Locked Out of House? How to Open a Locked Door: Panic-Free Solutions to Get Back Inside Quickly

Jerry Carter - Editorial Staff

Updated: March 30, 2020

How to Open a Locked Door: 6 Things to Try

No matter the kinds of houses or doors, homeowners can find themselves futilely jiggling the lock while the key sits on the other side, utterly useless. Here’s how to open a locked door and get back into the home. These are six of the best methods that should work for anybody.

1. Try the Other Doors

Before resorting to a more expensive option, like a locksmith, check the other doors around the house. It could be that the garage is unlocked, or there’s another entry point that can provide an opening. Be sure to check the basement and the side door, even if these are doorways that the family never uses. A sliding door is another entryway that lots of people often forget to lock but constantly use, so give that a try, too.

2. Don’t Forget About Windows

The windows can be another potential entry point, so don’t forget to check them. Usually, family members are much less likely to lock windows. While ignoring window locks is a security threat to the home, it can come in handy in this situation. Take a look at all of the first-floor windows of the home to see if any are ajar or unlocked.

One of the worst things will be if you’re locked out of an upper-floor apartment. In this case, climbing through a window probably isn’t an option.

3. Ask a Neighbor or Friend For a Key

Fortunately for people who have roommates, there may be a way to get a key from a friend. Alternatively, homeowners may have a neighbor that they’re close with and whom they could give a spare key to. Another possibility is if a family member has an extra one and can leave work or school to deliver it to you. Some people might like to put a spare under a rock or in the mailbox, but this is a security risk, so it’s best not to.

4. Consider Calling a Locksmith

This isn’t the best option for people on a budget, but if they don’t have a key and the locks aren’t budging, it’s time to contact a locksmith. This is particularly useful if the weather is bad or dinner is cooking on the stove while you’re locked out. Just keep in mind that locksmith services can cost a pretty penny in 2021. It’s better to exhaust all other options before resorting to this one.

5. Get Crafty With DIY Tools

Before you contact a locksmith, consider making your own home lock-picking devices. Use things like a credit card or bobby pin to jostle the lock. A couple of paper clips can be good for this, too. Keep in mind that whatever you grab will probably end up getting ruined, so if you’re using a card, make it an expired license, gift card, or something similar.

To finagle a lock, here’s what to do:

It’s important to note here that there shouldn’t be any forcing or quick movements. This will just end up ruining the locks and costing more money down the road. It’s best to keep things smooth and steady, taking time to feel out the different parts and trying to find that magic click.

6. Remove the Doorknob

When all else fails, people can try taking off the doorknob and getting into the house that way. A screwdriver or even a paper clip can help to loosen the knob and remove it from the door. The trouble here is that it’s easy to damage doors when taking off the knobs. If it comes to this method, it’s worth weighing the pros and cons of a do-it-yourself job versus contacting locksmith services.

People who know what they’re doing can remove the knob without compromising the security of the door. However, those who just force their way in could end up doing more harm than good. Here are some tips for removing the knob on your own:

Tricks That Prevent a Lockout

While most people will experience being locked out at some point, there are ways to reduce the chances of that happening greatly. Here are a few things to consider to make a lockout easier or to avoid it completely.

1. Install a Smart Lock

These days some smart systems and devices make locking up a breeze. Many of 2021’s models provide keyless entry, remote views, or access via a mobile app or passcode. This option may come with a higher upfront cost, but it also syncs with other home security systems and eliminates the need to carry around a clanging set of keys everywhere. It’s a stress-free way to eliminate lockouts for good.

2. Sneakily Hide a Spare

For those who prefer a more old-school approach, consider hiding a spare set, but do it the expert way. Professionals suggest thinking outside the (mail)box, as many burglars are savvy to common hiding spots. Instead, try placing a spare inside the vinyl siding of the property, or nailing it to a tree, out of view. Other ideas include a fake sprinkler or inside a birdhouse.

3. Enlist the Help of Neighbors

Another potential hiding spot is with the neighbors. Providing that you have a good relationship with them, there’s no harm in asking for their help. They can hold on to a spare set, just in case of an emergency. This is much safer than hiding it under a welcome mat or rock, which are two of the most common places that burglars check.

4. Consider a Home Security System

More and more people are bypassing these outdated tricks and going for a modern surveillance system. In 2021, there are loads of options for all kinds of properties and budgets. Some systems include an outdoor camera and motion detector while others go all out and come with smart devices, entryway sensors, and more. What they all have in common is that they provide remote, keyless access to the property.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How Much Does it Cost to Get a Locksmith to Unlock a House?

    The price for this service ranges across the spectrum, especially depending on the regional area. That said, the average price can hover just below $100, so it doesn’t come cheap. The lower end of the range is around $30 to $50, but clients could end up paying a couple of hundred dollars depending on what they need.

  • How Do You Unlock a House Door Without a Key?

    There are a few ways to do this, but they all come with risks. The biggest issue is damaging the door or the locking mechanism in the keyhole. If that happens, the whole system needs replacing. That said, some ways that people pry open a locked door include using paper clips or bobby pins to jostle the parts, or sliding a thin piece of plastic to wedge them apart. Others screw the doorknob off to get in.

  • How Do I Remove a Locked Doorknob?

    It starts by locating the knob’s shank, which is the cylindrical piece that juts out and attaches to the knob. There should be a hole or slot around there with access to the mounting screws. Using a paper clip or small screwdriver, carefully loosen the screws to ease the mounting plate off. This will reveal the screws of the doorknob, which will allow the entire thing to come off.

  • How Much Does it Cost to Change a Lock?

    If someone wants to try changing them by themselves, then they can expect to pay anywhere from $20 to $150 to get the replacement parts. Hiring a professional could cost around $75 per hour, but they’ll also get the job done faster and get it right the first time. Other things to consider include travel time and any additional parts required for the task, so it could end up costing more.

Don't Get Stuck Out in the Cold

Accidents happen, but with a bit of foresight, individuals can prevent these embarrassing and discouraging lockout scenarios from happening. It just takes a bit of planning to keep spares well hidden. Plus, spending on remote access or surveillance system now can help to avoid costly frustrations in the future. Your family’s safety is worth the extra effort, as is your peace of mind.

Editorial Staff

Jerry Carter is an experienced writer and has a passion for content development for varied projects. Jerry had been studying law at university when he realized that only writing could satisfy his adventurist spirit and his desire for knowledge. As a person with many unusual hobbies, he is also interested in security and modern technology.