Snapped keys and swollen doors

Well we are called out to people that have snapped keys in their locks fairly often. The most common cause for this does tend to be that people pull their does shut with keys in the lock. Communal doors are most common we attend, they are normally big heavy doors that open outwards.

People put the key in and pull on the key especially if they have their hands full. This puts immense pressure and strain on the key and the key will each time get weaker and weaker until unfortunately it snaps. I’ve always managed to get the broken part out. Though I have seen and heard of horror stories where sadly other so called locksmiths have attended site. Some won’t try to extract the key but go for a destructive method, leaving no option but to change the lock. This if it’s high occupancy block of flats can also ensure extra keys will be needed and obviously additional keys will be an expense that has to be covered. Then most flats would require at least two keys.

In cases where we have attended we have removed the key and been able to cut a new key on site, using the two pieces of the broken key. No damage was caused, and no one would have to obtain new keys Though if the key is on a restricted section, we can not copy these. You would need to have to contact the managing agent.

Another cause for keys snapping is if the lock is stiff. There tends to be many causes for this. Weather in particular. The constant hot and cold or a sudden change and we will start receiving calls. Doors whether upvc or wooden will expand and contract and not all the components will change at the same rate. So people will notice that there door is stiff to open or close. They may have to put a bit of weight behind the door or will kick the bottom. Obviously this is not ideal, as something somewhere is being forced into position. Then at some point something has to give. 9 out of 10 times its always going to be the lock, mechanism or handles that fail or snap. Again this tends to happen once the door is in the locked position which can make things even more awkward.

One example of this recently, was a flat on a first floor that had a upvc door onto a small balcony. The lady rang and informed me of her situation. I arrived on site and the door was unlocked as thekey could be turned 360 degrees in the opening position. Though the handle would not push down to retract the bolts and pull the latch back so effectively we had a door that was open but locked shut. The lady informed the door had been stiff recently, but they kept forcing it shut. Then yanking up on the handle until finally something gave way. Now I removed the handles and identified the make of the multipoint mechanism. I’ve opened these before. The easiest way I have found was to remove the beading and panels/glass. this gives a lot more movement in the door. Though this can not be done if I did not have access to the internal side of door. So this was an advantage this time round. Eventually door was open and no damaged caused. Though attempting this should only ever be done by a competent and experienced person. As everything has to be put back to keep the door square or you will make the problem even worse. We replaced the central gearbox and greased up all the moving parts then made the adjustments to the strikes and keeps. Everything worked smoothly and no effort was required to open or close.

Now with hindsight the lady recognised that if she had of called me earlier, all that would of been required would of been about 15 mins of adjustment. People don’t seem to keep things maintained. Window handles being snapped off, again down to poor or lack of maintenance.

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