You’ve locked yourself out of your home. Now what? A lockout can be a stress-inducing situation, especially if you don’t have a spare key handy. So what are your options to get back inside?
1. Look for a spare key
Many people have spare keys hidden in strategies areas around their home for situations like these. If you’re one of these people, get your spare key from its hiding place – whether it’s under the rug, a mailbox, or a flower vase – to let yourself into your home. Try your best to put your spare key in a place that isn’t too obvious, but it shouldn’t be too hidden either, lest you forget where to look.
2. Check all accessible doors
So you can’t access your home from the front door, but if you have a back door, it won’t hurt to try your luck and check if you can get into the house through another point of entry. Another option is if your back door has a dog door for access to your pets, try to see if you can squeeze in through there. Be careful not to panic while getting in this way, as you might end up stuck.
3. Try any open window
Check if you left a window open by any chance. Ground floor windows are typically the safest and easiest to access, but these are also the most likely to be locked. You’ll have better luck finding a second-floor window that was left open, but be careful – you don’t want to end up falling.
If there’s no ladder you can use, you may need to get creative to access a second-story window. If you can climb a fire escape, a trellis, or even a tree nearby, try to see if you can get in that way. Side-hinged windows (casement windows) may be easy to pry open with a thin tool or your fingers if they’re not locked. Be on the lookout for potential landing hazards in your home, such as furniture or appliances.
4. Contact a family member, friend, or any other possible key holders
If you have entrusted a key to a roommate, family member, friend, call them if you left your phone inside your home, head over to a neighbor to use theirs.
5. Ask neighbors for help
You may need a little help from your neighbor to access your locked home. Almost everyone experiences being locked and probably knows how frustrating it can be, so disregard feeling shy or embarrassed. They might have tools to help you in, like a ladder or a bobby pin, so don’t hesitate to ask.
6. Use a credit card or library card
Depending on the type of lock that the door to your home has, you can attempt to pick it yourself. Follow the steps below to open your door:
- Check the lock
The card technique will only work if your door is a spring latch. Spring latches are generally the type that moves with the door handle when it’s turned. Turn the handle so that the spring lock is engaged. If it doesn’t turn, it means it’s locked. A deadbolt is usually located above or below the handle. If the handle moves but the door fails to open, the deadbolt is locked, and you’ll have to try another solution. Keep in mind that this method is unlikely to work on a more modern lock designed to be more secure.
- Select a card to open the lock
When opening a door using a plastic card, it may be damaged, so avoid using any frequently used cards, like credit cards. A library or point card will be easier to replace. Laminated cards are more suitable for this purpose as they are bendy and can be inserted more easily between the door and its frame.
- Wedge the card in the space between the door frame and the door
Press on the door with your non-dominant hand to create some space between the frame and door. Wedge the card into this gap just above the doorknob. There’ll be less space between the frame and door if the frame has molded, making this method harder. In this case, you’ll want to try another approach.
- Use the card to locate the lock mechanism
If you successfully wedge your card between the door and the frame, wriggle it deeper into the gap until you feel resistance. This is the lock mechanism, which you’ll have to force back to disengage. Use the bottom corner of your card to feel around – you should feel the angled part of the door latch facing your direction. If it’s not facing you, you’ll have to slide a long piece of plastic behind the latch to get to the angled side.
- Lever the latch using the card
Slowly press the card away from the doorknob to apply more pressure to the latch. Although it’s likely to disengage the latch this way completely, you’ll feel it start to give. When this happens, push on the door, and it should open. Levering the latch may take a bit of maneuvering, so don’t be afraid to try different positions until you find one that allows the card to disengage the lock mechanism.
7. Make your way in through the garage door
If you have a garage with access to the main house, but it’s sealed, try to see if you can open it following the steps below:
- Obtain a wire hanger
You will need a wire hanger. If you don’t have one, consider borrowing from a neighbor.
- Fashion the hanger into a long rod
Mold the hanger into a long rod that ends in a hook. If your hanger turns out to be too short, wrap the non-hook end around an extension.
- Insert the rod through the top of your garage door
For some garages, this method may not work. However, if your garage has a gap at the top, you should be able to insert your makeshift rod hook-end first. It may be easier to insert the rod from the sides, but it has to be in the center of the garage door to disengage its lock. If there is soft plastic molding around your garage door, this solution may not be suitable as the rod could cause damage to it.
- Hook it into the manual release latch and pull to disengage it
Maneuver the hook-end around the release latch and yank firmly until it disengages. Carefully slide the door up and push it open. If your garage door release has a string attached, pull it to disengage it from the inside.
8. Take off the doorknob or hinges
You can try manually disengaging your door’s lock by taking the knob apart. To remove the doorknob, you’ll need a screwdriver or paperclip; for the hinges, look for some nails and a pounding tool like a hammer.
- Unfasten the mounting screws to remove the knob
To remove the knob this way, you’ll need to be able to see its mounting screws. You can unfasten these screws with your screwdriver to take the knob apart. Pull the knob and disengage the latch with your fingers. Depending on the type of lock installed on the door, you may be able to disengage the lock after getting rid of the knob, or you may have to remove a second mounting plate.
- Take the doorknob off using a paperclip
Some doorknobs feature a pin-size hole instead of mounting screws. If you have this type of doorknob, insert a straightened paper clip as deep into the hole as possible while slowly twisting the knob and pushing on the door.
- Pop your door off its hinges if possible
To bypass hinges, insert a nail at the bottom of the opening for a hinge pin. The next step is to hit the nail using a hammer to push the pinout. Do this for all the hinges on the door. If the hinge pins are stiff, use a screwdriver like a chisel under the pinhead to pop it free.
9. Jump sliding doors off their track
If you have sliding glass doors, you can try jumping them off their track to access your home. Unlike traditional hinged doors, most sliding glass doors are not directly fastened to your unit’s structure. Many of the rest are in a track and are locked in place, and by jumping them out of their track, you can bypass it easily. To jump your sliding glass door, try prying it up and outward using a pry bar or crowbar. If you have no access to these tools, try using two flathead screwdrivers.
10. Call your landlord/ property manager
If you’re renting your home, try visiting the management office or calling the landlord. In most cases, apartment/townhouse management offices can help if you get locked out of your home, though they may charge a fee. On the other hand, a landlord’s willingness to help will depend on their proximity to your unit. It’s not a bad idea to try and call them, as it may be possible that they’ve left a key on the property specifically for this kind of situation.
If you live in a condo, the concierge (if present) will likely have a spare key to give you. All you need to do is to provide proof of residency or show a valid identification card.
11. Call a locksmith
If you run out of options, your last resort should be to call the locksmith. Although far from the cheapest option, locksmiths are a definite way of getting back inside your home easily and quickly. An experienced locksmith can open your locked door within a couple of minutes. Locksmith service fees vary depending on several factors, including your situation, the door type, and your location.
What NOT to do when locked out of your home
Some of the methods you should steer clear of include:
1. Don’t kick your door down
Kicking a door down can damage the lock, the door jam, and the door itself. In some cases, you may need to replace or repair all three.
2. Don’t drill the lock
Even if you can use a power drill, you’re better off not using it on your locked door. Unless you’re an expert, drilling your lock will likely damage it, and you’ll have to incur the costs of replacing it.
3. Don’t break a window
You could potentially hurt yourself by breaking a window, so it’s best to avoid it at all costs. Besides injuring yourself, a broken window is a hassle to replace.
How to prevent a future lockout
Once the frustrating situation is dealt with and you’re safely in your home, take the time to plan so that you don’t end up locked out again.
1. Keep a spare key around your yard
A great way to prevent a future lockout is to keep a spare key in secret, secure spot. Avoid prominent places like under a flower pot or in a fake rock. Instead, try hiding it around your yard, or consider investing in a magnetic lock box that you can stash in your car.
2. Give a trusted neighbor a copy of your key
It might be a good idea to get a few extra copies of your key made at a local hardware store. Give them to trustworthy neighbors or family and friends that live close by. Should you find yourself in a similar jam, you can quickly call on your neighbor or nearby relative, and you should be able to get back inside your home.
3. Install a keyless lock
Consider installing a keyless lock on the door to prevent locking yourself out and generally improve your overall home security. There are many options to choose from, and they’re not as expensive as you may assume. Keyless door locks come with a wide variety of features, including fingerprint recognition, cell phone compatibility, and door code access. You can usually find them at hardware and home improvement stores.
Getting locked out is an annoying experience, but there’s always a way to get back into your home. To save time, money, and a whole lot of stress, take precautions. How effortless and how much it will cost are the primary concerns.