Alright, alright maybe I’m getting a little too caught up in this clickbait culture we’re living in these days, and maybe your deadbolt can’t kill you directly (unless maybe someone shoots it out of a cannon at you or drops it off a skyscraper on top of your head) but indirectly it can definitely lead to your untimely demise if you’re not careful. So what exactly am I talking about?
I’m referring to a specific style of deadbolt, the double cylinder deadbolt. “What’s that?” you ask. Well you might not know it by name, but I’m sure you’ve seen it before. It’s a deadbolt that needs a key to operate on both sides of the door, both in and out. When I moved into my house, I found 2 of them on exterior doors. “What’s so alarming about that?” Well humor me for a second and I’ll tell you.
Let’s say for example you have a double cylinder deadbolt installed on your front door and there are no windows off your entryway room. You go to sleep at night and wake up to blaring smoke alarms, in your panicked state you run to see what the issue is to find your kitchen engulfed in flames (maybe you forgot something on the stove, who knows) You try to do your best to put it out but it quickly spreads. Your front door is the main exit door to your house so you run to it to get out, but wait….you left the key for the door in the kitchen which is now up in flames. Smoke and fire has started to fill the hallway leaving you nowhere else to go. So now what? You’re at the front door, you have no key, and the deadbolt is locked from both sides. You can’t kick it down and there’s only a small window in the door that’s not big enough to climb out of. You scream for help and hope someone outside is strong enough to kick it down but no one is there to help you. You could run back through the smoke and flames and try to find the key or another exit maybe, but the fact of the matter is at this point, you are quite literally Toast! Had you had a normal deadbolt with a latch on the inside, you’d have gotten to the front door, unlocked it and been safe outside. Undoubtedly heartbroken as you watched your home and belongings go up in flames, but alive to see another day.
“So why do homeowners install these types of locks if they’re unsafe?” Well the short answer is security. Many people think that installing these types of locks keep them safer. A lot of exterior doors have some bit of glass in them. People think that a burglar can just smash that glass, reach in and unlock the door and walk in, and while that may be true, if the burglar has smashed the glass on the door they’ve either already made entry into your house or are not shy about smashing a window to get in either. Why would they then decide to unlock and use the door?
Does the “added security” outweigh the danger these locks add? The answer is no. In fact, it’s almost universally against code to install these locks on any doors that serve as an exit, but just because code says so doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen all the time. Code states that any locking mechanism on an exit door can not need any tool or additional implementation besides the built in hardware of the mechanism to open it. In short, it can’t have a removable tool (such as a key) required to use it in case of emergency.
It’s up to you to look around your house and make sure it’s safe for you and your family. Assuming that things are up to code because you just bought the place and had an inspection, etc. is a mistake. (Remember earlier when I said my house had 2 of them installed?) Things get overlooked, sometimes the inspector doesn’t call it out in their reports, or sometimes the landlord or previous occupant of your place just didn’t know any better.
But now you do! So look around and check for these types of locks on your house and if you find one, replace it ASAP!