By Rita Totten
So you’ve locked yourself out of your house. Now what?
Ideally, you’ll already have given a spare house key to a trusted neighbor or friend for just such an occurrence. But if not, here are a few things to try:
Ask for help
Do you live with roommates? Can they come home and let you in? Sure, it may be an inconvenience to ask your housemates to come let you in, but not nearly as inconvenient as being stranded outside your house, especially in the cold. If you rent your place, try reaching out to your landlord. They will usually have a copy of your house key and, depending on their location, may be close enough to swing by and let you in. If you live in an apartment complex, stop by the manager’s office and ask to be let into your place. Just make sure you can provide proof of who you are and the fact that you do indeed live in the complex.
Look for unlocked windows
Of course, you would never leave your windows unlocked, but on the off chance you did, an unlocked window is the perfect entry point. Simply remove the screen, lift up the window, and shimmy through. Be careful as you enter through the window, as you’re likely to be off balance. Also be aware of what furniture or items may be lying below the window, such as end tables, TV’s, or other household items.
Grab a credit card
This method of lock-picking works only on spring bolts, the kind usually found on standard-issue doorknobs. Doors with deadbolts will not budge under the force of a credit card.
To attempt the credit card lock pick, start by choosing a card you won’t mind possibly destroying, such as a defunct Blockbuster membership card or an outdated gift card. Laminated cards tend to work the best due to the flexibility of the plastic.
1. Insert the card between the frame and the door at the point where the latch is located.
2. Hold the card perpendicular to the door and start pushing and wiggling the card.
3. While you push, start bending the card away from the doorknob in an attempt to slide the latch back and away from the door jam. Try pushing your weight against the door while you bend the card.
4. If you are successful in unlocking the door, call a locksmith. You have now proved how easy your home is to break into and will want to consider upgrading your locks.
Take off the doorknob
As long as the deadbolt on the door is not in use, you should be able to gain entry by removing the doorknob. Most doorknobs have the connection or mounting screws concealed, but look closely at the doorknob and you will see a tiny pin-sized hole or slot, usually located below or to the side of the doorknob. Using a thin piece of metal, like a straightened bobby pin or a paper clip, insert your newly made tool into the hole and apply pressure. You should feel resistance- keep pushing the metal tool as far into the hole as possible with one hand, while pulling and twisting the doorknob with your other hand. Keep up this dance of applying pressure with your make-shift tool and simultaneously pulling and twisting the doorknob until you’ve removed the doorknob. Now all you have to do is pry off the decorative plate to reveal the lockset. Using a screwdriver (or your bobby pin) pull back on the locking mechanism and the door should unlock.
Call a locksmith
When all options have been exhausted, it may be time to call a local locksmith. Start by getting some quotes on how much they will charge to unlock your house. Many shops charge a visit fee on top of the actual service fee, so call around to get the best deal.
Set yourself up for success
Once you’ve gained entrance to your home take steps to prepare for the next time you inevitably find yourself on the wrong side of a locked door.
• Give a spare key or two to a close friend or neighbor for easy access
• If you aren’t close with your neighbors, consider buying and stashing a “hide-a-key”. Look for a realistically designed one made to blend in with natural surroundings, like a rock or a log (Amazon). But be aware that thieves know of this time-honored hiding spot and choose a location that is unnoticeable and out of the way.
• Get into the habit of reciting the following mantra as you leave the house: “Keys, wallet, phone. Keys, wallet, phone. Keys, wallet, phone.”
Consider going keyless
Install a keyless lock to eliminate the need for a physical key.
Many home security providers also offer automated locks that can be unlocked remotely with a smartphone app.
Getting locked out of the house is never fun. But things happen. The important thing to remember is that you have options. Stay calm, assess the situation, follow the above tips, and you’ll be back inside in no time.