We’ve all locked ourselves out before. That doesn’t make it any less of a pain in the you-know-what, though. All of a sudden, the security precautions you took before leaving the house conspire against you.
Remember the windows you fastidiously closed and locked? The back door you bolted? The garage door you barred?
You suddenly feel like an intruder, wondering how you’re going to get back inside your humble abode. Are any of your neighbors at home? Where’s your cell phone?
Do you really feel like fessing up to the fact, “I locked myself out?” If so, who are you ready to explain this to, and can they help anyway?
Your mind becomes a blur of questions, but there’s a better way. When the inevitable happens, don’t go it alone. Instead, use the tips in this article to remedy the situation.
Locked Myself Out 101
Nobody wants to confess, “I locked myself out of my house.” Yet, it happens more often than you might think.
Assuming that half an ounce of prevention is, indeed, worth half a pound of cure, let’s start by exploring why home lockouts happen so that you can avoid them.
According to locksmiths from across the United States, home lockouts follow a predictable pattern. The vast majority happen during the morning and evening rush to and from work and school.
Why? Because in the mad race to get the kids to school on time and you to work after that, keys can easily get misplaced. Part of this has to do with people juggling too many items in their hands.
Many of these individuals don’t realize they’ve locked their keys in the house. That is until they return after work. Ugh!
Of course, some lockouts come with immediate notice. For example, if you’ve locked yourself out of the house, and there are pets or small kids inside, you may need to get immediate assistance.
How Improper Handling of Keys Leads to Lockouts
Almost 60 percent of house lockouts in big cities such as Chicago occur because people have misplaced their keys.
This problem often happens when they don’t have a designated bag or wallet for those keys. Even worse, if you have a single key that you use to lock and unlock your house, it’s ripe for getting lost.
Locksmiths also report that the loss of single keys rank at the top of the list when it comes to key mishandling.
One of the main reasons? Without a key chain and other keys involved, it’s far too easy to drop a single one without even noticing. After all, you won’t likely feel a weight difference, and you won’t hear the telltale clanging of metal.
Exacerbating house lockouts are the lack of duplicate keys. Did you know that as many as half of all residents in the US report not having a duplicate copy of their house key? In other words, they have no margin for error.
The result? The need to break into your own house (and risk the damage and commotion associated with that), or call a locksmith.
Things to Try Before You Call a Locksmith
How to get into your locked house? Before you call a professional locksmith to come out and assess the situation, here are a couple of things to try.
First, start by calling for help. Do you have a roommate or partner who has a key? Is there anyone else living with you that can get you in?
Yes, you’ll have to do some explaining, and you may even owe them a coffee or dinner. Nonetheless, this approach represents the fastest and most convenient way to get back into your house.
Second, check to see if you have any open windows on the property. If so, wedge it up as far as possible and climb into the room. (This task is often best left to school-aged kids and diminutively sized adults.)
Note, there’s a high likelihood you’ll end up face-first on the floor if you don’t do this carefully!
Of course, window entries only work on the ground floor of a house, and if you’re a stickler for security or it’s winter, the odds of this happening prove slim. Nonetheless, it’s worth a try, and it could save you some money.
Using Plastic to Get into Your House
If the window thing doesn’t work and you’ve got your cell phone handy, go to Angie’s List. There you can check out their detailed instructions for how to crack a house lock using a card from your wallet.
To make this work, you’ll want to find the most flexible card in your wallet, and use it to slowly wiggle the bolt mechanism back and forth.
If you can leverage your card between the door and the doorjamb, you may be able to force the bolt mechanism back into the door. That said, modern locks are designed to make entry via card impossible.
Normally, you’d feel pretty good about this feature, except you’re locked out of your house and running out of options. If this doesn’t work or you’ll dealing with a contemporary lock or deadbolts, then it’s time to try something else.
Other Improvised Lock-Picking Tools
Besides cards, you can also use other improvised tools to try to get inside your property. Of course, you’ll need to channel Macgyver in the process.
Remember, too, that you’re going to need plenty of patience. While movies make lock picking look easy, such is not the case in the real world. Otherwise, burglaries would be even more prevalent.
If you’ve got two paperclips or two bobby pins handy, use them to get started. Begin by bending the metal pieces into an “L” shape. This L-shaped tool will act as your tension rod. In other words, it’ll hold the lock in place.
Then, straighten the other piece of metal and bend it into a “W” shape at the end. You’ll use this W-shaped bit to unlatch the pins located inside the lock.
With your pieces bent into the proper shapes, it’s time to dive into lock picking. While keeping tension on the lock with the L-shaped piece, use the W-shaped implement to “feel” for pins inside the lock.
Then, push with the W-shaped metal piece until each of the pins moves up, and the door opens. Voila! You’ve managed to break into your own home.
Are you having trouble getting the process to work? Head over to YouTube to check out some explainer videos. Or, use this method that relies on one paperclip.
Take Your Doorknob Off
Another form of improvisation that could get you back into your house involves removing your doorknob. Of course, if you don’t have the right tools and know-how, we don’t recommend going this route.
This technique doesn’t work if you’ve got a deadbolt lock, either.
Most doorknobs have mounted screws or concealed connections. Take a close look.
Do you see pin-sized holes? Or, perhaps, a slot below or to the side of the doorknob? If so, these holes or slots represent your way back in.
For this maneuver, you’ll need a thin piece of metal. Remember those bobby pins and paper clips we discussed earlier? Get ready to use them!
Straighten one of them out, creating a long filament. Then, insert it into the hole and apply some pressure. You’ll feel resistance.
Keep pushing the metal tool into the hole while pulling and twisting the doorknob until it comes off in your hand. Next, pry up the decorative plate.
Beneath this plate, you’ll see the lockset. Using the same piece of metal (or, better yet, a screwdriver), pull back the locking mechanism. This action should cause the door to unlock.
Why You Should Still Call a Locksmith
Of course, there’s a caveat to all of this. Managing to pick your house lock using a card, paperclips, or bobby pins solves the immediate problem of getting into your house. Yet, it also means your home is a sitting duck for intruders.
Following this incident, you should contact a reputable locksmith ASAP. Otherwise, you risk future break-ins.
Remember those YouTube videos you pulled up? Anybody and their dog has access to them. So, don’t gamble on the safety of your household to save a few bucks.
The locksmith will likely suggest upgrading your lock. By doing this, you’ll gain peace of mind. Just remember to have the locksmith make some duplicate copies of keys! That way, you’ll never have to worry about this problem again.
What’s more, with an upgraded lock, your chances of bobby-pinning your way back in like Daphne from Scooby-Doo will be slim to none.
Take Advantage of Rental Property Perks
If you’ve got a landlord or concierge, forget about cards and bobby pins. Instead, make your manager or concierge the first stop on your list.
For rentals, call your landlord and explain the situation. If they live nearby, they should be able to bring over a set of keys and open the front door with ease. The same goes for a local property management company.
If you live in an apartment, stop by the manager’s office to seek assistance. They’ll likely ask you for your ID, and you may have to pay a lockout fee. That said, if you need to get into your apartment, this may be your best and only option.
What if you live in a big city apartment in a high rise building? Crawling through a window isn’t going to do the trick unless you’re channeling Tom Cruise from a Mission Impossible movie.
Instead, you’ll need to speak to your building’s concierge. They typically keep a master key to every unit. It’s as simple as ringing the bell, and they should provide you with quick access to your home.
Remember the Locksmith I Mentioned a Little Bit Ago?
Let’s say you’ve tried everything on the list, and you’ve gotten nowhere. The windows are locked and bolted, you can’t find a bobby pin or paperclip to save your life, and you don’t have anyone you can call who has a duplicate key.
It’s time to get in touch with a locksmith. Yes, you’ll pay for their services. Average rates run anywhere between $35 and $150, but you’ve got to weigh the cost against other consequences.
For example, how much would it cost to repair a broken window or door? What if the neighbors see you skulking around and call the cops? Do you want to spend the afternoon or evening proving who you are?
Instead, shell out the money and gain access to your house quickly and conveniently. A locksmith can also help you make your home more secure while providing recommendations to avoid future lockouts.
Avoiding Future Lockouts
I think we’ve established that getting locked out of your house sucks. It can prove both a stressful and costly mistake. When you add infants, toddlers, and pets into the mix, it can prove downright dangerous, too.
How do you prevent future lockout issues?
Consider going keyless. Electronic door locks are the latest rage, and they come with fantastic advantages. Instead of needing a key to get in, you rely on a custom code or a smartphone app. Find out more about high-tech locks.
Many of these systems work in concert with home security systems, which also means a safer, more secure home for you. Home security systems are there when you need them most. They can even contact emergency services if necessary.
If you’re not quite ready to make the jump to a home security system with electronic locks, then consider making a few duplicate keys and giving them to trusted friends and family. When you get in a pinch, you’ll have a ready solution.
You can also go the hide-a-key route. We don’t suggest doing this under a welcome mat, though. You’ll find plenty of yard decorations and “rocks” designed just for this purpose.
That said, savvy burglars know what to look for. So, you’ll need to make sure your key holder blends in with the surrounding environment, or it’ll get outed right away.
What to Do When You’re Locked Out
“Help! I’ve locked myself out!”
There are few realizations that people dread more. Remember, though, when this happens, you’ve got plenty of options.
From picking the lock Nancy Drew-style to contacting a locksmith, the tips above will help you remedy the situation lickety-split. Keep reading for more tips to ensure you never get locked out again.