A facility in South Euclid had an issue with an aluminum glass storefront door. These types of doors are called narrow stile because the border around the glass is smaller. This allows for a larger glass surface on the door which customers like. In order to accommodate this set-up, special locks must but used. These locks were introduced by a company called Adams Rite. These locks are now referred to as “Adams Rite style” locks.

There’s nothing terribly complicated about these locks. In order to properly service them you need to have an assortment of different locks, styles, paddles, and indicators. Knowing exactly how to approach these locks is requires some more skill, experience, and tools. The first thing to know when working with metal doors, but especially aluminum is that once you cut it, it’s cut. Measure twice, cut once. The main reason why people install these doors is for the look. So maintaining a clean appearance is necessary, there’s no room for mistakes.

The reason why they called us to the South Euclid location was the lock was stuck and the door wouldn’t open. They were due for a fire inspection and wanted to make sure all of their doors were fire code compliant. Even if a door isn’t used frequently, the fire marshal will still want to make sure that it’s available for safe, easy, egress.

After removing the push paddle to open the door, I was able to use a hook tool to flip over the latch manually. The door was open! The door strike was cut opened up a lot. After examining the lock and how it was functioning, I determined that the lock itself was malfunctioning. The latch sometimes would stay locked in place.

Of course we had a 1 1/8 latch lock in stock and started working on installing it. The bottom screw that holds this lock in place wasn’t threading. The threading on the inside of the door was stripped. This caused the old lock to move back and forth inside the door. I’m almost positive that when the lock moved in the wrong angle it would bind, not letting you open the door.Luckily, we carry these support tabs that you can insert in the channel of the door to hold the lock in place. After a lot of time and effort the replacement lock was installed! Now it was time to swap the paddle. The old paddle seemed to have some wear on it. I decided it was worth replacing given it’s age and use. The holes that the original installer put in the door were off by maybe 1mm. But with these locks those small tolerances really matter. Replacing the paddle was actually the easiest part of the job!

Lock issues and door issues often overlap. This door was not plumb. Meaning the door was actually leaning away from the exterior. This caused the latch to bind occasionally. I adjusted the hinges to provide a little more space between the door and the door jamb. This extra space allowed for the latch on the lock to clear the strike plate on the door jamb.

The door still needed a little more help. The force of the door closing was still not enough for the door to actually latch. I adjusted the door closer to give it a little more “oomf.” Now the door closes and latches!

The entire job took longer than I would have liked but at the end of the day – it works and we saved the company a lot of money by not needing to replace the door.

If you have a commercial or residential locksmith need in South Euclid or the surrounding areas – call or text 215-505-1389. Our office tries their best to answer all calls but if we do miss your call – we will call you back!

Restricted keys are keys that can only be duplicated by someone authorized to duplicate them. The increase in key duplication machines and apps that cut keys based on pictures has increased the demand for restricted keys. Keys stamped “Do Not Duplicate” is a more of a suggestion to the person holding the key. Few stores will check the bow of a key and a key duplication kiosk certainly won’t. There are several different levels of restricted systems; They can be restricted by only being sold to a locksmith or security company. They can be restricted by a locksmith in a geographic region, or they can be restricted to only one locksmith company. The first question we ask anyone inquiring about restricted or high keys is what is their end-goal and purpose. A small store might want to make sure employees can’t easily copy keys while a bank might be interested in making sure the keys are very restricted and have special drill protection. After discussing the needs of the client we can generally narrow down to one or two systems that we would recommend.

We currently stock several different restricted and high security key systems. The most basic option is choosing a key that’s less common like Yale or Corbin Russwin. Hardware stores and key machines typically don’t have these types of blanks in stock and this makes it harder for a person to make an unauthorized copy. However, this method really just slows someone down who’s interested in duplicating a key.

If someone is using SFIC cores there are several great options. Firstly, SFIC keys should be punched not manually duplicated. Getting working keys by duplicating them is often challenging. Additionally, places like Home Depot or Lowe’s don’t stock these blanks. Hardware stores are also unlikely to carry them, especially if you use an unusual keyway. We carry an inexpensive keyway that’s restricted to locksmiths only. If someone went into a locksmith shop asking to have one of these keys duplicated they should probably have a good story prepared because they’re going to be asked some questions. However, this method only prevents the keys form duplicated by honest locksmiths.

Next we have MX alpha which is a national keyway and MX which are regionally restricted by different numbered keyways. Every locksmith that wants to carry these keys must buy a large amount of inventory in order to be able to carry the product. This creates a disincentive for anyone to make an unauthorized key because if they get caught they’ll lose their ability to buy more of the product. The odds of someone getting an unauthorized copy are low but it’s still a possibility.

We can also install other systems like Schlage Primus, Medeco and Mul-t-lock. We currently do not stock this keys but can easily order them for special projects. We are just at the mercy of shipping and the supply chain. While these are good systems I do take some issue with both of them. Schlage Primus,  Medeco and Mul-t-lock are expensive. Buying one or two can easily be justified but if a project calls for 10-20 locks the price can easily get very high. Medeco keys are also prone to breaking. The deep angled cuts can create weak points where keys can bend and break. Calling a lockmith to pull an expensive key out of a lock is not something most customers are fond of doing. Mul-t-lock keys are nice because no matter which way you insert the key, the lock will work because they are cut on both sides. They are also a quality product. However, Mul-t-lock is often times more expensive than Schlage Primus or Medeco.

Considering all the options we have chosen ASSA Max+ for our go-to high security restricted key system. This system strikes a good balance between price and performance. ASSA Max+ is a system appropriate for highly sensitive areas like utilities, financial institutions, banks, and companies with large amounts of sensitive data or valuable inventory. In fact, we recently installed them at a bank in Shaker Heights. Max+ is patented until 2019. Meaning, taking brass and milling the metal to make a key that will fit would actually be patent infringement. Unauthorized key duplication probably won’t get you in legal trouble but milling a Max+ key with a CNC machine definitely will. They are going to enforce the patent because that’s the point of the patent.

We’ve carried their products for a while but we now have our own sidebar. The sidebar acts as an additional security measure effectively making one key like two. There are standard key cuts then key cuts on the side of the key that match a coded sidebar. They also make cylinders that have UL rated drill protection. One of our favorite parts of this system are the incredibly robust keys. They are incredibly thick which dramatically reduces the chances of them breaking. I’ve done several experiments trying to bend different types of keys. ASSA Max+ puts up a killer fight.

Another reason why we chose this system is that ASSA is going to be around for a long time. ASSA Abloy has 20% of the global market share for lock and door products.

When an ASSA Max+ system is sold it must be registered. There are key cards that a person can present as part of the process to get authorization to make a key. In addition, we have our own internal key tracking system.

 

 

 

Most articles simply list their top 5 or top 10 smart locks and explain the positives and negatives of each. This articles will also provide a list of top smart lock recommendations but will also explain some of the mechanics and functions of smart locks in general. It’s great knowing the benefits of different locks but first we must understand their basic functions.

Basic Lock Functions & Mechanics

Everyone interacts with locks, knobs and deadbolts, on a daily basis but few understand the terminology and mechanics of how locks work. First let’s discuss a standard entry knob. There is a lock on the outside and a thumbturn on the inside handle. If it’s in the locked position one must either turn the knob from the inside to unlock the door or use the thumbturn to manually unlock the door. If the knob is unlocked it will act as a passage knob and the door will latch making sure the door stays shut.

A deadbolt uses a bolt that goes into the door jamb. Generally deadbolts are considered to be more secure because they are harder to overcome by brute force. The inside thumbturn throws the deadbolt and retracts it. Of course, it can also be locked and unlocked using a key.

Both knobs and deadbolts need to be installed properly. It still amazes me how many incorrect installations I see. One of the most important parts of a well functioning lock system is correct door jamb latch alignment. Often times people will call us saying their locks are not working properly. When we arrive, we find that there are actually door and strike issues.

Smart Lock Function

It’s my contention that it’s easier and cheaper to make a smart deadbolt than it is to make a smart knob or handle lever. However, the mechanism that drives the deadbolt back and forth needs to have a clear path into the door jamb to work properly. If it senses any friction it might beep and not fully retract/latch. This is the most common issue we see with smart deadbolts. In order to fix this issues we often times have to lower the latch or open up the metal part of the latch with a dremel tool.

Door Handing

Look at any door from the entrance. If the hinges are on the right it’s a right handed door. If the hinges are on the left it’s a left handed doors. Most doors are right handed doors and therefor most locks are set at the factory to work with right handed doors. Smart deadbolts can also learn the handing of the door when it’s turned on for the first time and the lock is set up using the instructions inside the manual. Incorrect door handing for the lock is probably the second most common issues that we see. If the door shifts or tilts due to a change in weather or time, the latch my start to bind. This can result in the lock not unlocking even when the correct code is presented. This is one reason why we recommend carrying a key for a smart lock if it has a mechanical override. The lock may sense the friction and not work but the bolt can be “forced” open with the key.

Batteries & Key Override

Smart locks need power to operate. They generally use 4-6 AA batteries or a 9 v battery. There are some models that use 4-6 AAA batteries. Battery issues are probably the third most common problem that we see. When the batteries die, the code part of the lock will not function. Some models will have two spots on the exterior of the lock to “jump” the lock with a 9v battery. This is a very helpful feature, however you typically don’t have a 9v battery on your person when you arrive home and find that your smart lock is not working. A neighbor might have a 9v battery you can borrow if you are locked out.Some models have a key override that allows you to use a standard mechanical key to operate the lock like any other mechanical lock. This is one reason why we recommend continuing to carry mechanical keys even after you have a smart “keyless lock” installed.

Name Brands and Off-Brands

The popularity of smart locks has resulted in many companies producing inexpensive, read cheap, smart locks. We highly recommend not using these for several reasons. First reason is failure rate. If a name brand failure rate is say .03% an off brand lock’s failure rate might be .06%. You don’t not want to double your risk of being locked out. People buy and install smart locks for the convenience. You do not want to be inconvenienced by needing to call a locksmith for an emergency lockout. The brands we recommend are Schlage, Kwikset, Lockey, and Lockly.

Another reason to avoid off brand smart locks is the keys that these locks typically use. In America, the vast majority of residential locks either use a Kwikset type keyway or a Schlage type keyway. Many of these cheaper smart locks use proprietary locks that can’t be switched. Meaning we can’t put a Kwikset or Schlage cylinder in the lock to have it match other locks on a house. They also frequently use dimple locks and keys. These locks and keys are popular in other parts of the country but are more rare in America. It may be very difficult and expensive to get extra key copies.

The price difference between cheap smart locks you find online and name brand ones that you’ll find in big box stores like Lowe’s and home depot is not that great. You can find cheap smart locks online for $50-60 dollars but Kwikset smart locks go for as little as $100. It’s highly worth the investment to get a name brand model. Another reason is warranty and support. Most cheap locks do not come with a substantial warranty and they almost certainly do not have any support. If you buy a smart lock from a major retailer it will be much easier to process a return and get your money back or a replacement.

I’m Hiring a Locksmith to Install a Smart Lock. Should I buy it or you?

When we get a call asking for smart lock installation services the most common first question is who should buy the lock. Generally, we walk the customer through their options and help them decide which one is the right fit for them. If they have a product they are set on we don’t mind either. When it comes to who purchases the lock, we generally suggest the home owner buys the lock. It’s easier for us to not have to manage the inventory and accounting of purchasing a smart lock. We can purchase them for you but we do have to mark up the product to handle our labor and time for doing so. We don’t typically stock smart locks because there is too much variability. Between the different types, models, and colors we’d have to stock over $2,000 worth of locks to adequately cover what people typically have installed. The turn around time for us buying a lock and having it in-stock is typically the same day or 3 business days.

Should I Get a Smart Knob or Smart Deadbolt

This is typically the second question we get. The answer depends on your door set up and what you are trying to accomplish.  The two questions we ask right away are

1) Do you have a hole in your door for just a knob or for a knob and a deadbolt?

2) How important is it for the door to automatically lock?

If you only have one hole in your door, the least path of resistance is to use a smart knob. If you have both a knob and a deadbolt hole, I’d recommend using a smart deadbolt and changing out the knob for a passage/ hallway knob. This means that when the door closes it latches but there’s no locking mechanism. I’ve seen a number of people get locked out when their smart lock fails or someone locks the bottom lock and they don’t have a key. If you want keyless access this is the way to go. Again, please continue to carry a physical key if you have a key override available.

Smart knobs typically automatically lock. Many smart deadbolts need to be locked by the user. Meaning when they exit the house, they need to press a button in order for the lock to start locking. Other smart deadbolts can be set to automatically lock after 5 minutes or a similar interval.

Smart Home Integration

When purchasing a smart lock consider what type of smart home system you have or may want to have in the future. Some people are set on never having smart home devices and that’s fine. But if you are considering it or have a system, your choices become more complicated. Bluetooth, wifi, zwave, and zigbee are all different communication methods that these locks use. Typically, a certain lock will be a better match than others for the smart home ecosystem you have. Meaning if you have Alexa, get an Alexa compatible deadbolt.

Antique Doors

Consider consulting a locksmith if you have a vintage door and especially if you have antique locks on your vintage door. These doors can be finicky and have issues that are difficult to identify. There are numerous different ways of addressing these issues and it’s fairly variable what actually needs to be done. What you don’t want to do is try and DIY the installation and end up with a situation that is worse than when you started. Older doors and antique locks are common in cities like Cleveland Heights, Shaker Heights, University Heights, and Beachwood. One common door challenge is extra thick doors. These types of doors are significantly wider than standard doors. These types of doors are very common in Shaker Heights. Locks installed on these doors typically require extra long screws sold in what’s called a “thick door pack.” It’s a package of extra long screws to accommodate the extra width of the door. Finding a smart lock that can accommodate a thick door is more difficult and does limit your options.If you have questions about your particular door you can take pictures and text or email them to us. We’d be glad to take a look at them and help you come up with a plan for your door and needs.

Closing Thoughts

The simplicity and convenience of use is paradoxical to how complicated it is to select a smart lock and sometimes even to install it. However, much of the confusion can be reduced by answering a few simple questions about your situation and understanding what you want out of a smart lock. We’re always here to help you along the way.

 

Recently we had a very interesting project that took some creative solutions. We do a lot of work with vintage hardware and antique mortise locks. We got a call from a new customer in Shaker Heights who was looking for some help. It was a beautiful classic Shaker Heights house built during the great depression. The interior knob would occasionally slip off. This is a common occurrence with these types of locks. Typically, the set screw holding the knob on backs out over time causing the knob to gradually loosen over time until one day it slips off. The set screw was not in the best condition. However, we do stock a lot of set screws and other replacement parts for these types of locks. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find a set screw to match this particular knob.

The plot thickened when I examined the threading inside the knob. It was worn out which caused the knob the slip. It wasn’t just the set-screw, the knob itself needed replaced. The mortise lock used a split spindle that was a little bit larger than the split spindle on a typical lock. We spent a lot of time looking to match the current spindle with a new knob. We eventually found one that matched the split spindle threading and looked almost identical.

During this process we also removed the cover from the lock and cleaned the internal parts with a lubricant. It probably has not been serviced since it was installed in the 30’s. The locking mechanism handles and outside thumb depress worked significantly better after being properly cleaned.

The mortise lock installed in the lock was an older style Yale lock. It was a Y2 key blank to be specific. This lock also required some lubrication and now works well.

One thing that we commonly find in this locks is that someone applied graphite as a lock lubricant. Graphite powder was commonly used to lubricate locks. A very small application of graphite can be beneficial. However, we typically see locks that are absolutely loaded with graphite. The problem with graphite is that it can gum up. When the lock gets moisture in in the graphite tends to lump together. Combined with years of dust, pollen, spider webs, car exhaust and other debris in the air it forms a sticky mess that really impacts the way a lock functions. What we typically do is completely flush out the lock with an appropriate lubricant. This washes away the graphite and other materials that have collected inside the lock.

People often as what lubricant we recommend. Not WD-40! Wd-40 is a water dispersant, it is not a lubricant. Something like PB blaster is actually a lubricant. Home Depot actually sells a small bottle of lock lubricant. We typically use a special lock lubricant called Houdini.

One interesting thing about these graphite clumps is where they form and how they impact the lock. Gravity pulls everything down. This is also true with graphite clumps. Additionally, without removing the lock from the door and opening it up., there are only so many places for the graphite powder to enter the lock. We typically see a lot of graphite sticking to the bottom of the lock where the toggle buttons are. These buttons change the lock from always locking when the door is closed (storeroom function) to not locking (passage function). Some customers completely ignore these buttons but some customers do like to use them. They’ll typically find that these buttons are very difficult to press and switch back and forth. Flushing the lock with lubricant and using a rag typically solves this issue completely.

At the end of the day the project was a success and the customer was very happy with the results. We truly enjoy servicing this vintage locks. It’s a fun challenge and people appreciate someone restoring a part of the home’s original aesthetic and charm. We look foreword to every call we get about vintage locks in Shaker Heights. If you have a mortise lock in the surrounding area feel free to reach out to use about how we can repair, restore, or even replace a lock if necessary.

2021 has had it’s challenges but it’s also provided some incredible opportunities. This year we’ve seen an explosion in our commercial locksmithing division.

Changing Hands

A lot of real estate has changed hands and/or a new management company has been brought on. We’ve been brought on to assist with lock and technology transfers between outgoing companies. Technology like security camera systems and access control systems were often neglected or issues were overlooked. Then when a new company comes in they become aware of these issues and reach out to us to address them.

Contracts

We are securing a number of quality contracts with businesses and other service providers. Focusing on building a quality relationship has been instrumental in closing contracts. We are highly interested in building and maintaining mutually beneficial relationships. One contract of note, was for providing on-going lock and door security to 5 local hotels. We aren’t the fastest company but we showed up when we said we would, completed the work above and beyond what was expected, kept the pricing reasonable, and maybe above all we communicated. Emails, texts, calls, WhatsApp – you name it we’ve been in communication with stakeholders.

Services

We have been providing integrated security solutions for several years now. Recently, we have begun to discuss more of offerings and abilities with clients and they’re interested. We have been brought on to fix or upgrade a lot of older access control systems and telephone tenant entry systems. Many businesses also like having all of their lock and security needs under one company. This limits the finger pointing and delays in communication that often happen when you have several companies working together on overlapping projects.

Multi-Family

Multi Family housing has shown very strong growth for us. There are many older apartment buildings and complexes that have older locks and older security systems. They need a company that’s interested and able to take on the challenges that these buildings provide.