Plan "B" for if deadbolt lock fails?
November 9, 2017 12:38 PM   Subscribe

I want to rent out a remote cabin but the deadbolt lock has been acting strange. I need some kind of plan for if it fails.

When I go to my cabin to prepare it to rent out the deadbolt lock has been sticking. I removed the metal plate from the door jam - it seemed a fraction out of place and was blocking the bolt. But that didn't solve everything. The key still sticks almost like it has burs on it but it is brand new. I have to jiggle it, take the key out and try several times. It always works on the 2nd or third try. I thought maybe this is just a cheap lock so I bought the higher priced model - about 40$. (going to put it in today) But I still have a problem - what if my tenant comes home at midnight in the winter and the lock doesn't work? It is a tiny house with only one door. The only other way in is a big window. You would have to break the window, which would be horrible. We don't have locksmiths here.
Is there some kind of back-up plan I'm not thinking of? Besides breaking the window?
This was happening in summer so it is not an ice issue.
posted by cda to Home & Garden (11 answers total)
You could install an electronic lock with a keypad.
posted by ShooBoo at 12:49 PM on November 9, 2017

The cabin doesn't have Internet and sometimes the power goes out in the winter anyway. I don't think there are battery operated deadbolts like that.
posted by cda at 1:08 PM on November 9, 2017

Removing the strike plate makes it easy to kick in the door, so your tenant can do that.

Brand-new keys normally do have sharper edges, and it's not surprising that they might require more precise alignment than old keys where the peaks are worn down.

Also, there are battery-operated deadbolts like that.
posted by adamrice at 1:10 PM on November 9, 2017

Does the lock stick when you turn the key with the door open? If so, a new lock should solve your woes. If not, then it means that the bolt is scraping against the plate or something in the door jam, and you should double check that the plate and bolt recess are positioned correctly.

An electronic lock is probably a good idea in this situation as you could change the code between renters and not have to rely on physical keys as much, but if the bolt sticks with the electronic lock, they'll be just as stuck, so make sure that it's installed correctly. My experience is that most electronic locks are battery powered, but check to make sure yours says that it requires no wiring to set up, if you get one.
posted by Aleyn at 1:11 PM on November 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

I always spray some lubricant into the keyholes of my deadbolt locks when they start acting like this. Pretty well always does the job of getting them working again.

You could switch to using a hasp-and-padlock to lock the door instead of a deadbolt.
posted by fimbulvetr at 1:22 PM on November 9, 2017 [3 favorites]

We had endless problems with our front door lock sticking in almost exactly the way you describe, probably as a result of the house settling. You could insert they key, but not turn it. I actually broke a key off trying to turn it to unlock the door.

We recently bought and installed this passcode lock which I adore. Battery operated. No internet connectivity. Also takes a key, and you can rekey it to the existing key. You can set and erase multiple passcodes, which is perfect for a short term rental situation.
posted by anastasiav at 1:35 PM on November 9, 2017 [4 favorites]

The cabin doesn't have Internet and sometimes the power goes out in the winter anyway. I don't think there are battery operated deadbolts like that.

Neither are required. We have a keypad deadbolt on our front door, and it's great (no more forgetting keys!). Most of the models listed on that home-depot page do not require wifi, nor power, and are powered by batteries. The model we have also has a keyhole so that if the battery does die, you can just use the key. the batteries that came with the thing were cheap-o generic ones, and they've been going for over two years now.
posted by furnace.heart at 1:37 PM on November 9, 2017 [3 favorites]

Most of them allow you to program several codes into it as well, which might be attractive since you're using it as a rental. We have a master code that we never use, and two other codes programmed in. One is for the family, and one is for everyone else. We change the 'everyone else' code every quarter for $reasons but in a rental situation, that might not be a bad plan either.
posted by furnace.heart at 1:40 PM on November 9, 2017 [2 favorites]

If I were still living out in the sticks, I'd just ensure I had the tools and materials on hand to temporarily cover a broken window or whatever. A piece of plywood the size of the opening of the cheapest/safest window to break in case of an emergency lockout. With predrilled holes and mounting hardware, it would be pretty easy to seal the opening well enough to avoid freezing to death.

I mean, get the lock fixed and keep a tube of powdered graphite lubricant around in case it gets sticky again so nobody needs to break anything.

That said, there's a reason why my "neighbors" out in the sticks all had bolt cutters and padlocks were the primary method of securing doors that didn't get a lot of use from the outside. Easy to defeat in a pinch and cheap to replace. Anything used regularly will be noticed before total failure.
posted by wierdo at 2:02 PM on November 9, 2017

Seconding graphite powder.
posted by humboldt32 at 2:04 PM on November 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

Don’t use WD-40. It will work in the beginning but will gum things up over time.
posted by rockindata at 7:35 PM on November 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

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