1-800-UNLOCKS Blog

I Need to Change My House Locks, Should I Rekey or Replace Them?

brick house with garage doors

When you need your locks changed, be sure to count all cylinders for an accurate price.

There comes a point when every homeowner, renter, or business needs to rekey their locks. This typically happens when the new occupants move in and they’re unsure who has the existing keys. Alternatively, the lock may be extremely old, and the key is sticking making it difficult to lock and unlock your doorknob or deadbolt. For whatever your reason, addressing any lock concerns in advance will always save you money and costly repairs down the road when any of your locks or keys stop working.

What Does Rekeying a Lock Mean?

lock cylinder opened up to see the pins

This is a key in knob cylinder with a plug following in it.

The term “Rekeying a Lock” has become a universal phrase that has lost its true meaning over the years. To some of our customers, it means making a new key to their house, because the old one is lost and they have no spare. To others, it means duplicating an existing key to get an extra copy to keep as a spare. While others insist it involves removing all the locks from their home and replacing them with new hardware.

However, the true locksmith meaning of rekeying a lock comes down to taking an existing lock, disassemble the entire unit, as seen in the picture, remove all the existing pin or wafer tumblers that allow the current key to turn in the lock. Next, the locksmith will insert a new combination of pin or wafer tumblers into the lock, that prevents the previous key from operating the unit, but allows a different key to turn in the lock. Then, the hardware gets reassembled, and now the doorknob or deadbolt has been rekeyed.

When is The Best Time to Rekey Your House Locks?

There are many situations where it’s appropriate to rekey your locks. The best time to rekey your house locks is right after you move into your new home. That crucial step prevents anyone with an old key from having physical access into your new home. In fact, many realtors will suggest this as an important task you should not overlook after closing day. On top of that, many locksmiths will partner up with local realtors and offer discounts or package deals for this basic, but critical service. We suggest you talk to your realtor and find out if they have any partnerships with locksmiths, HVAC, electricians, plumbers. Realtors will often have a list of pros they trust and recommend.

Another time to rekey your house locks is when an individual moves out. The circumstances may be mutual and friendly, but for safety and security reasons rekeying the locks protects the current resident and anyone else living inside the home from any unwelcome guests.

A third rekey option is restricting access to designated rooms that guests or roommates do not need to enter. For example, you may have a home office or medicine closet that is off-limits to other visitors, residents, or kids in your home. Having the office door rekeyed to a different key gives you sole control of your home office door. The contents and office equipment in that room is no longer freely accessible to those inside your home. This multi-level rekeying service is called master keying. Installing a smart lock with key override above a passage lock on the exterior or interior doors can also give you full digital control.

What Does Replacing a Lock Mean?

dark lever lock getting installed on a wooden door

Lock replacement is different from lock rekeying service.

To replace a lock simply means removing an existing piece of hardware, i.e., doorknob or deadbolt and installing its new replacement in the existing pre-drilled holes, as seen in the picture. Traditionally, the new replacement lock is from the same hardware brand and matches the color’s finish as the other locks currently installed on existing doors throughout the house to ensure all locks remain keyed alike and decoratively the same.

When it comes to replacing a lock, it is not the same as installing a new lock. With replacement, the existing hardware is getting removed and replaced with the latest version of the old lock. Installing a new lock requires additional door prep with new mounting holes, jamb strike adjustment, and door alignment when there is no pre-existing hardware currently installed.

When is The Best Time to Replace Your House Locks?

When looking at your door lock, there is no visual indication that can let you know, now is the right time to replace the lock. The only procedure that can diagnose any locks’ physical conditions requires removal, disassembly, and inspection of each doorknob or deadbolt by a professional locksmith.

When the locksmith inspects your homes’ hardware, they will determine if any of your locks have the following symptoms.

  • excessive lock plug wear
  • chipping in the housing
  • the plugs lock pinholes are no longer round but have an oval shape
  • the pin tumblers top spring has dropped and gotten twisted around the plug
  • metal burrs have formed giving the lock a grinding feeling when your key turns in the lock
  • the keyhole has widened to the point the plug is starting to split in halve
  • decay and corrosion from rust build-up
  • insects have built nests inside the unit and are beyond repair

Once the hardware gets examined, should any of these internal indicators be the cause of your locks malfunctioning or failing, a hardware replacement is the only option.

Is Lubricating Your House Locks Still Recommended?

When new locks leave the factory, they arrive in boxes and plastic packaging, and their internal parts are covered with some form of lithium grease. It might look white, light brown, or some shade of red. Over time, that lubricate ages and will break down, becoming non-effective. At that point, the lock begins to work harder than it’s designed to and eventually malfunctions.

As your lock gets older, by not lubricating it once a month, the internal wear, we mentioned above, begins to accelerate the lock’s aging process. To eliminate premature malfunctions, keep your house locks lubricated, to prolong the life of your doorknobs and deadbolts. To learn more about proper lock maintenance, stop by your local locksmith shop and ask them how to keep your locks functioning properly for many years.

Final Thoughts

We do hope our article has given you a little more insight into your home’s lock hardware and when it’s time to change your house locks as opposed to when it’s time to rekey our house locks. When it is time to inspect them, we at 1-800-Unlocks, highly recommend having an experienced residential locksmith remove the doorknobs and deadbolts to inspect each device thoroughly. When they are finished examining your hardware, request a written and detailed estimate. What they find could determine whether rekeying or replacing your home’s locks is the best decision moving forward.

Sam Wilson
Author: Sam Wilson

I am a licensed locksmith and the owner of 1-800-Unlocks. The goal of our locksmith directory is to provide a safe place for customers to find a local legitimate locksmith and avoid the pitfalls of being a victim of scamming locksmiths.

1 Comment

  1. My daughter just moved into a home and has been wondering what she should check before the month is up. I liked your advice to rekey the house right after you move in so people who might have had access to it while it was being sold can no longer have access. I’ll be sure to mention this to my daughter and see if she can find someone soon to help her take care of this.

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