What really happens when my locks are changed?
Changing locks is a loose industry term. Some prefer Re-keying Locks or Re-pinning locks. Whichever term you like the best the process is the same when using a qualified locksmith.
The outcome when changing locks is for the old keys not to work in the locks any more. More so a qualified locksmith will ensure the locks are working correctly and are secure. Secure to a locksmith can be quite different to a non-locksmith, Someone who is not a locksmith will probably accept that a door is secure if they give it a shake, and it does not open. A locksmith will look to make sure dead-latching pins are seated correctly, the lock is operating correctly, the lock is not vulnerable to easy entry techniques, the lock meets building code regulations and much more.
As for handymen, builders, locksmith want-to-be's, etc changing locks. well I will get to that a bit later.
Locksmith Assesses Locks
When a qualified locksmith assesses a particular lock that has to be changed there are two primary considerations.
1. Is the lock in good working condition, or should it be replaced?
2. Is the lock compatible with other locks on the property for keying alike or master keying?
If the lock is obviously damaged or needs replacing, the locksmith should at the very least inform the owner of the property of the issues with the lock. There are very few customers that would leave a broken or insecure lock on a door.
If the locks on the house are of the same key type often keying alike the locks is a good option. This cuts down on the number of keys that are required by making two or more locks work on the same key. Sometimes the locks on a property are not compatible or for some reason it is not practical to use the existing locks. Often new cylinders can be used as replacements for the existing lock cylinders. The new cylinders will be on the same key and often are compatible with some of the existing locks on the property.
Sometimes complete new locks have to be fitted to the doors of a property. Usually with new locks you have a choice and can either key the locks alike so the same key opens them, or keep the locks on a separate key.
Master Keying is also an alternative to keyed alike locks. Master keying is when you have 1 key which opens all the locks and individual keys to open each lock as well. You can imagine this would be of great advantage in a motel where the cleaners carry just 1 key to open all the rooms and the motel clients only have a key to their room door. Another example of master keying is where you have 1 key to open your house and gate, and another key that just opens your gate. The gate key can be given to the Gardner to keep the lawns but the Gardner can not access your house.
different techniques for changing locks
There are different techniques a locksmith uses to change different locks. The majority of locks we change are pin tumbler locks. When we change a pin tumbler lock either we replace the whole barrel or we change the combination of the existing lock barrel. Often even the new barrel will be re-combinated to match a certain(new) key. As the usual method of changing locks is to change the combination of the existing lock cylinder, it is not possible to give back the old barrels. We often get asked for the return of the old lock barrels and it is just not possible.
Pin Tumbler Locks
To change the combination of a pin tumbler lock first a new key has to be made. The new key has to cut on the same blank as the lock we are re-combinating so as to fit into the lock barrel.
Once the new keys are cut the lock barrel must be removed from the cylinder or the lock pins removed. Every lock has a different technique for removing the pins. The lock has 2 sets of pins. Top Pins and Bottom Pins. It is the bottom pins which touch the key when it is inserted. It is also the bottom pins which contain the combination for the lock. By replacing the bottom pins with new, correct sized bottom pins the new combination is set into the lock cylinder. When the lock cylinder is fitted back to the door, only the new key which was cut will work in the lock. The old key will not work anymore as the new combination does not match it .
Handyman and locks
Now, on the subject of handymen, builders, would be locksmiths, etc. I am not trying to have a go at anyone. Just that the process described here is a bit more complicated then it sounds. Qualified locksmiths learn this process through a 4 year apprenticeship and it requires many hours of training to become proficient at changing all types of locks.
The handyman will usually only be able to replace your locks or cylinders. The problem with this is it is very difficult to carry every type of lock you require if you are just replacing locks. it would usually mean a trip to a lock shop to buy the new locks and cylinders they require. When the handyman discovers the lock he needs for a particular door is not available or worse still no longer made he must fit another lock to the door. Fitting a different type of lock means drilling holes, chisselling extra timber from the door, using fillers, etc. The result is usually a job that took a lot more time and often holes and marks are left behind from the original lock. There is also the issue of extra timber being removed from the door which could weaken the door.
The handyman probably has little knowledge of locks, building codes, levels of security, deadlocking requirements, etc. It is not the handyman's fault as it is not his profession. We get called to such jobs undertaken by handymen quite often to repair damage they caused. The time wasted and problems caused could have been avoided by using a qualified locksmith in the first place.
There are some doors handymen are not allowed to work on under our laws in Australia. The main type of door to be aware of is a fire door. If you live in a unit complex you probably have fire doors. A qualified locksmith is allowed to work on a fire door and the locksmith will know what types of locks can be fitted to the door and what the special procedures regarding fire doors are. Fire doors can cost thousands of dollars to replace. Having a non-qualified person do work on a fire door can end up with the entire door needing to be replaced.
As locksmiths we change locks every day. Our customers use us because we are professionals and we know exactly what we are doing. Which ever locksmith you choose to have your locks changed, I would strongly recommend making sure the locksmith has completed the locksmith trade. In Australia a locksmith must do 4 years of training with a master locksmith and attend college for technical instruction.