Help us open this door
July 13, 2012 7:45 PM   Subscribe

Help! My bil has locked his bedroom door, and we can't figure out how to open it.

Earlier today my bil tried to open his door, but was unable to get the latch to come free. He tried a credit card but it didn't work, and eventually he summoned my husband and me to his aid. We took off the knob and exposed the locking apparatus, but was unable to manipulate it in any way so he could get out. He eventually went out his tiny bedroom window.

Currently the door is still locked. He tells me the problem is "the lock is stuck inside the door...the latch is extended past where it's supposed to be, so the entire latch is in the door jam, and the spring is exposed, yet difficult to reach to cut"

We asked for help at Home Depot, but the "jiggle it" with a screwdriver advice is not working.

Can anyone help my bil get inside his bedroom, short of breaking down the door? We just moved to a new house, and have minimal tools. We are dumbfounded and not handy.

posted by lizjohn to Home & Garden (29 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Have you the tools necessary to remove the door from its hinges?
posted by SMPA at 7:47 PM on July 13, 2012

Worst case, you can call a locksmith and have them come check it out. Be prepared to cough up some cash.
posted by scalespace at 8:16 PM on July 13, 2012

Ok, he crawled back through his window and took off the pin from the hinges. Unfortunately, no amount of banging from our end is dislodging the door. It's stuck. We'd prefer not to call the locksmith.
posted by lizjohn at 8:18 PM on July 13, 2012

We are now trying to bang on it with the heaviest, easily wielded thing in our house: the cat tree. So far, so dice.
posted by lizjohn at 8:22 PM on July 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

Do you have WD-40 or another lubricant to try and unstick the lock mechanism? It sounds like you have to get the latch to release to get the door out (or cut out the door.)

By the way, simple interior doors are cheaper than locksmiths.
posted by SMPA at 8:32 PM on July 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

I don't mean to babysit this thread, but it's a solid wood 60 year old door (or at least it appears that way?) Does anyone have any idea on how we can destroy the lock mechanism that is visible in the hole where the door knob was?
posted by lizjohn at 8:36 PM on July 13, 2012

Can you post a picture of the door mechanism? Someone with some doorknob know-how might be able to figure out a better solution.

(Also, while you've got the camera out, please for the love of god take a video of you whacking the door with the cat tree.)
posted by phunniemee at 8:36 PM on July 13, 2012 [10 favorites]

I was going ask for some clarification regarding the lock/latch mechanism. If you removed the knob, there should be a mechanism that sits inside the door containing the latch. (Black cylindrical object next to the knob in this pic. This video might also be helpful.)

If that mechanism is still in the door and the part of it that interfaces with the door knob is still accessible, you should be able to turn the latching mechanism with a screwdriver or even one of the door knobs to release the latch.
posted by scalespace at 8:50 PM on July 13, 2012

Here is a picture of the lock, nothing we can do (screwdriver or original door knob) will turn it successfully. Here is a dramatic reenactment of my bil battering the door with the cat tree. Ladies of Tucson, he's single!
posted by lizjohn at 8:53 PM on July 13, 2012 [15 favorites]

Can you get closer with more light?
posted by graftole at 8:55 PM on July 13, 2012

Forgive me if this is obvious, but have you using the screwdriver as a lever, rather than trying to turn it? If I'm reading the picture correctly (and I have no confidence that I am), you might be able to stick the screwdriver through the mechanism and pull back (i.e., levering motion) the part of the lock that extends into the door frame. Use a lot of WD-40.
posted by she's not there at 9:02 PM on July 13, 2012

By request, here's a closer view. Unfortunately, we don't have great lighting in that hallway. We appreciate all of your help so far!
posted by lizjohn at 9:03 PM on July 13, 2012

The appropriate tool for this situation is a toothbrush.

Specifically the cheap ones you get from the dentist. Insert into the square hole and turn as you would turn the knob. If your doors are anything like the ones I grew up with, that should do the trick.
posted by Sphinx at 9:11 PM on July 13, 2012

The latch looks like it rides in the middle, which is pretty standard for a knobset. You may be able to grab or hook the center section with a screwdriver or pliers and pull it back. It kind of looks broken, so it may be jammed and will take some effort.

There's a slider in the middle of the assembly. You can see it exposed just near the brass pin on the latch side of the knobset hole. Pull that back and it's open.
posted by graftole at 9:14 PM on July 13, 2012

I'd agree with shesnotthere and graftole. If I'm understanding the picture correctly (that the door frame is up), then is seems like trying to grab the little semi-circular bit right in the middle and pull it left may open the door. It looks like this used to be the part the received the handle, but that part of it has sheared off.
posted by BevosAngryGhost at 9:25 PM on July 13, 2012

Crap, not pull it left, pull it down (in the picture) , which I believe should be away from the door frame.
posted by BevosAngryGhost at 9:30 PM on July 13, 2012

... or maybe twist it (like sphinx mentioned). It seems that that piece is key, though, and is what has been broken.
posted by BevosAngryGhost at 9:34 PM on July 13, 2012

Do you have other doors with the same lock? Take the knobs off one and see how it works and find what the difference is with the bad one.
posted by caclwmr4 at 9:40 PM on July 13, 2012

You mentioned trying the credit-card method.

Now that BIL is no longer trapped inside, have you tried the credit-card method from the both sides of the door using the screwdriver as a lever to give the credit card more space to work while using a second screwdriver to also fiddle with the mechanism inside the hole where the doorknob used to be?
posted by fragmede at 11:03 PM on July 13, 2012

You may have some success by lifting the door, so as to take the weight off the locking mechanism. If there is a gap between the door and the floor, you may be able to lever it up slightly. I'd soak the mechanism in WD-40 or other light, sprayable lubricant, lever the door up, and then attempt to work the mechanism.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:56 PM on July 13, 2012 [5 favorites]

I'm surprised that you couldn't open the door after removing the hinge pins--unless the door has hinges that are designed to close it when left open; those sometimes have a helical shape. Since you say you're not handy, is it possible that he forgot one of the pins? If he did remove all of the pins (probably three, for a heavy solid door), are you then banging on the side opposite the lock, where the hinges are, to force the door off the hinges?
posted by brianogilvie at 1:53 AM on July 14, 2012

You have access to both sides of the door? Why don't you just remove the lock. Remove the door knob, and the locking mechanism completely.
posted by Flood at 5:01 AM on July 14, 2012

We gave up around 11pm and he just slept on the couch. Now, in the renewed light of day, we shall continue the endeavor!

All of the pins are out and it seems like we can get one set of interlocking hinges apart, but not the other. For whatever reason, we can't dislodge both at once. Everything that can be taken apart about this door is off. I think our efforts now will be concentrating on the locking mechanism.
posted by lizjohn at 8:23 AM on July 14, 2012

"... we can get one set of interlocking hinges apart, but not the other. For whatever reason, we can't dislodge both at once."

I think this is the problem. If one hinge is coming apart, but not the other, the door is now in a bind. You will pretty much have to get it lined back up and unhinge it evenly.

I agree about working on the lock mechanism, but if the door is in a bind it may have the latch bound too, not allowing it to move.
posted by skypieces at 9:38 AM on July 14, 2012

Oh, and previously.
posted by skypieces at 9:52 AM on July 14, 2012

What is a bil? Is that important for this question?
posted by medusa at 1:05 PM on July 14, 2012

posted by haqspan at 1:14 PM on July 14, 2012

Success! In the end, we just cut out the locking by chipping at it with a screwdriver and with heavy duty clippers. Thanks again for all of your help.
posted by lizjohn at 4:03 PM on July 14, 2012

Wait. Tell us about the part where you opened the door after removing the lock and it fell off its hinges because you forgot to put the pins back in.
posted by JackFlash at 4:28 PM on July 14, 2012 [11 favorites]

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