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How to Rekey a Lock

December 07, 2018

There are several reasons why you might want to rekey your locks, for home security purposes or to consolidate the number of keys you need for your home.

When considering rekeying a lock you may think that your only option is to call a locksmith. But, if you know your way around a toolbox, you can probably do it yourself.

What Does Rekeying a Lock Mean?

Traditional locks found on doorknobs and deadbolts are called pin and tumbler locks. These locks use multiple springs and pins that allow a matching key shape to unlock the lock. For a key to work in a lock, its configuration must match that of the lock.

So, when you want to rekey your lock, you will need to disassemble the lock and remove and replace the existing pins with new ones that match the new key's configuration.

Why Rekey a Lock?

One of the main reasons for performing a “rekey” is to reduce the number of keys you need for  your home. Maybe it happened over time, or with various owners, or an evolution of different locks being added, but you can end up with a lot of different keys for a single home.

Having a single key that will open all of your locks is much more convenient than having to deal with several keys to your home.

Another reason to rekey your locks is for better security. New homeowners often rekey their locks after buying the home to make sure that they are the only ones with working keys. Over the life of a home, keys have likely been duplicated for family members, friends, and service professionals. So it’s a good idea to “wipe the slate clean” and ensure that you know who has keys to your home and can keep track of them.

The same goes for newly-constructed homes. Keys are frequently given to contractors during the construction process, and unfortunately, you never know who could have gone out and made a copy.

It is also standard practice for landlords who are renting a home or apartment to rekey the locks after the previous tenant moves out. This provides both the landlord and the new tenant peace of mind that the lock is new and no one else has a key.

When to Replace vs. Rekey a Lock

You may be wondering if you should replace your lock instead of rekeying it. There are benefits to both.

Rekeying a lock is typically more cost-effective than replacing the lock.

In some cases replacing your lock is a necessity. For instance, if you lost a key, the lock is damaged, or you are unable to rekey it.

Replacing a lock is more expensive and may not perfectly match the look of the other locks in your home. However, the main advantage of replacing a lock is that you are getting new hardware, the opportunity to customize its appearance as well as upgrade your level of security with a more advanced lock.

Smart locks are a new technology that is becoming increasingly popular among homeowners. Smart locks do not require the use of a key, but are controlled electronically through your smartphone.

Another reason you may want to replace versus rekey, is if you want to use the same type of lock by the same manufacturer throughout the house. Trying to match all of your locks to one of the older locks in your home may be difficult since style and security features change over time. To create “universality” between locks, it makes sense to start with a quality lock and replace them all at the same time.

How to Rekey a Lock

You have a few options when it comes to rekeying a lock.

The first option is to hire a locksmith. Yes, it will be more expensive, but you can rest assured that the job will be done professionally and correctly. Most locksmiths charge a flat fee for their service and then add on an additional cost for every extra lock that needs to be rekeyed.

If you are looking for a professional rekeying, but don’t want the expense that comes with a house call, you can take your lock off from your door and bring it to the local locksmith or hardware store to be rekeyed.

This is a less expensive option, it just requires that you remove the whole lock from your door and bring in the corresponding key.

The other option is to purchase a rekey kit made specifically for your brand of lock and do the job yourself. A rekey kit will cost you anywhere from $10 to $25 per lock, making it relatively cost-effective.

These kits can be purchased online or at your local hardware store. They include everything you need to rekey your lock yourself. If you are confident in your do-it -yourself skills, this is an excellent option to save money.

Each lock brand is different, but the concept behind rekeying is the same. Here are the basic steps on how to rekey a lock:

  1. Remove the knob by using the wire tool included in your kit.
  2. Remove the lock cylinder housing by pushing the cylinder out the back of the knob.
  3. Using the included retainer ring tool, push the tool against the retainer ring to pop it off.
  4. Remove the cylinder plug from the cylinder by using the old key to turn it to the left or right.
  5. Reassemble the lock by matching the colored pins to the color code in the kit. This will require some tiny pliers or tweezers and particular attention to the included instructions.

Whether you choose to rekey your lock yourself, have it done professionally, or replace it, the benefits of having new locks and fewer keys are convenience and better home security.

Download the Ultimate Guide to Home Security and learn:

  • Top 5 misconceptions about home security
  • How to assess vulnerabilities in your home
  • Why home security is about more than preventing burglaries
  • Cutting-edge security equipment: how home security has changed
  • Monitored vs. Self-Monitored Systems
  • Local vs. National Security Companies

... and more!

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