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Safe and secure: the nuts and bolts of home security locks

by: VERN UYETAKE, Brent Hansen, locksmith and owner of A-Assured Lockshop in Lake Oswego, says home security can be reinforced with a few essential purchases, such as a deadbolt lock.

It's 3 a.m. You hear a noise by the front door. You leap out of bed to fumble for the phone.

Did you lock the front door?

What about the back door?

Is the lock reliable?

Brent Hansen, locksmith and owner of A-Assured Lockshop in downtown Lake Oswego says that local homeowners are turning to high-end hardware for their front doors, purchasing secure deadbolt locks and maintaining their investment through cleaning because times are changing.

Hansen's small shop located on B Avenue has a supply of lock and key supplies and services, including replacement mailbox keys and electronic and battery operated deadbolts. Employees strategize with customers to solve lock dilemmas for homes, commercial properties and autos. And you can have spare keys made for about $2.

Hansen talks about his 15-year profession with enthusiasm and reminds homeowners to remain cautious.

Here are five items to consider before you turn out the lights at night in order to keep doors locked safe and tight.

1. What is the best way to securely lock a door without installing numerous locks?

A) 'The best way to secure a door and have it aesthetically pleasing is to get a good quality deadbolt and make sure the strike is reinforced. (The strike plate is the metal piece attached to the door frame). Sometimes dead bolts come with screws that are an inch, inch and a half (long). I always put three-inch screws in (to the strike plate in the door frame). Most homes when they're set up, there's maybe one inch, maybe three quarters of an inch decorative trim. Then there's usually a gap. Then you have the two by four stud. If we take the three inch screw and drive that into the two by four stud, it's going to strengthen that metal piece. If you put the regular one or one-and-a-half inch screws in there, all you're doing is bolting it to the one-inch piece of trim ... Make sure the throw (metal part that sticks out of the door when you turn the deadbolt lock) goes all the way into the door for the most strength.'

2. Can you ensure that your lock will last longer?

A) 'If it's taken care of and maintained, even the cheapest lock can last you 10, 20 years. Expensive locks can last longer if they're maintained. … We're in a bad climate for locks and hardware. They use brass and junk metal to make the locks. Brass and junk metal corrode really easy. We have a lot of moisture in the air in the Portland area. Then we get the hot weather (during the summer). If we can keep locks cleaned out they'll last a lot longer.

(Use) a lubricant. Everyone can get it. … It's something that everybody's probably got. If you spray that in there it's going to clean out all that corrosion, garbage and dirt out of there right away. Spray onto the mechanical part of the lock - where key goes, latch and bolt. You do that at least once a year, and you're going to be ahead of the game.'

3. But, why clean a lock?

A) 'You've got about thirty parts moving inside a lock at one time - the springs, the pins - and if it gets gummed up like that it's going to freeze up.'

4. What if you have a doggie door. Can a burglar reach up through the door and unlock the doorknob?

A) 'There are double cylinder deadbolts, but I hate to recommend them. A key operates them from the inside as well as the outside, as opposed to a single cylinder that works on the inside. (With a single cylinder lock) they walk up to the door (from the interior) and they just flip it to open it. Double-cylinder deadbolts prevent (someone from reaching in) and opening the door. They wouldn't be able to unlock a deadbolt because they don't have a key.

The reason that I don't like to reccomend it is that if you put double-cylinder deadbolts all around your house and in the middle of the night a fire breaks out, and your keys are on the other side of the fire, this is your only way out. … If I end up putting a double-cylinder deadbolt on someone's house I always tell them, 'you hang a key on the wall. Keep it out of sight from the window so someone can't see it, won't know where it's at, try and grab it.' But keep it near that deadbolt for that one rare instance, that one-in-a-million chance that you're house is going to catch on fire. … Don't put it in a top drawer. Hang it out there so you can see it. When a fire breaks out, you're not thinking, 'where did I hide that key?''

5. What are people looking for now in regards to lock set-up? What components work best together for home security purposes?

A) 'Most front door locks have a deadbolt handle set combination. The basic set up would be locking deadbolt and passage handle set.

If you get a good quality deadbolt, it has a one-inch (throw), a hardened steel bolt, two harden pins running through it. You can't hacksaw it. It won't break as easy. Most of your security is in the deadbolt. Put your money into a good quality deadbolt and then put a passage set on the front. That's two reasons - you can save the money on the passage set because you really don't need the security on that and you can increase the money in your deadbolt and get better security. Plus, you never have to worry about locking yourself out. Someone has to have a key to lock that deadbolt from the outside. So, someone on the outside is going to have a key.'

A-Assured Lockshop is located at 95 B Avenue in Lake Oswego. Reach the company by phone at 503-636-6962.

Hansen also owns Woodstock Lock and Key in Portland.