Security door stuck shut, how to troubleshoot?
March 16, 2023 11:21 AM   Subscribe

We just bought a new house, hurrah! Unfortunately the other day I went to the backyard and couldn't open the security door to get back inside. The key would turn and the inside lock could be moved and you could hear the mechanism working, but we couldn't get the door open.

So on the advice of the general internet, I removed the lock outside bits see inside here. You could manipulate the center hole to engage and un-engage the locking mechanism, but my hypothesis is that it was not actually moving the bolt. With some brute force and lubrication, I was eventually able to pry the inside thingy further to the right. However the door is still stuck.

1. What are the odds that the door is somehow "seized"? Is that a thing? That the hinges won't move?
2. If the mechanism is broken, is it likely the bolt is still in the strike plate? If so, how do I get it out?
3. It has been humid and rainy. Would that influence anything?
4. If we have to hire someone, do we hire a locksmith? Or a general handyman?

I don't care about preserving the lock, we can just get a new one. I would like to not damage the security door as it's a custom built (maybe that's the problem?)
posted by lizjohn to Home & Garden (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
In your first pic, it looks similar to other locks where rotating the bit in the center hole should retract the latch bolt. The two holes on either side of that center bit are likely the holes that the mounting screws passed through. Prying it to the right, you may have retracted the bolt some, but not its full travel. Can you stick a screwdriver or something in that center part and twist, and watch the rest of the mechanism and see if it appears to be retracting the bolt?

Are you certain that the latch bolt for the doorknob below is, in fact, being retracted when you turn the lever? Is that perhaps what's keeping the door from operating, and not the deadbolt?

If you have access to the hinge side of the door, can you tap out the hinge pins, and gently push/pull the door to separate the hinges; sort of swing the hinge side out enough to pull the door away from the lock side, if that makes sense?
posted by xedrik at 11:30 AM on March 16 [4 favorites]

A locksmith would probably be the first person to call if you still have trouble with the lock, yes. Dealing with these mechanisms is literally their job and they'll have a much better idea about what to do here than a generalist handyman.
posted by Aleyn at 1:36 PM on March 16 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Update - not the bolt lock. That has been completely taken out and there is nothing stopping the door from opening due to that. However, once we got it out, we could see that the door knob doesn’t seem to actually be engaging with the bottom bolt part. There are no pins in the hinges, it seems like the door and the frame are all one unit? Any thoughts about trying to engage the bottom bolt?
posted by lizjohn at 6:08 PM on March 16

Best answer: It doesn't look like it from the pictures, but some security doors have multiple bolts - the usual one where the lock is, plus another top and bottom. This is to stop people from prising the door open from the top or bottom and squeezing through the gap.

Also from the pictures, it looks like the bolt isn't actually retracted, but the tube it slides inside has pulled to the right (in the second photo you can't see both the holes that the fixing screws go through). Effectively, the bolt itself hasn't moved, but the body of the lock has. Try pushing the lock back to where it was and rotate the lock using a screwdriver in the square hole (that's where the handle goes through and what actually pulls the bolt back).

A locksmith is probably the best solution here - they will probably know exactly what's happening and, at the least, be able to get the door open so whatever repair is needed can be made. It's highly unlikely that you can get the door off when it's closed - wouldn't be much of a security door if you could!
posted by dg at 6:12 PM on March 16

Response by poster: You know, that makes a lot of sense. It’s too late tonight, but locksmith tomorrow it is.
posted by lizjohn at 6:20 PM on March 16

Response by poster: Follow up after locksmith came out - entire issue was because a small stone had gotten lodged between the frame and the door. Completely unseeable until he got the door off.
posted by lizjohn at 4:10 PM on March 17 [2 favorites]

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