What to Do When You’re Locked Out

Written by | Updated November 25, 2019

You’ve locked yourself out of your house. Now what?

A lockout can pose a serious problem, especially if you have pets and kids inside who need your help or dinner in the oven.

Thankfully, we’ve got a few options to get you back inside.

Option 1: Ask for Help

Call your partner, roommate, or anyone you live with to see if they can come home and let you in. It may be inconvenient for them, but you’ll spend less time stranded outside your house.

If you rent your place, try reaching out to your landlord. They will usually have a copy of your house key and may be close enough to unlock the door.

If you live in an apartment complex, stop by the manager’s office and ask for access to your unit. Have proof of identity on-hand alongside evidence that you do indeed live in the complex. But beware: many apartment complexes charge lockout fees if the staff has to help you get back inside.

Option 2: Call a Locksmith

Locksmiths aren’t the cheapest option, but calling a professional locksmith is a surefire way to get back into your home.

Lockout services can cost anywhere from $30 to $90 depending on your situation,1 but a residential locksmith is the best option in an emergency or bad weather. Whether you’re locked out of your house because you lost your keys or the key you have won’t turn, locksmiths are often on call 24/7 to help with home or vehicle lock-outs.

Check out Thumbtack to find locksmiths in your area.

Option 3: Look for Unlocked Windows or Doors

Unlocked windows and doors are invitations to invaders, but they can also get you out of a tough situation when you’re locked out. If you’re stuck, it doesn’t hurt to check all the entrances to your home.

When entering through a window, remove the screen, lift the window, and shimmy through. Be careful, as you’re likely to be off-balance when you land—and look out for items below like furniture, end tables, and TVs.

Option 4: Improvise Tools

Movies make lockpicking look easy, but it’s much trickier in real life. Bobby pins and paper clips can serve as DIY locksmithing tools.

It’ll work best if you have two bobby pins or two paper clips, but if you have only one, you can break it in half to create two tools.

  1. Bend one of the metal pieces into an “L” shape. This tool becomes your tension rod for holding the lock in place.
  2. Straighten the other piece out and bend a small “W” into the wire at the end. This piece will help you unlatch the pins inside the lock.
  3. Hold the L-shaped piece in place, keeping tension in the lock.
  4. Use the W-shaped piece to feel for pins inside the lock.
  5. Push the pins up with the W-shaped piece to unlock the door.

For a standard spring bolt, you’ll need a hard plastic card.

  1. Choose a card you don’t mind destroying. It’s better to ruin a used gift card than your debit or credit card.
  2. Insert the card between the frame and the door right at the latch.
  3. Hold the card perpendicular to the door, and push and wiggle the card around.
  4. While you push, bend the card away from the doorknob in an attempt to slide the latch back and away from the doorjamb. Push your weight against the door while you bend the card.
  5. Slide the card between the latch and doorframe. With the card between the lock and the doorframe, you can push your way back into your house.

Pro Tip

If you successfully unlock your door, call a locksmith. You have proven how easy your home is to break into and should consider upgrading your locks.

Option 5: Take off the Door Knob

As long as the deadbolt on your door isn’t locked, you should be able to gain entry by removing the doorknob.

Most doorknobs have concealed connections or mounting screws, but if you look closely you’ll see a pin-sized hole or slot below or to the side of the doorknob.

  1. Grab a thin piece of metal (like a straightened bobby pin or a paper clip), insert your newly made tool into the hole, and apply pressure.
  2. You should feel resistance. Keep pushing the metal tool as far into the hold as possible with one hand while you pull and turn the doorknob with your other hand.
  3. Continue applying pressure and simultaneously pulling and twisting until you’ve removed the doorknob.
  4. Now all you have to do is pry off the decorative plate to reveal the lockset. Use a screwdriver (or your bobby pin) to pull back on the locking mechanism—the door should unlock.

Tricks That Prevent a Lockout

Once the frustrating experience is over and you’re safe inside, take steps to prepare for the next time you inevitably find yourself on the wrong side of a locked door.

Best Smart Door Lock
Schlage Touchscreen Deadbolt

Schlange Z-Wave Deadbolt

Consider Going Keyless

Many home security providers also offer electronic door locks that unlock remotely with a smartphone app or custom code. Many of these keyless locks pair with home security systems that also connect to monitoring stations. Professional monitoring centers can contact emergency services if the situation is serious enough.

Getting locked out of the house is never fun. But these things happen. Just remember that you have options. Stay calm, assess the situation, follow the above tips, and you’ll be back inside in no time.

Give a Spare Away

Prevent the problem by giving a spare key to a trusted friend, family member, or neighbor. Someone with flexible availability is ideal for quickly fixing the problem in the future.

Hide-a-Key

Hide-a-Keys and outdoor key holders come in many shapes and forms. They’re often disguised as rocks or yard decorations. These products are great for hiding a spare key to a house, safe, or drawers. Make sure they blend into their surroundings—but not too much. You’ll still need to find your Hide-a-Key in a pinch.

Written by Katie McEntire

Since 2013, Katie has written marketing copy, long-form posts, reviews, and blogs. She began her career as a writer and reviewer with the mission to recommend only the best products for her readers. She’s designed tests, evaluated products, and written reviews on a range of subjects such as appliances, power tools, and software. Today, she applies these research and writing skills on the SafeWise team to explore the world of home, auto, and internet security. Learn more

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