Your doors let people into your home. But they also keep out unwanted guests. That’s why we have locks. But sometimes, your door lock gets damaged. It might be a toddler that slammed it too hard, or a teenager fighting the lock after a rowdy night out. It may even be weather damage.
Whatever the trigger, you might need a quick fix as you wait for the locksmith to arrive. If you’re a DIY enthusiast, maybe you can fashion a new lock using things around the house. The rest of us just want temporary solutions, so here are some ideas.
How to lock a door without a lock
1. Fork it Up
For small emergency situations like a toilet door or a closet, you can repurpose a lock using household tools. Get a fork that you don’t mind losing. The demo uses a plastic fork but a metallic one is better. Shut the door then slip the fork into the gap, just to test the size. Some forks fit perfectly while others stick out too far. If they’re too long, bend a few prongs.
You can use pliers or a Swiss Army Knife to bend the prongs. Now break off the handle of your fork and stick it between the prongs. That secures the door lock. Test it by pulling the door towards the fork to see if it will hold. If the handle keeps slipping, you can use a rubber band to hold it in place. This lock isn’t strong enough for main doors though, just smaller side ones.
2. Get a Portable
People who travel a lot – especially backpackers and salespeople – often carry locks with them. These portable locks are a survival tool, because when you’re traveling on a low budget, you may end up in a cheap motel or hostel that has no locking doors. So if you’re a free spirit, you probably have one on you. If not, you can easily buy one at the hardware store.
Examples of these locks include Addalock, BurglarBar, and TSL (Travel Security Lock). These temporary locks are lightweight so you can carry them in your pocket or bag. But they’re strong enough to keep unwanted visitors from accessing your space. Plus, if someone does try to break them, the jiggling bits and bobs will alert you, so you can confront the intruder or call 911.
BurglarBar is made of strong see-through plastic and works best on sliding doors, glass entryways, or French windows aka French doors. TSL is ideal because it has markers for left-handed or right-handed doors. Once installed, it applies 9 tons of pressure on the door, so no one can breakthrough. And you can unlatch in seconds, so it’s easy to open in emergencies.
3. Build a Barricade
This is the most common way to lock a door without a lock. It also requires the least effort, because you don’t have to go out and buy anything. But in other ways, it’s the most labor-intensive option. You’ll have to put something heavy in front of the door, then pull away your barricade every time you need to leave the room. Also, barricades are internal.
Because you can only lock it from the inside, you can’t barricade a door on the outside when you leave. Helpful items for barricades include couches, tables, fridges, or freezers. And barricades are only effective if the door opens inward. Outward-facing doors are impervious to this type of ‘door lock’. You’d have to barricade it from outside, which beats the purpose. Think about it.
You put a heavy bar on the outside of the door, but anyone that’s outside the house can remove it. You’re essentially blocking your exit in case something happens. In the movies, people often barricade doorknobs with dining room chairs. This works better if you have a rounded doorknob. And it’s not as strong as it looks on the silver screen, so use the couch instead.
4. Buy a Commercial Barricade Device
Instead of lugging heavy furniture around your front lobby, look for products that are specifically designed for this purpose. They’re not exactly door locks, but they can be an emergency substitute. Most people use these barricades as additional security. They serve as a back-up to their regular door locks. Examples include Nightlock and Ongard.
Nightlock is screwed to the floor or secured using plastic fasteners. You can get them in three finish options so it’s easy to find one that matches your decorative theme. Ongard works in a similar way and can withstand 3,000 lbs of force. Both these barricades are mounted at the bottom of the door, so they’re effective against someone trying to kick or ram the door in.
If you’d like a barricade that’s a bit more ‘man-sized’, you could consider the Buddybar. It uses the same principle as jamming a chair under the doorknob. But because it has better engineering than a dining room chair, it’s more effective. The Y-shaped end secures the door lever while the foot is textured for traction. The Buddybar can withstand up to 1 ton of force.
5. Remove the Lock
What’s the reason you don’t have a lock? If it’s because the key is lost or your lock is damaged, grab that toolbox and undo your locking mechanism. Unscrew everything and take the lock apart, putting all the pieces in a box for later. The idea is … if your door has no handle, then you can’t lock it, but intruders can’t unlock it either. They have nothing to grab onto.
If you’re removing the entire door lock, you’ll need a barricade to reinforce the door. Also, this only works if you have the right tools to deal with your lock. You want to dismantle it without destroying it. That way, the locksmith can still salvage the lock when s/he finally arrives. As you dismantle the lock, remove the inner cogs and screws too, not just the ones on the door surface.
To block the now-broken lock, find a large bar and lay it across the door. This isn’t as strong as – say – the sofa, but it’s easier to maneuver. You could also buy a basic barricade device. A manual one, not a fancily engineered one. Ideal Security makes a good option that’s child-proof and thug-proof. It’s mostly for sliding patio doors, but it will hold your front door shut in a pinch.
6. Jam it Shut
Do you have kids or pets in your home? Then you probably have a steady supply of doorstoppers. They come in different designs, but the two most popular ones are molded felt and wedges. Molded felt doorstops are often dyed in bright colors and have playful patterns. These doorstops have a U-shaped gap that slips around the thick side of the door.
They cost less than $5 and can be placed at the top or side of the door to prevent it from slamming. Door wedges, on the other hand, are acutely-angled triangles that sit on the floor. They block the door from slipping backward and slamming fingers. Try shifting their position.
By placing the doorstop at the top of the doorway instead of the bottom, they work as a temporary lock. You can use any wedge-shaped piece of wood in place of a designated doorstop. You can even whittle a stick or block of timber that’s lying around your yard. Other options include an old shoe, a shoe-tree, a knife block, or any wedge-shaped household item.
7. Tie it Down
Look around the broken lock or lockless door. What do you see? You want something that’s secured to the ground and has the sturdiness to support heavy weight. Something like a roofing beam, a decorative column, a pillar, or a stair banister. Now look for something rope-like. It could be actual rope, tightly braided rags, old extension cords, a winching cable, or a gate chain.
Tie one side of your ‘rope’ to the door handle or doorknob. Secure the other end around your supporting pillar. The pillar will act as an anchor so if anybody tries to force the door open, the ‘rope’ will tighten and the door won’t open. This works well with doors that open outward. It’s especially useful for double doors because you can tie the knobs to each other.
But the strength of your temporary lock depends on your ability to tie knots. If your knots come loose, it doesn’t matter how strong your anchor is – the door will still slip open. For metal chains and winching cords, you can use a large padlock or winch lock to hold the ‘rope’ in place.
Keep the Door Locked!
So what are your options when your door lock suddenly breaks?
- Check whether the door opens inward or outward.
- Erect a manual barricade using a heavy piece of furniture.
- Dismantle the door lock and reinforce with a barricade e.g. the sofa.
- Take your door jammers off the floor and wedge them above the door.
- Use portable travel locks from your local hardware (or order one online).
- Bend a strong kitchen fork into a make-shift lock.
- Use ropes or chains to anchor the doorknobs.
What locks are you using in your door right now? Show us some photos in the comments!