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What's Wrong? A Door and Lock Checklist

When you notice a "lock problem," it may be worth your time to investigate the true source of the problem. There are many times that we are called to fix a lock problem only to find that it is actually a door issue or a simple lack of maintenance. Replacing a lock will not fix a door problem.

1. Is the door binding? The door should swing freely within the frame. A new lock won't help a binding door. A binding door may cause a lock issue, but replacing the lock without addressing the door issue will likely lead to another failed lock.

2. Are the hinges loose or allowing the door to sag? When a door sags, the locks are no longer lined up with the strikes in the door frame and may become difficult or impossible to use. Over time, a misaligned strike can destroy a perfectly good lock.

3. Are the strikes aligned correctly? See the video page on our website to see how the lock and strike are designed and meant to work together.

4. Are the strikes mortised into the frame? Are the latch and bolt faceplates mortised into the edge of the door? Normally, strikes and faceplates are not meant to be attached to the surface of the door edge or frame. The frame and door surfaces are mortised to allow the strike and faceplate to be mounted flush with those surfaces.

5. Has the lock and other door hardware received any maintenance? Probably not. As often as we all use our doors and locks, they rarely receive any type of maintenance. Maintenance normally requires only checking that the mounting screws are tight and a light lubrication of the moving parts such as the latch, bolt, key cylinder, and door hinges.

6. Is the key badly worn? A new key normally has some sharp peaks and flat-bottomed valleys. Those valleys are where the pins within the lock rest on the surface of the key. A few thousandths of an inch may mean the difference between a working key and a non-working one. It is never a bad idea to set an original key aside to make duplicates from. It is never a good idea to make a duplicate from a duplicate.

Some very important but basic things to remember are that a good lock is a precision machine - designed to work well but sometimes best left to a professional to install or repair; that it should never be necessary to force a key or lock to make it work - you've already passed the point where it should have been serviced; and that a new lock can't fix a door problem - while replacement might be necessary, be sure to address the original cause of the problem.

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