Locked Out? 5 Things to Try Before You Call a Locksmith

by Team eLocal
From a side view against a white background person's hand attempts to open a door using the silver metal doorknob, white background, silver metal doorknob, silver metal, doorknob, door, knob, hand, human, human hand

If you’ve lost your keys and are subsequently locked out of your home, hope may not be lost — so don’t call an emergency locksmith just yet.

From letting yourself in through an unlocked window to some creative doorknob disassembly, there are a few things you can try prior to being out the expense of waiting on and hiring a professional locksmith to let you in.

What Should You Do If You Get Locked Out of the House?

In a perfect world, you’ve left a spare key under a doormat or with a trusted neighbor. You retrieve the key or give the neighbor a call, and you’re in, just like that. But in an imperfect world, you need to find an alternate way to get inside, preferably without the expense of calling for help.

Here are five methods you can try, from the least invasive to the most complicated:

1. Open a Window

Ordinarily, leaving windows or back doors unlocked while you’re away from home is an open invitation to burglars, but if you’re locked out, an open window just may be your saving grace.

Check all ground-floor windows for a way in. Accessing second-story windows is a bit trickier and a lot more dangerous, but it is possible with a ladder. No matter which window you’re able to access, you may need to cut a screen to get inside. Then, just push the window up and climb in.

2. Disassemble the Doorknob

If you have the tools with you, disassembling your doorknob can allow access to your home. A screwdriver, hammer and paper clip are needed. Just take the screws off that hold the knob in place. Then, take off the hinge screws and remove the lock assembly. Reassemble the doorknob and lock by reversing the steps — or replace the lock if you damaged it during the process.

3. Jiggle the Lock Open

Just as seen in the movies, it’s possible to open a door using a hard card such as a credit card. Make sure the card you use is made from thick, hard plastic. Wedge the card between the door’s frame and the door, jiggling the card and pressing the door handle with force. The goal here is to hit the locking mechanism and pop the lock open.

4. Reach Out to Your Landlord

Most landlords keep a spare key for each unit under their supervision. Weigh the cost of asking for the landlord to let you in (if there is one) against the cost of hiring an emergency locksmith to do the job. If you have lost your keys (and not just locked them inside the home), your landlord is the best source for getting a new key made too.

5. Use a Bobby Pin

Depending on the type of lock you have, a bobby pin may be your key to entry. There's no surefire way of how to unlock a door with a bobby pin, but inserting the straightened pin into the lock and using it to "pick" the lock is standard, with various levels of success to be expected.

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When to Call a Locksmith

If all else fails, hopefully you have your phone on you and can look up the number for a local emergency locksmith. It is advisable to call a locksmith if you can’t find a way in or if climbing through a window is unsafe or not possible for you from a physical standpoint.

It’s worth noting that if there is an urgent reason that you need to get into your home — say, you’ve left the oven on, or your young child is inside — you always have the option of breaking in. Most doors can be easily kicked in; just a hard, swift kick near the knob area can help you get inside fairly quickly. If possible, avoid breaking windows to get in because that creates broken glass that can be unsafe to bypass.

Prepare for Lockouts

It’s inevitable: One day in the future, most folks are going to find themselves locked out of their homes. Prepare for this eventuality by leaving a key with a trusted person who is willing to bring it to you if the occasion ever calls for it. Alternatively, leave a spare key in a place on your property where would-be crooks can’t find it, or better yet, install a keyless entry lock.

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