into the mystery key bin with all the other mystery keys that no one in the office is sure what they’re for.
I often meet Office Managers and new homeowners with a box with dozens of keys that have been collected over several decades by different people and no one wants to spend the time figuring out which key opens which door or filing cabinet.
So sometimes the best way to gain entry is through forced entry or destructive techniques. I say “sometimes” because this only applies when done by a Professional Locksmith like myself. In this section, I will not go into the best ways to break into an office or a home. There are enough videos online to give a budding thief some pointers.
Before you go to the Dark Side, just make sure to run a quick cost-benefit analysis. I get calls from potential customers once in a while who ask about our Service Fees then remark it would be cheaper just to break a window or kick the door down.
But would it really be cheaper?
Replacement Cost Examples
Here are some costs of different parts you may need to replace if you kick your door down or break a window. These figures are from Home Depot’s website as of September 2023:
- The cheapest door and door frame found online $617.00
- An average new residential-grade deadbolt $50.00
- A typical new residential lever $50.00
- The cheapest new vinyl glass window set $250.00
These are just for the basic part themselves not including all the tools and additional accessories you will need to actually remove the damaged parts and install the new ones. Not to mention, you may be doing this after your local Home Depot closes which means you may be leaving your door or window busted open for a night or two.
Of course, if you already have most of the tools and parts on hand, this might make sense to you. For example, if you are employed in the construction industry, it’s not a stretch to imagine you already have most of the tools to make this easier or cheaper. Maybe you even have some plywood sheets and a circular/table saw lying around – most people don’t.
Considering the cost of living in Vancouver, a lot of our customers’ budgets are stretched thin and unexpected expenditures like calling for a Professional Locksmith can be quite stressful.
So when faced with a locked door without the proper key, people start thinking creatively on ways to avoid calling a professional. Nevertheless, it will sometimes be just cheaper and easier to call a Professional Locksmith than to take matters into your own hands.
Here’s a quick example: I had a client living in one of Vancouver’s most upscale condo towers who was locked out of their multi-million dollar condo. They decided to kick their door down rather than engage a Locksmith.
So in the end, they had to replace their door, door frame, and locks which all could have been avoided. I have generally found that most Vancouver condos have doors that cannot be bought from your local pre-hung door distributor or retailer. They all have distinctive veneers and finishes that drive up the replacement cost and delivery time.
In another example, I sometimes talk to people who think it would be cheaper to break a window and crawl into their home. If you live on the ground floor, this may sound like a viable alternative to calling for a Locksmith. However, anyone who has replaced a window can tell you that glass is not cheap – especially for the newer double or triple-pane low-energy loss windows. Not forgetting the fact that multi-paned glass windows are really hard to break. A double-pane window will require you to break both the inner and outer layers.
The single-pane aluminum frame glass windows that are found on older homes are cheaper to replace. However, replacement parts are now hard to find as they no longer meet the BC Building Code. As such, most retailers don’t carry replacement parts.
Forced Entry can damage your health
Breaking down doors and shattering windows can be also quite detrimental to your health. I’ve seen people break bones, cut themselves badly, and injure themselves in all manner of ways in their attempt to save a bit of money.
Don’t try to force your way into your business or home unless you are willing to risk injury. I have seen enough videos online of people cutting a brachial artery after cutting their arm on broken glass to know never try it myself.
The most dangerous stunt I’ve seen some clients pull is to jump or cross over balconies from their neighbour’s patio to gain entry via an unlocked balcony door. Might sound reasonable when you are on the second floor but seems suicidal at anything above that.
The only time I found this reasonable was a client I met several years ago. It was during one of the coldest months of the year in Vancouver, and the gentleman had stepped out onto his 8th floor balcony to smoke a cigarette. Of course, the building prohibited smoking on the grounds, but it was like -10 degrees Celsius outside so he didn’t feel like going off the property.
He, unfortunately, forgot his patio door is the type that locks automatically when closed – he did not live in the greatest part of town. So when he called me via his neighbour’s cell phone, he was standing on his 8th-floor balcony in his T-shirt and shorts.
While I was driving to the location to assist, the client decided that it would be safer for him to risk falling off the 8th floor of the building and to cross over to his neighbour’s “detached” balcony vs. freezing to death on his balcony.
Final Comments on Forced Entry
The previous example was the only time in my history as a Locksmith when life and limb seemed like a good idea. Every other time, it was never a good idea. However, when people are tired and stressed, bad ideas may sound like perfectly reasonable ideas.
So, unless it is to preserve life and limb, please do not commit Forced Entry by yourself. Save yourself a lot of headaches by letting a Professional Locksmith do it.
Finally, I need to mention that most insurance companies will not accept claims where you break your own property deliberately. If you break down your door vs. calling a Locksmith, your insurance coverage will probably not reimburse you. Plus most people’s insurance deductibles are $1000. Our Service Call Fee is only $210 to $300. Do the math – what’s cheaper?
Why you should not try to bypass your locks and doors
Some people know right off the bat that they are not the type to kick down doors and break windows when faced with a locked door without a key. These people may however use whatever creative method they can think of or see/read online to gain entry. I suppose the mental reasoning is that they might as well try everything before spending $210 to $300 and call for a Professional Port Coquitlam Locksmith.
Unfortunately, they often make things worse and turn a simple Locksmithing job into a nightmarish black hole that sucks in time, parts, and money to fix the mess they created. I call this type of client – “MacGyvers”.
Some examples of how not to bypass your locks and doors include:
- Sticking a credit card to loid properly installed deadlatch – not only is it nearly impossible, you also ruined your credit card
- Sticking improvised lockpicks made of bobby pins and etc – great way to mess up the lock cylinders and force us to drill the lock out
- Heat up the lock a lighter or a blowtorch – great way to start a fire and burn yourself
- Inject glue or a putty like substance into the cylinder – no good will come of this
- Attempt to remove the door from hinges – great way to hurt yourself
Lockpicking or lock bypass requires years of experience and the right tools to gain entry without hurting yourself and minimizing damage to the door and lock. If in doubt, just call a Locksmith for advice. A good one will tell you if it’s a good idea or not.
I generally find the best way to open a locked door without a key is to find the key. In my experience, clients get very motivated to find the right key or copy of that key when there are dollars at stake.
I have had clients who call up ex-lovers, ex-spouses, parents/relatives, and real estate agents for a copy of the key. Basically, anyone who might have had a key in the past and still might have it. Humans are natural hoarders so the chances are actually good that someone might have the key you need out there somewhere.
However, I also find most clients are conflict-averse. In the end, they would rather pay for a Vancouver Locksmith to solve the problem rather than call an ex-partner to ask if they kept their key. In that case, call or text me at 604-363-2760 or email me at email@example.com. I’m always happy to have a chat to discuss your options.