Noooo, you think (or shout!) as the door clicks behind you. Or maybe you’ve just returned home after a long day at work and start rummaging through your purse or pockets for the keys only to find that there’s no jingling or jangling to be heard. You check another door, then maybe a few windows. Locked, locked and locked. That’s when reality hits—you’re locked out of your own home.
However it happens, realizing we’re locked out of our home is one of those stomach-dropping moments that happens to most of us at one point or another— and usually at the most inconvenient time possible. While it’s frustrating to say the least, there are things you can do to help get back inside quickly and steps that you can take to prevent it from happening again.
What to do when you realize that you’re locked out of your home
After you’ve finished cursing, crying or otherwise getting out your frustration, take a deep breath and then consider your options. Things that might help you get back inside include the following:
Double check doors and windows
Check every single door and reachable window again. In your initial emotional state you may have missed an unlocked one, which could be an expensive oversight if you have to end up calling a locksmith.
Run down your list of who might have a spare key to your house
Think through anyone who may have a spare key. Perhaps your spouse or roommate has one, or you gave one to a neighbor to feed your fish when you were away on your last vacation. Have you given one to a family member in case of emergency? Call anyone who may have one and see if you can arrange to get it.
See if there is a lock that you can pop
This trick may not make you feel so secure once you realize how simple it is to break into your own home, but you can worry about that later. To get in now, you can attempt to use a credit card or similar plastic card to pop your lock. This video shows you how to do it step-by-step, but it basically boils down to sliding the card between the door and frame, then bending the card toward the door frame (away from the door knob) to undo the latch.
Note: This technique won’t work on deadbolts, just standard doors. Even more important note: If this trick works and gets you in, make sure you change your lock ASAP. If it was that easy for you to get in, it’s that easy for criminals to get in as well.
Remove the doorknob
If you know your way around a toolbox and have access to a few tools, you may be able to remove the doorknob in order to get into your home. There are plenty of tutorials online to help you remove a doorknob, but be careful. If you break the lock or otherwise damage your door while trying, it may end up being more expensive than if you’d just called a locksmith.
Call a locksmith
As a last resort, you may have to call a locksmith. It’s the best guarantee that you’ll get in, but also likely the most expensive. Costs will vary depending on where you live and the type of lock you have. You may also have to pay an extra fee for an emergency call.
What not to do when you’re locked out
While you may be desperate to get inside, avoid making rash decisions like smashing a window that could cost you a lot more money. Plus it may be way more difficult to get an emergency visit from someone who can repair your window quickly than it would be to get a locksmith there.
Also, don’t try what this Tucson man did when he was locked out—he tried to climb in through his chimney. Spoiler alert: He got stuck, and the fire department had to rescue him.
How to avoid getting locked out of your house
You’ve learned your lesson, so now you want to make sure you don’t have to learn it again. Here are some steps you can take to avoid getting locked out of your house again:
Stash a spare key somewhere safe
No, don’t put it under your doormat or under the flower pot on your front porch. And if you think that fake rock is fooling anyone, you’re fooling yourself. Instead of stashing a key somewhere obvious, consider putting it somewhere more secure, such as in a safe in your garage or in a container secured with a combination lock. You can find very inexpensive small safes at many stores or online. Another more creative option: Put a key in a pouch and attach it to your dog’s collar if they tend to be outside most of the time.
Give a key to a close friend or neighbor
You don’t want a ton of keys to your home floating around, but giving one or two to people you trust is great backup for emergency situations. If you have family living nearby, make sure one of them has a spare key to your home.
Consider going keyless
Keyless entry pads may be a good investment. They’re great if you have kids who tend to lose keys (Read: All kids) or if you want to give various people access to your house at certain times, such as house guests, without handing out a bunch of keys. You can always change the passcode too without the need to change your locks.
We’ve got more info on smart locks, as well as reviews of leading companies like August, Yale, and Kwikset.
The bottom line: Be prepared in case you are locked out of your home
Getting locked out is never fun, but there’s always a way to get back into your home. How quickly and how and much it will cost are the questions. To save time, money and a whole lot of frustration, take precautions now, so the next time you reach for your keys and don’t find them, you can breathe a sigh of relief, knowing you have a plan in place.
This article has been reviewed and approved by Officer Banta.
Officer Banta is the official SecurityNerd home security and safety expert. A member of the Biloxi Police Department for over 24 years, Officer Banta reviews all articles before lending his stamp of approval. Click here for more information on Officer Banta and the rest of our team.