Category Archives: Locks

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when do replace door locks

Top 10 Reasons to Replace Your Door Locks

Category : Locks

With so many issues to be concerned with in daily life, the last thing you need to worry about is your home security being threatened by inferior or compromised locks. Strong, quality locks on your front and back doors give you confidence. That’s not just when you’re away. It’s also when you’re relaxing inside, taking a shower or sleeping.

Locks are your last line of defense in protection from burglars or unauthorized intruders. Home burglaries are common throughout the United States, and it’s not always a total stranger that sneaks into your house. Unlawful entry can well be from someone you know. That could be a previous tenant, an ex-roommate or even a separated significant other.

Preventing illegal entries is your first step in a proactive approach to home security. The best security systems rely on a layered approach that integrates several devices. Good exterior lighting and clear visibility are a few of these. Motion-activated sensors are another excellent security tool. But nothing beats the value of good quality locks where you have proper key and access control.

When to Replace Door Locks

There are a number of situations where you may not have complete control of your locks. These might have occurred before your original home possession or from an event while you were away. No matter what the cause of compromised locks, there are solutions available for you to regain access control. Knowing when to change your locks will also give you peace of mind.

How often should you change your locks? That depends on different situations, so let’s take a look at the top ten reasons for replacing door locks. Then we’ll examine the best solutions, including some of the popular lock products and services available.

replace locks in new home

1. You’ve moved into a new home and taken possession of existing locks.

Even if your home is brand new and the builder presents you with keys for your front and back door locks, you have no way of knowing if others have duplicate keys. That could also include master keys.

Many builders use construction locks that are universal to their business. They keep these utility locks on doors during the building process and recycle them from house to house. Their team of subtrades and suppliers are given service keys for the construction locks, which makes day-to-day building access convenient. A competent builder will swap out construction locks for exclusive homeowner locks at the completion of the job, but you have no way of knowing who else may have keys.

Realtor lockboxes are commonly attached to homes offered for sale. This includes new homes in development communities as well as existing homes in established neighborhoods. A key for the home’s door is stashed inside the lock box, but there’s a mass of access to it. You also have no way of knowing if this key was exclusive or copied about.

Purchasing a home from an existing owner has its security risks, too. You might receive “the keys” upon completion of the sale and use them to move in. But you have no assurance that these keys were copied many times not just by the previous owner but by others before in the chain of possession. That includes family members, guests and tenants if the home had been rented out.

Don’t assume you’re getting solid lock security when you buy a new house. It’s cheap and valuable insurance to replace your door locks, and you’ll relax in peace, especially when you’re asleep or in the shower.

2. Your house has been broken into.

Burglaries are a terrible invasion of your personal space. They can be emotionally upsetting, never mind financially expensive. When you’ve experienced a break-in, you have to assume the worst. The worst-case scenario is that the burglars who did it now have possession of your keys and have control of your locks.

Even if you have a tight inventory and you feel all keys are accounted for, don’t take the chance. You can’t be assured your keys aren’t in wrong hands. Replacing your locks is a small price to pay to offset the possibility they may return for the rest of your belongings.

Many burglaries are committed by manipulating, picking or cheating the locks. If this was the method of entry in your burglary incident, it means you have inferior locks, and the break-in could easily be repeated. Locks are also damaged during break-ins and make them more vulnerable to future forced entries.

Take insurance issues into account after experiencing a burglary. If your keys were taken and a burglar returns, your insurance company may find fault that you failed in taking due diligence for prevention. This could negate a future insurance claim that could be prevented by replacing your door locks.

change lock when keys are stolen

3. You’ve lost your keys or had them stolen.

Unfortunately, this happens far too frequently. Losing your keys is one thing. It’s terribly inconvenient to be locked out and ask someone with duplicate keys to come over and let you in. It’s also expensive to call a locksmith to attend and open up.

Having your keys stolen is entirely another matter. With lost keys, you assume someone else has access. With stolen keys, you know they’re in criminal hands, and a possible clandestine visit is only a matter of time. The sense of pending violation with stolen keys is too high a price to pay, and there’s only one solution.

Regardless of whether you’ve simply lost your keys or had a sinister theft of your best security control device, the best thing is to immediately replace your locks. Don’t let time pass in the hope your keys will be found and returned. Change your locks before the price becomes higher.

4. You’ve completed a renovation.

It’s common in renovations for many tradespeople and material suppliers to need access to your home while you’re away. This could be carpenters, painters, plumbers, electricians and tile setters. It might even be your general contractor.

Even if you thoroughly trust your main contractor, you have no idea who the subtrades are and who they’re associated with. There’s no guarantee your house keys won’t be duplicated and handed off to shady characters.

Replacing your door locks at the completion of renovations will be a tiny fraction of your overall remodeling budget. It’s economical protection to invest in new locks.

change locks when you change style

5. You want a change of style.

This goes hand in hand with renovating your home. Changing style is probably one of your main reasons for upgrading your look and feel. Locks may be a small contributor to the overall plan, but it’s these small details that make your big and beautiful picture.

Your old locks may be a different brand than you prefer or manufactured in an era that shows dated style. Your existing locks may be bright brass when you’d prefer brushed nickel. Or they may be shiny chrome when your palette calls for dark steel.

Making the choice to change your locks is not difficult. It’s choosing the right style from multiple products that could be the challenge. But then, that’s part of the fun in redecorating.

6. Your locks are inferior or poor quality.

So often in older homes or places that are mass-built in tract developments, builders use the cheapest products possible to get the maximum return on their dollar. Unfortunately, when it comes to locks, it could mean security was sacrificed for savings.

Inferior or poor-quality locks are easy for burglars to break or pick. In fact, the quality of locks is often one of the main things thieves assess when casing a place. They know the marks of bad locks. They also know good locks when they see them.

Replacing your old, low-cost locks with newer and superior products is a deterrent to burglars. They know it’ll be tough to break in and not worth the effort. That, in itself, is worth the investment.

7. Your locks are old and worn out.

Locks wear out. Like any product with moving components, locks succumb to fair wear and tear. Years of repeated turning and twisting take their toll on door locks, and eventually, they’ll fail.

Take a look at your locks for signs of stress. This might be tarnish or rust. They might be stiff or extremely loose. Your locks could be in the throes of failure and ready to pack it in without warning.

Old, worn-out locks are easy to jimmy. Burglars know this and work it to their advantage. New locks are tight and tough to pick, making it impossible to open them without the right key. There’s a saying that locks are for honest people, but the real key in home security is to let honest people in and keep dishonest ones out.

8. You’ve ended a rental or roommate agreement.

This is a common reason to change door locks. Many people supplement their income with subletting a room or apartment with a rental tenant. Giving them keys to the house naturally goes with the agreement.

Once the arrangement comes to an end, it’s natural to get the keys back. Most tenant or roommate agreements come to a positive end, and all keys are returned safely and securely. Occasionally, this doesn’t happen, and keys to your home may be “floating out there,” as the figure of speech goes.

Tenants or roommates also have reason to give keys out to others. This could be without your permission or knowledge. To be sure of access control once an occupant leaves, it’s a good idea to replace the locks, even if you’ve taken in someone new.

9. You’ve gone through a break-up or divorce.

This is one of the nastiest circumstances where you might be forced to replace your locks. It might be for your actual safety, not just your sense of security.

If your relationship with a significant other has ended and they’ve been forced to vacate, make sure you change your locks and be very cautious who gets keys. Many people have experienced unwanted return visits from estranged spouses. Keeping them locked out is your main line of defense.

10. Your lifestyle changes through a disability.

Acquiring a disability is a sad fact of life for many people. It may happen to you as you age, or it may be a deteriorating condition with someone who lives in or frequents your house.

Many locks aren’t designed for people with disabilities or mobility issues. Being able to insert a key, turn it and twist a door handle is challenging for some. For others, it may be a near impossibility. Fortunately, there are simple solutions for handicapped access, and that includes door locks designed for people with disabilities.

Think outside the old lock-and-key arrangement. Today, there are sophisticated entry-pass systems that work on smartphone application and coded security. Investing in a smart lock system gives you a versatile security solution that allows for remote keyless entry with the ability to issue limited access permission.

rekeying locks

Solutions for Replacing Your Door Locks

The simplest solutions for solving your security challenges are rekeying or replacing your door locks. Both involve some expense, and there are pros and cons to each approach.

Rekeying your locks is straightforward, but it takes someone with professional locksmithing ability. This is more than taking your lock and key to a local hardware or big box store for copying or cutting.

In rekeying, a locksmith removes the lock cylinder and alters the springs and pins to accept a new key profile. Often these parts are worn and have to be replaced. That can raise the cost over and above what an entire lock replacement will run.

Replacing your door locks is usually the best solution. It gives you the longevity of a new product and the assurance that its quality will endure anything a burglar can throw at it. Buying new locks also fits in with redecorating schemes and presents a bright, fresh glow to visitors as they approach your front door. Dollar for dollar, your best value will be in replacing your locks rather than rekeying.

If you’re planning to replace your door locks for any of these ten reasons, make sure you consider installing a new, high-technology keyless entry system like a Smart Lock. Smart Locks offer sophisticated solutions for replacing old, outdated locks. They utilize virtual keys. Numerous benefits include keyless access, increased security, remote locking capability, timed automatic locking and the unique ability to create one-time access codes for temporary visitors.

Ernie’s Lock Co. is Maryland’s Smart Lock installation expert. We carry a number of high-tech products and can match the best system for your home. Exceptional quality and reliable brands include Schlage and Medeco that are backed by comprehensive warranties to ensure years of trouble-free security.

Ernie’s is proud to provide residential service to some of Maryland’s most prestigious addresses as well as service to commercial businesses. We provide house calls to rekey or replace your existing locks and emergency service for accidental lockouts.

Since 1960, we’ve been building a reputation for reliable service, transparent pricing and exceptionally high-quality work. Consulting with a professional locksmith like Ernie’s is the best way to determine your lock replacement needs. Contact Ernie’s today to request a quote for lock rekeying services in Maryland.

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The Best Keyless Locks for Schools

Category : Locks

Students have the right to a safe education. As technology advances, schools have access to modern-day safety methods, keeping students protected and empowered to learn.

Thanks to these innovations, schools can do away with traditional keyed locks and replace them with high-tech keyless alternatives — keeping threats outside the school and classroom and allowing students and faculty to take charge of their safety.

Here, our certified locksmith experts at Ernie’s will outline the best keyless locks on the market, customized to complement your school’s security measures and unique needs.

Key vs. Keyless Locks

Key locks are standard in both commercial and residential settings. Your school likely already has commonly used commercial mechanical locks in locations such as these.

  • Classroom functions: These functions, or lock types, are lockable from outside the classroom only. Classroom functions, compared to other mechanical locks, have the unique advantage that you can’t accidentally lock yourself out. But, if an emergency is in progress, keyholders put themselves at risk, as they have to leave the classroom to lock the door.
  • Classroom security functions: Like classroom functions, classroom security functions allow keyholders to lock the door from the inside. These functions cause classroom disruptions, as teachers have to continually let students in during lectures.
  • Office function: The office function’s defining characteristic is their inside button or lever, where anyone — even people without a key — can control the lock by engaging or disengaging the lever. Some may prefer office functions in low-risk scenarios, but disorderly students can use this feature to their advantage.

Overall, key lock types have their advantages, but they come with disadvantages like:

  • Accidentally locking yourself out, in most cases.
  • Lack of access control.
  • The nuisance of carrying keys around, and the added risk of losing them.

Keyless locks, as you might have guessed, eliminate the need for keys and fix these disadvantages. These modern lock types use technological systems that allow security to electronically tailor access to specific destinations using an electronic key.

For example, teachers can access role-appropriate rooms, like their classroom, workroom and teachers’ lounge. Meanwhile, maintenance staff can have access to janitorial closets and early or late access to classrooms.

How Do Keyless Locks Work?

Although keyless locks might seem futuristic, you’ve likely used one before. One common example is a car door, which you unlock and lock with a key fob.

Keyless locks — also referred to as electric locks — work under the same principle as mechanical locks. Both use a latch, which secures the space between the door and the doorframe. This latch activates via a key, either locking or unlocking the spring bolt or deadbolt.

While mechanical locks require traditional keys, keyless locks rely on electronic keys, like:

  • Key fobs.
  • A card.
  • Biometrics, such as a fingerprint.
  • Smart cards via smartphone.

In a school setting, we recommend sticking with either a key fob or personalized cards. When you click or scan your key, it activates the lock’s internal motor, which an electrical impulse controls. The motor won’t unlock without the right key unless you choose to have a master key, which can mechanically unlock the electrical motor.

The overarching function of keyless locks is to keep faculty and students safe in an emergency following safety organization-established codes.

Why Is It Necessary to Keep School Locks Up to Date?

Schools are vast. They contain vulnerable exterior access points and internal mazes, which elicit high-risk scenarios. Updated keyless lock systems manage these vulnerabilities with responsive technology that complies with the standards set by various school safety organizations.

The Federal Commission on School Safety (FCSS) sets the general standard on overall school safety measures. The FCSS recommends “hardening the classroom” — empowering teachers to provide students with concealment and protection against harm. Additionally, the FCSS states that all classrooms should have locks that are lockable from the inside via a key, code or other credentials.

The National Association of State Fire Marshals supports this claim, stating that commercial locks should be unlockable from inside the classroom using a single motion to allow for safe exit during an emergency, such as a fire evacuation. What’s more, identified faculty should always be able to unlock the door from the outside, in the hallway.

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) goes deeper into the locks themselves, setting industry standards on the integrity of keyed and keyless locks. Some locks, like most keyless locks, go beyond ANSI’s standards, increasing the safety of everyone inside the school.

Failure to meet these standards puts students and faculty at risk. These standards change as technology advances and threats evolve, highlighting the importance of maintaining effective school door locks.

How Do You Know When It’s Time to Replace Your School’s Locks?

If you can’t remember the last time you replaced your school’s locks, or there’s no recent documentation on previous administrations changing them, you probably need to update the lock system.

Consider these other signs your school needs new locks.

  1. You’re in the process of upgrading your school: If you’re already renovating or adding to your school, you might as well update your locks, too. Outdated schools likely have equally antiquated lock systems. Avoid overlooking this crucial safety upgrade.
  2. You’ve experienced an emergency or break-in: Unfortunately, schools aren’t invincible to break-ins. Recent break-ins or emergencies are telltale signs that your locks need replacing — and that they need to be sturdier and more reliable.
  3. Your current lock system is vulnerable: It’s easy for mechanical keys to get lost, misplaced or stolen. If the wrong person finds the key, they gain access to secured areas within your school.

Every school’s lock system is different depending on their campus size, security protocols, the daily flow of operations and allotted budget. Luckily, lock systems are customizable to meet each school’s needs, but you may still be wondering — what is the best lock system for your school?

How to Choose the Right Classroom Locks

For the highest-level protection, we recommend upgrading your current lock system to electric technology or investing in a completely new keyless lock system. Keep in mind that the keyless locks you use on classroom doors will be different than those you use at exits and entrances.

Customize your school-wide lock system by answering the following questions:

  • How often will each lock see use?
  • Who will be using the lock?
  • Is the lock easily operable?
  • Will you need to change locks or codes frequently?
  • Do you want the doors to lock automatically?
  • Do the locks correspond with previously outlined safety protocols, other safety codes and Americans with Disability Acts’ standards?
  • Do the lock systems correlate with existing security measures?
  • Can the locks quickly respond in the event of an emergency?
  • What are your budget constraints?

With your team, compile your answers to these questions and create a comprehensive list of your lock systems’ must-haves.

Does Your School Need to Renovate Its Entire Lock System?

No, you don’t have to replace your entire lock system all at once, as long as your current locks meet existing standards. But, we recommend doing so if your budget allows for it.

If you choose to progressively update your school’s lock system, start with its most vulnerable areas. Such areas include any entries or exits and rooms like computer labs that house expensive equipment. Again, these areas will vary, based on your campus.

The Best Keyless Entry Door Locks for Schools

Keyless locks are rapidly growing technologies available in different forms to protect all areas of your school. Identify areas within the interior and exterior of your campus that require safety reinforcement, and consider the following keyless locks to integrate into your lock system.

Electrical Access Control Systems

Above all else, we strongly recommend installing an electronic access system throughout your school. Electronic access control systems are very advanced, giving you access to specialized safety protocols like these.

  • Key card or fob security: Instead of traditional keys — which can get lost, copied or abused — schools administer key cards or fobs, depending on their preference. If a key card or fob gets lost, or a faculty member leaves, you can quickly remove their access from the system.
  • Customizable room access: All key cards or fobs are customizable. Each faculty member has their respective key card or fob, which security personnel can digitally manage, allowing access to appropriate rooms and restricting access to others.
  • Data collection: Security personnel can also track where each faculty member travels. Schools can use this data for business intelligence, as well as employee evaluation.
  • Visitor management: Schools can supply visitors or temporary faculty, like substitute teachers, with one-time access codes for traffic filtration — keeping unwanted visitors out and all students and faculty safe inside the building.
  • Fast response to emergencies: If a breach occurs, security gets a real-time notification that an emergency may be in progress. Security can quickly perform an emergency lockdown by pushing a panic button.

One downside to electrical access control systems is their cost. Key lock systems are comparatively inexpensive, but they’re also less reliable. If you’re looking for maximum emergency protection, we recommend making the long-term investment now, instead of wishing you had in the future.

Entry and Exit Door Devices

Another must-have keyless lock system is exit hardware, also known as panic hardware. All schools must have exit door devices, so students and faculty can safely evacuate the building in an emergency.

Exit doors have distinctive hardware — namely, a panic bar. The panic bar should be easy to reach and require no less than 15 pounds of force to release the latch. That way, younger students and disabled people can safely evacuate the building, too.

Exit hardware can operate either by mechanical or electrical dogging. The dogging feature allows people to open the exit door anytime, both from the inside and outside. Electrical dogging allows security personnel to integrate electrical access control system technology and disable the feature if the need arises.

Odds are, your school already has exit door devices that use mechanical dogging features. Instead of reinstalling completely new entry and exit doors, a licensed and experienced locksmith can upgrade the mechanical features to complement your other electrical access control systems, creating the best keyless entry system for your school.

How Ernie’s Lock Company, Inc. Can Help Protect Your School

Since 1960, Ernie’s top priority has been to provide quality, full-service locksmithing to the Maryland and D.C. Metro area. Our licensed locksmiths specialize in commercial services — and no job is too big or too small.

Like you, we value the safety of our communities’ students and educators. Education is a valuable tool for success, and students of all levels should feel safe in their academic environment. We can equip your school with the most advanced and intelligent safety solutions, like our high-tech electronic access control systems.

We also offer other commercial services, such as:

  • New lock and key installations.
  • Lock and key repairs.
  • High-security safes and locks.
  • Emergency lockout assistance.
  • Master key services.
  • Rekeying, key cutting and key duplication.

Transparency is part of the promise we make to you. With us, you can expect upfront honesty about our service and prices, whereas our competitors will promise you inexpensive services, yet charge you costly post-service fees.

We stand behind our quality service so proudly that we offer all our clients a 90-day workmanship warranty.

Areas Ernie’s Serves

Not sure if we can serve your area? Check with us online, or give us a call! Ernie’s covers the following communities within the Maryland and D.C. metropolitan area:

  • Cheverly
  • College Park
  • Ellicott City
  • Greenbelt
  • Hyattsville
  • New Carrollton
  • Riverdale
  • Rockville
  • Washington, D.C.

When you call other companies, you can expect lengthy paperwork and a long wait time. Not with Ernie’s. We make locksmithing easy and hassle-free for our customers.

We’ll promptly send one of our licensed locksmiths to your school for an upfront quote on the ideal lock system for you. We use durable products — including industry-leading brands like Medeco, Corbin Russwin and Von Duprin — and top-tier customer service to deliver the best lock system to your Maryland or District of Columbia school.

Contact Ernie’s Lock and Browse Our Services Online

Ready to upgrade your school’s lock system? Ernie’s is eager to help. Contact our locksmiths online by visiting our website, or speak to a locksmith directly by calling Ernie’s at 301-277-1126. Not sure if electrical access control systems are the best fit for your school? Ask us about our commercial mechanical lock systems, too!

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Locked out of the House: What to Do

Category : Locks

locked out of the house

It’s probably happened to all of us at one time or another: You walk up to the front door of your home or apartment and start rummaging through your pockets or purse. You can’t find your key. Then it slowly hits you  you’ve locked yourself out.

Locking yourself out of your home can be a major problem, or a minor distraction. That distinction largely lies with factors such as weather, time of day and if you are standing in front of a home, on the stoop of your building or inside facing an apartment. If it’s later at night, during a cold winter month, locking yourself out can even be dangerous.

What to Do If You Are Locked Out of Your House

There’s no use in crying over spilled milk. You need to get inside your home as soon as possible. Here are a few ideas on how you can do it.

1. Check Other Doors

The first thing to try is perhaps the most obvious. If you were absent-minded enough to wind up locked outside the house, there is a chance you may have forgotten to secure some of your other doors. So check all your home’s other entry points: patio doors, garage doors, side doors. There may be an outside chance one of them is open.

Word of warning: Don’t ever try to force open an outside door. Not only will you ruin the door, but you can also hurt yourself.

2. Check First-Floor Windows

If all the doors are locked, perhaps a window may be open on the first floor. Many people faithfully lock their doors, but don’t necessarily latch the windows. If you find a window that’s big enough for you to crawl through, carefully remove the screen and check what’s on the inside before you enter the window. You wouldn’t want to knock over your grandmother’s heirloom vase, your TV or crush your plants.

Entering through a window is another way you can hurt yourself, so proceed with caution. 

3. Find Someone Who May Have a Key

Depending on your living situation, your significant other, roommate or even a family member may have another copy of the key. Call them and tell them, “I’m locked out of my house.” If you rent, your landlord will probably have an extra set of keys. You will have to arrange to meet them to pick them up. If you live in an apartment, visit the superintendent and let them know you locked yourself out.

Be sure you have identification, especially if you live in a large apartment complex. The managers may not know everybody who lives there, and may require you to identify yourself before they open your door.

4. Ask for Help

If you’ve locked yourself out, it’s unlikely you have any tools on hand that you might be able to use to get back into your home, such as a screwdriver, a coat hanger, bobby pins or other items you can use to open your door or a window in a pinch.

There’s a good chance, however, your neighbors can help you out. Most neighbors are more than happy to loan these kinds of items to somebody who is locked out of their home. If it’s a cold day or night, there is also a good chance they’ll invite you inside for a coffee or a cup of hot chocolate. If they have some advice on how to get back into your home, listen.

5. Use a Credit Card

Some people frown upon this method, but it might work if you have a spring latch. If you have a deadbolt on your front door, credit cards won’t work.

Choose a laminated card, which tends to work better because it will be more flexible. Don’t use a credit card you rely on, because this approach can chew it up.

credit card in wallet

If you do get in, immediately call a professional locksmith to come to your home and install a better lock, because you just proved how easy it is for someone to get into your house.

6. Remove the Doorknob

Here is another idea not everyone recommends, but if you’re desperate, it might work. You’ll need a screwdriver to remove the exterior doorknob. You’ll find a small latch near the base of the knob. Push it in and remove the knob. Then, use the screwdriver or your finger to pull the latch back.

7. Call a Locksmith

When all else fails, let a pro do it. Professional locksmiths help people out in emergencies all the time. They are quick and efficient and will have you back inside your home in no time. If you live within a 10-mile radius of our location in Riverside Park, Md., call us and say, “I’ve locked myself out of my house.” We’ll be there as quickly as we can.

How to Prevent Lockouts

After you’re back in your house, the issue now facing you is how to ensure you don’t get locked out of the home again.

how to prevent lockouts

1. Hide a Set of Spare Keys

This method will only work with a reliable hiding place. That does not mean under the front mat, a phony-looking rock or your mailbox. Those are among the first places a potential thief would look for a key. Instead, select a tree in the back of your property, and hang your key on a nail on the side facing away from the road and the house. Another idea is to tape a spare key to your outside air conditioning unit, but in a place where it’s easy to reach, you won’t hurt yourself reaching for it and it won’t damage the machine.

2. Give a Spare to a Neighbor

The person you ask to be the keeper of your spare key does not have to be someone next door. It could be anyone trustworthy in the neighborhood. Entrusting someone nearby with an extra house key is a smart idea, especially if you’ve locked yourself out more than once.

3. Try a Keyless or Smart Lock

These modern options are not as expensive as you might think. Keyless or smart locks can use codes or even an app on your smartphone to grant you access to your home. If you want this kind of lock, however, make sure you let a professional locksmith install it.

4. Make Picking up Your Keys a Habit

Try putting your keys with other items you always need to take with you when you leave the house, such as your wallet or phone. Another idea is perhaps to post a sign near or on the front door: “Did you remember the house keys?”

When You Need Residential Lock Services, Call Ernie’s Lock

When you need a locksmith to help you get back into your home, contact Ernie’s Lock. We’ve been helping people get back into their homes in Maryland since 1960. We provide emergency service within a 10-mile radius of our shop in Riverside Park.

We’ll give you a free estimate over the phone. You can send us a picture, a text or an email that shows the problem, which helps us get a good idea of how we can help when quoting you a price. We also arrive as promptly as possible in an emergency like a lockout.

You can call us at 301-277-1126. We can also help you with your home’s other security needs. Visit our contact us page, where you can leave us your information and a few details about how we can help.

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When to Change Locks: Keeping You and Your Property Safe

Category : Blog , Locks

when to change locks

You do what you can to keep your property safe. Whether you have a home, apartment or business, you lock your doors to protect yourself. In some cases, our locks can’t always guard our homes. For many situations, you must change your locks so they can do their job correctly.

When you change your lock, you choose an entirely new lock system to replace your old one. Customize your security with a new lock system that fits the look of your property, all while keeping everything secure. But how often should you change locks?

We at Ernie’s Lock Company know the importance of keeping your family, possessions or business safe. Below you’ll find our recommendations of when to change your locks. Plan for life’s surprises and prepare for when you may need to replace door locks. When it’s time, contact us for help when you’re unsure how to change the locks on your house.

Changing Locks on a New House or Property

One of the most common reasons to change your locks is purchasing a new home or property. Many new homeowners or individuals who have acquired a business neglect to replace their locks. Changing the locks on a new house or building, however, is a crucial step when you move. You care about your employees, your family members and everything else in your home or business, so take the first step in protecting them.

No matter how you acquired it, you may not know why it’s necessary to change locks on a newly-purchased property. Don’t take the chance of keeping the same locks. Consider these reasons for changing your locks:

  • The previous owner left a copy of their key with a friend, neighbor or family member.
  • The previous owner lost a copy of their key or had it stolen without changing the locks.
  • The previous owner still has a copy of their key that they did not turn over.
  • The property is a foreclosure with a disgruntled past owner who still has access to a key.
  • Construction workers who built your new house may have kept or copied a key.
  • Real estate agents or those with access to their keys could have access to your home.

Don’t let any of the concerns above overshadow the exciting experience of moving into a new place or starting a new business. Whether you need commercial lock services or residential security, a reliable locksmith can protect you, your possessions and your property. Even if you know the past owners or contractors of your new property, it’s not worth the risk. Individuals you do not know or trust could have had access to the property in the past. Save yourself future troubles by hiring a locksmith to replace your locks.

Be sure to examine your property, taking note of exterior doors with locks that a locksmith should replace for you. It’s easy to focus on your front door, but people could have keys to different entrances. Don’t allow for any cracks in the defense of your property. Whether you own or rent the building, you should take this precaution. Even those living in apartment complexes should change their locks upon moving in unless the landlord has already made replacements.

Evicting Tenants and Other Landlord Concerns

landlord changing locks

As a landlord, you have a responsibility to those living in your building. Tenants have the right to habitability, meaning a safe and livable space. One main feature of habitability is a door with a lock. Though it may seem simple, you should also take on the responsibility of maintaining those locks. Changing locks can keep you and your tenants safe after any number of situations and enforces habitability.

Take the precaution of changing locks after:

  1. Evicting tenants: For the security of your building and future renters, you should change your locks after evicting a tenant. Evicted tenants may be defiant, and you don’t want to risk letting them back into your building. While you can collect any keys they have, you never know if a copy of the key is somewhere out there. Be sure not to change the locks on your tenant’s apartment before evicting them, though.
  2. Tenants move out: Even if your renter moves out by choice and returns their key, they may have made a copy or given one to friends or family. Change the locks to protect yourself and future tenants. Let new renters know that you changed the locks to provide them with peace of mind and ensure them about habitability.
  3. Tenants made copies of keys: Hopefully, your renters will be honest about making copies of keys. They should return copies made to you when they move. Sometimes, you won’t be so lucky to have honest tenants. If your renter returns copies rather than original keys or if you suspect they made copies, change the locks to be safe.
  4. Other security issues: Break-ins, breakups and other problems may require you to change locks for current tenants. Individuals living in your building may request to change their locks, or you may make the choice and notify them. No matter how you go about changing the locks, it will create a habitable and safe building for your tenants.

Seek out a locksmith for evictions and other issues to keep everyone in your building protected. Be sure to notify your tenants properly about any lock changes so you follow the law and enhance the safety of your building.

If you take the vital step of changing your locks as a response to the issues above, your tenants will feel that they can trust you. They’ll want to live at your property longer since they know it is a safe place. The act of replacing locks shows your dedication to your tenants.

Lost or Stolen Keys

There’s no need to worry if you misplace your keys somewhere in your home and find them later, but if you ever lose your keys while you’re out and about, your first concern should be the security of your home or business. If you know someone stole your keys, contact your insurance company and the police to report the incident. After you’ve notified authorities, hire a professional locksmith to change your lock right away.

If you do lose your keys, it’s time to act quickly and replace your locks. If you’re considering the risk of leaving the locks the same, think about these possibilities:

  • Someone could have stolen your keys.
  • A stranger could recover your lost keys and attempt to use them.
  • If you don’t have a copy of your key, you may be locked out.

While losing a key doesn’t automatically mean someone will use it to enter your home or business, it’s better to be safe. Individuals can take lost or stolen keys to a kiosk to make a copy of your key with no questions asked. Machines can duplicate keys marked “do not duplicate.” There are also individuals who do not take care to read the message and who copy these keys. Even if you find your keys again or someone returns them to you, you should still take the safe route and replace your locks.

Regardless of how long you’ve lost your keys for, assume someone has found them. While you can’t know for sure what they will do with your key, it’s safer to assume the worst in this case. Since individuals with keys commit a percentage of home invasions and break-ins, you shouldn’t take the gamble when you lose a key. But merely losing a key isn’t the only event that makes your locks vulnerable.

Other Reasons to Change Locks

Just because none of the above has happened to you, there are still reasons to change your locks. Replace the locks in your home or business if you’ve experienced any of the following:

reasons to change locks
  1. Theft or break-ins: If you have suffered a break-in, protect your home so you do not experience another tragedy. Check for dents or scuff marks to determine if a burglar has tampered with a security device. Damaged doorknobs and locks can become flaws in security down the line, which leaves you vulnerable to another incident.
  2. Change in staffing: As employees leave your business, whether it was their choice or yours, consider changing your locks to keep your employees and property protected. Fired employees may become disgruntled individuals, and you do not want to take the risk of them accessing your business.
  3. Roommate moving out: Even if your roommate moves out on amicable terms, you should still take the precaution of changing your locks. Breakups can create disgruntled former roommates, so be sure to take the same care if your relationship has ended. If you rent, be sure to speak with your landlord about making the change so you have their approval for a locksmith to come and secure your space.
  4. Renovations: Inviting contractors into your home may have left you with a fresh new space, but you may also have a security risk on your hands. If you were away while contractors and other employees completed work, you likely provided them with a key. While we hope individuals who work in your home are professional and responsible, they could have made copies of your key. Consider changing your locks for the safety of your newly-renovated home.
  5. Having a house sitter: Friends, family or neighbors can be helpful when you’ve been away for work or vacation, but unless you trust your house sitter completely, you may want to consider changing your locks. While changing them every time you go away may be a bit drastic, definitely change your locks if your house sitter doesn’t return your key or returns a copy.

The events above depend on other individuals accessing your keys, but sometimes the locks may be the problem. Update your locks if you have:

  1. Damaged locks: Broken or damaged locks cannot correctly guard your home. Intruders can easily tamper with damaged locks, and broken locks may not even function properly to secure your property.
  2. Old locks: To prevent damaged locks in the future, keep track of when you’ve last changed your locks. If it’s been some time, your locks may be weaker and prone to tampering. Maintain regular replacements, and purchase high-quality security installed by a professional to help your locks work their best.
  3. Outdated locks: If your locks are old in appearance, you may want to update them to match the aesthetic or your home. Even modern doorknobs and locks may not match your plans for new decor, so feel free to have a locksmith update them. The new style will come with the added security benefit of a new and functioning lock.
house key in lock

Regain comfort, control and security in your home after you’ve changed the locks. Don’t let events like these threaten your security or your property.

How Often to Change Locks

You should change your locks as often as you find yourself in the situations above. If you’re lucky enough not to encounter those problems, you should still change locks on occasion. You don’t need to change your locks every few months — unless that’s how often events above happen to you. Consult with a locksmith to see if your locks should be updated.

You can prevent having to change your locks frequently by taking some precautions like:

  • Only give your key or copies of it to people you trust
  • Keep track of your keys and who has copies
  • Make a note of how many copies you’ve made of your key
  • Avoid putting your address on keys or keychains
  • Only give older and responsible children in your household a key
  • Purchase an electronic access system from a locksmith for businesses
  • Opt to have a locksmith rekey your locks instead of replacing the whole system
  • Treat locks and keys carefully as you would other mechanical objects

These steps can prevent you from changing your locks often, but try to have locksmiths install new locks in your home or business on occasion. Treat changing your locks as necessary upkeep of your property. Just as you change the batteries in your smoke detector to keep yourself safe, you should change the locks on your exterior doors. Your tenants, roommates or family members will appreciate the effort you’ve taken to protect them and their possessions.

Contact Ernie’s Lock Company to Change Your Locks

reliable and efficient lock changing services

If any of the above reasons to change locks apply to you, and you’re in Prince George’s County or nearby Maryland locations, contact us at Ernie’s Lock Company. Our reliable and efficient lock services will help you secure your home and business. If you prefer to talk to someone in person, visit our physical location to learn about us and our services.

Whether you need a locksmith for evictions or you’re changing locks on a new house, we’re ready to help. Our licensed technicians can solve your residential or commercial lock and key problems in a timely and professional manner. Don’t let strangers, past renters or disgruntled former employees make you fear your own property. Remember the above reasons to change your locks, and contact Ernie’s today to secure your home or business.

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Rekeying vs. Changing Your Locks

Category : Keys , Locks

Several circumstances might lead you to be in need of a key change. If you’ve misplaced your key, suffered a break-in, moved to a new house, started a new business in a previously owned building or experienced a change in staffing, it’s likely you desire a new key for safety and convenience purposes, but you might not know where to start.

Most don’t know it, but when you want to change your key entry method, you have the option of either changing your locks or rekeying them. Here’s the breakdown and benefits of both:

What Is Changing a Lock? 

Replacing a lock in order to change your key involves removing your current lock system and installing one that is entirely new. You’ll need to consider various factors when selecting a brand-new lock, such as your budget and the type of security features you desire. If you want a completely different kind of lock than the one you currently have, this method is necessary. You can buy a new lock at the hardware store and replace it yourself or consult your local locksmith for choices and installation.

Lock changing has several advantages. Selecting an entirely new lock, rather than working with your old one, gives you the added benefit of security customization. You can choose the appearance, features and functionality of your lock, add additional security pins or screws and create a system sturdier than any you’ve had before. You also have the option of upgrading your lock to reinforce and improve security whenever you desire.

What Is Rekeying?

Rather than removing and replacing your entire lock system, rekeying lets you keep your deadbolt system and readjust it to work with a different key. Your old key will no longer work, but otherwise your security will remain stable and operate in the same way — you’ll just have a fresh key to keep it safe. Rekeying is cost-effective but it can also be complicated, so make sure you contact a locksmith to help you perform the duty.

Rekeying is another great option for changing your entry key because it’s simple, efficient and cost-effective. You’ll keep your lock intact, so you don’t need to worry about budgeting for a new deadbolt system. The only costs you’ll incur are for the locksmith’s labor. In addition, when handled by a professional, rekeying is a quick and easy route to enhanced security and a fresh start.

Which Method Is Best?

Whether you choose to rekey or change your lock is based on personal preference and your situation. Think about what you’re willing to spend and the reason for the replacement. If you’re moving into a new house or business and want to make sure no one else has access, rekeying might be enough of a safety measure to ensure you’re the only one with the key.

If you’re looking for increased security or an upgrade because of the threat of burglaries, you might want to invest in a completely new lock instead.

New Lock and Rekeying Services in Maryland

Whether you’re looking for a new lock or need your current one rekeyed, Ernie’s Lock and Key can help. Servicing the keying needs of the Maryland and Metro D.C. areas since 1960, we specialize in ensuring your building is secure. Contact us today for more information.

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How to Pick a Lock

Category : Locks

We see it in spy movies, heists and other sensationalized settings: lock-picking is a skill that we associate with criminality and craftiness — but it’s a real skill that can come in handy in situations other than sleuthing and stealing. You can learn how to pick a door lock yourself and utilize the knowledge on multiple occasions to help you gain access to accidentally locked houses or cars in a non-destructive way.

Here’s what you need to know about picking locks:

  • Why You Should Know How to Pick a Lock:

    Learning to pick locks gives you insight into the nature of locks, how they work and the degree of security they provide. It can also open your eyes to the need to enhance your own security. It can also save you time and money in sticky situations, such as when you’ve misplaced your house key, locked your keys in your car or even to help someone in need.

  • Legality of Picking a Lock:

    You might be worried about whether carrying lock picking tools makes you look suspicious or could be against the law. But don’t fret — as long as you don’t intend to use them to break into another home or commit a crime, possessing tools for picking locks is legal and ethical. There’s nothing criminal about finding another way through your front door when you’ve forgotten your key!

  • How Lock-Picking Works:

    The most common type of lock is a pin tumbler lock, which is made up of a cylinder casing with a plug hole for the key and several key pins that, when lifted to the correct height, allow the plug to rotate and the lock to turn. Picking a lock means using tools other than the correct key to move the key pins into the right position to unlock the door.

  • Tools and Steps to Pick a Lock:

    For basic lock-picking purposes, you’ll need a tension wrench and pick rakes. You can find your own set online.

First, put the tension wrench into the plug and apply light pressure so you can feel plug rotate slightly as the key pins rise and drop and the driver pin catches. The wrench should barely bend.

Next, insert your pick at the top of the lock and slide it all the way in. Still putting pressure on the wrench, make a raking motion with your pick as you lift it slightly up and pull it back.

Repeat until all the pins click into place.

Turn to a Professional for Tricky Locks

If you find yourself up against an especially testy lock you can’t pick despite your best efforts, reach out to your local locksmith. With more than 50 years of experience servicing the personal and commercial lock and key needs in the Maryland and Metro D.C. areas, Ernie’s Lock and Key can help you out of any sticky lock situation. Contact us today for more information.

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What to Do When You’re Locked Out of Your Safe

Category : Access , Locks

You keep a safe to secure your most valuable items: your jewelry, your documents and your secret stash of cash. You don’t want anyone to get their hands on your prized possessions. Unfortunately, sometimes, that means you can’t, either. A secure safe you have access to can provide you with peace of mind, but a locked safe you can’t open can quickly cause a panic.

If you’re locked out of your safe, stay calm. Don’t try to break in with force. Instead, assess the situation and contact your local locksmith. Here are the steps to take when you can’t get into your safe:

  1. Determine the type of safe you have. The type of security, lock and operating system of your safe depends on the type you purchased. Look for a brand or manufacturer name on the safe, look up your purchasing information and take note of the size and construction of the device to determine whether it’s a safe or a lockbox.
  2. Determine why you’re locked out. You can always troubleshoot the lock issue before a professional arrives and try to open the safe yourself. You might have lost or broken your key or forgotten your combination, or it’s possible your bolts are jammed or detached. For cheap safes, safe bouncing — or hitting the top of the safe while turning the handle — can solve your problem. Other safes may have a safe override option, in which case you can flip a switch or enter a combination to reset your entry code.
  3. Reach out to a locksmith. If you can’t figure out why your safe won’t open or simply can’t solve the problem yourself, your best option is to contact a lock professional.

Maryland’s Locked Out Locksmith

If you’re looking for safe unlocking services or safe repair in Maryland, trust Ernie’s Lock and Key. Servicing the Maryland and Metro D.C. areas since 1960, we’ll make sure you have easy access to your safe again. Contact us today.

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Top Ways to Secure a Door

Category : Locks

 door locks in md

Your home is your haven. It’s where you relax after a long day, where you cook your meals, keep your pets and settle into sleep. In a personal place, you want to feel as safe as possible — especially if you live alone or have little ones you want to protect. Whether you live in the city or the suburbs, a house or an apartment, with a big group of people or on your own, securing your space against burglary threats increases your peace of mind and the safety of your environment.

Best Way to Secure a Door and Keep Your Home Safe

  • Install High-Security Locks: To protect against covert break-in methods such as lock-picking, high-security home lock installation can be the best route to making sure your front door is secure. Deadbolt strength and material are key, so make sure you choose a lock with strong metal and resistance to picking. Whether you choose a traditional lock or an electronic smart lock, the right high-security deadbolt will guard against outside threats.
  • Invest in Security Cameras: If you’re concerned about burglaries or break-ins and want to keep an eye on your residence at all times, consider installing a security camera in your entryway. There are many options for video surveillance and security, including setups like smart doorbells with cameras or security cameras with alert systems. Video security can help you deter and prevent threats before they occur or identify burglars in your neighborhood.
  • Increase Door Visibility: It may seem irrelevant, but paying attention to the appearance of your door can increase security on its own. A door that is exposed, well-lit or in plain sight of the community is much less likely to be a burglary target because it makes it more likely that someone would notice a break-in attempt. Make sure not to conceal your door with close obstacles or shady areas that might make good hiding places.
  • Think About Door Construction: The best home security is door security. The material of your door has a lot to do with how secure it is. To prevent entry by jamming or breaking down the door, make sure your door is made of strong, solid wood or steel. Hollow core doors are never safe for exterior use. You should also think about a hardware cover to protect your lock and the weaknesses around it.

High-Security Door Locks and Services in Maryland

If you need assistance and assurance in door lock installation, security or residential lock repair, let Ernie’s Lock and Key lend you our expertise. Serving the Maryland and Metro D.C. areas since 1960, we’ve got you covered with the best products and services to protect your home. Contact us today!

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halloween-proof your house

How to Keep Your Home Safe During Halloween

Category : Keys , Locks

Tips to Keep Your Home Safe During Halloween

During all the Halloween festivities and fun of dressing up and eating candy, you may forget about the security of your home. Locking your doors may seem like a no-brainer from some — but Halloween is a popular holiday for mischievous hooligans and quite possibly, more serious criminal acts.

While people in costumes may be difficult to identify and pranks may begin to scour your neighborhood as the clock nears midnight, Ernie’s Locksmith in Maryland devised a few tips to keep your home safe during Halloween.

  1. Locks

There are two types of people in this world — those who lock their doors each time they leave their home and those who never give it a second thought. If you’re the latter of the two, a home automation system allows you to lock and unlock your doors remotely with an electronic door lock. With smart lock security technology, you can make sure your home is secure by viewing an app.

  1. Alarm System

Setting up an alarm system enhances the security of your home compared to only locking your doors. It’s a good idea to make sure your system is working correctly and that your doors, handles and locks are not loose or broken.


  1. Lights

Although it’s customary to leave your porch lights on to indicate your participation in trick-or-treating, leaving your interior lights on is a safe way to indicate people are home — even if they aren’t. Using a smart lock security system in Maryland allows you to turn your lights on and off from anywhere.

  1. Peephole

Peepholes serve a purpose, and you shouldn’t be afraid to keep your door shut if you’re unsure of who is on the other side. Instead of leaving your door unlocked during trick-or-treating or a party, use the peephole. Burglars have a better chance of entering your home if you’re constantly opening it without caution.


  1. Social Media

It’s a smart idea to keep your plans off social media because it leaves your house vulnerable and open to crimes. Don’t share the location of your haunted party, as it could encourage unfortunate or dangerous events to occur at your home without your permission.

Make Your Home Halloween-Proof

To keep your home or business safe during Halloween, contact Ernie’s Lock Company.

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Why a Local Locksmith Is the Best Choice

Category : Keys , Locks

Choose A Local Locksmith In Maryland

local locksmith in maryland

Although it might not happen frequently, there will be times when you need the services of a capable locksmith. The first question that pops into your head will probably be, “Where can I find a locksmith near me?”

While a quick Internet search will likely yield a host of results, some of them will be mobile locksmiths who may not have a strong presence in your area. A better option is to contact a local locksmith who has a solid reputation within your community.

Reasons to contact a local locksmith:

  • They know your area and its unique security needs. A local locksmith with roots in the area has unique insight into your security issue and can recommend the most reliable, affordable solution. You’ll also know who to call if you need follow-up service.
  • They have all the necessary tools and equipment to do the job. Local locksmiths are brick-and-mortar business establishments and have all the requisite resources and technology on-site. In contrast, a mobile locksmith you find online usually has a limited number of tools and equipment.
  • You’ll avoid scams. Mobile locksmith scams are all too common these days. When you contact a local locksmith, you’ll know you’re dealing with a reputable business you can trust.
  • You’ll be supporting a small business. It’s good to know that when you call your friendly neighborhood locksmith, you’re helping to support a smaller company that makes a positive contribution to your local economy.

Ernie’s Lock Co. Is the Best Locksmith in Riverdale, MD, and Beyond

If you’re looking for a local locksmith in Maryland, Riverdale-based Ernie’s Lock Co. is ready to assist you. We’re a full-service, community-focused small business that’s been meeting the lock and security needs of Maryland home and business owners since 1960. Next time you’re locked out, remember to make us your neighborhood locksmith!

Contact Us!

For All Your Locksmith Needs!

Our Services

    Commercial & Residential

  • High Security & Restricted Keyways
  • Key Duplication (in shop & on road)
  • Key Cutting
  • Custom Master Key Systems
  • Lock Rekeying
  • Lock Installation
  • Lock Repairs
  • Door Hardware Installation
  • Electrical Access
  • Keyless Entry
  • Safes & Vault Sales
  • Safes & Vault Unlocking Services
    Lockouts - *Within 10 Miles

  • Automotive Lockouts
  • Residential Lockouts
  • Commercial Lockouts

Store Hours

  • Monday – Friday 8 AM – 5 PM
  • Saturday – Scheduling Only
  • Sunday – CLOSED


Ernie's Lock Company, Inc. believes in full transparency when it comes to pricing! We always provide honest, competitive and up-front pricing to our customers - we don't like sticker shock. Call our licensed locksmiths today for pricing & custom quotes!


4500 Queensbury Road Riverdale, Maryland 20737
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