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REKEYING VS. CHANGING HOME LOCKS: WHAT'S THE RIGHT CHOICE?

REKEYING VS. CHANGING HOME LOCKS: WHAT'S THE RIGHT CHOICE?

AFC Home Warranty | October 5, 2023

It’s hard to overstate the importance of locking doors. Door locks are essential to our personal safety and privacy as well as the security of our belongings. So it’s a big deal when our locks break, or we lose the key, or we’re moving into a new home. When these things happen, homeowners have two options: rekey the locks, or change the locks themselves.

Both of these options can be performed by a professional residential locksmith or by a handy homeowner with the right tools. It’s important to note that neither is a solution to being locked out of your home.

Lock Rekeying is best when:

  • You are trying to save money
  • Keys are lost or roommates move out
  • You want to keep your current locks

Changing Locks is best when:

  • Locks are old, damaged, or broken
  • You want replacement locks that are stronger and more secure
  • You want to upgrade to new technology, like keyless entry

Changing Locks

There are plenty of reasons why homeowners choose to get new locks and deadbolts for their homes. Most homeowners want to upgrade the security, style, or convenience when replacing their home’s lock system. In particular, smart locks that use a keypad lock are growing in popularity.

Keypad locks are incredibly convenient. Instead of leaving a key under the mat, you can simply tell someone the code. If you ever need to change the code, you can usually do it yourself without any tools or costs involved. Plus, when you're carrying the groceries, you never have to deal with the frustration of fitting the key into the keyhole with your hands full.

Do it Yourself or Call a Professional?

Replacing locks can be simple, but with so many different types of locks and doors out there, it can be difficult to know what to purchase. Many homeowners choose to call a locksmith to make sure the job is done correctly.

Because the locksmith not only charges for labor but also the cost of the materials, changing locks is more expensive than a residential rekey (costs may be different for commercial locksmiths).

What is Rekeying?

Rekeying is a process that makes an existing lock work with a new key. Rekeying is useful when a key has been lost or stolen, when someone has moved out (such as a tenant or roommate), or when you are moving into a new house. Some homeowners choose to rekey their homes for aesthetic reasons: their current locks and deadbolts already match the other doorknobs and cabinet hardware in their home.

Locks are commonly rekeyed when new buyers or tenants move into a home. In rental situations, the property manager will sometimes take care of the rekey process.

How Rekeying Works

Each lock, whether it's a deadbolt lock or a door knob lock, features a lock cylinder. Within the lock cylinder is a cylinder plug (sometimes called tumblers), that contains a keyhole. Within the tumbler are pins that correspond with the different ridges and features of a key. When the right key is inserted, the pins line up and allow the cylinder to turn. Rekeying the lock allows the lock to accept a new key and no longer accept the old one.

This can be especially helpful when only one or two house locks are being replaced. With little effort, you can rekey the new lock so that all the tumblers on all the home locks accept the matching key.

Some handy homeowners prefer to rekey locks themselves. Some locks are easy to rekey with minimal tools or a rekey kit, but others are more complicated. That’s why many homeowners take advantage of a rekey service offered by a locksmith.

Large commercial buildings like schools, hotels, and offices often use a master key system, which allows some keys to open all doors and others to only open specific doors. It is not recommended to attempt a do-it-yourself rekey in these situations.

Different Lock Types

When you are planning to rekey the locks in your home, keep in mind that a key will usually only work in a lock of the same brand. There are two major brands of lock that are available in home improvement stores across the United States–Schlage and Kwikset–and a number of smaller brands, such as Yale, Weiser, and August.

Schlage vs. Kwikset

As the two most popular brands in the US, these are the most widely available and the easiest to research and compare. Some locksmiths recommend Schlage for commercial use and Kwikset for home security. Since most manufacturers offer a wide range of products, the decision often comes down to the price or the look of a particular door lock and door knob set.

Kwikset locks can be rekeyed to accept a Kwikset key, and Schlage locks can be rekeyed to accept a Schlage key, but you cannot use the same key for both brands. Both companies produce a range of locks and deadbolts.

Cost of Residential Locksmith Services

Most people think locksmiths are extremely expensive, but that might be because people often call locksmiths when they need emergency lockout service. Luckily, non-emergency services like lock rekey and replacement are less expensive.

Typically, it costs $150-$250 to rekey a typical 3-door house. Locksmiths usually charge anywhere from $30 to $70 per house lock for lock rekey. In addition to these costs, some locksmiths also charge a trade call fee (sometimes called a service fee or trip charge) of $50-$100 to cover their travel time and costs.

Lock installation and replacement is generally more expensive, as it can take more time (see below) and because of the added cost of the replacement lock (whether it’s a doorknob lock or a deadbolt).

It's important to note that this pricing may not apply to heavy duty locks, safes, or commercial lock systems.

How long does it take?

A rekey service can take between 10 and 40 minutes per lock. Rekeying only applied to keyed security locks, and not to privacy locks found on bathroom and bedroom doorknobs. New lock installation or replacement can take 30-60 minutes per lock, which is one reason that lock replacement is more expensive.

Cost of Residential Locksmith Services

If you have a home warranty plan, you may be able to save money on the cost of locksmith service. While most companies won't send out a locksmith when you request service, they will reimburse you for the cost when you have a rekey service completed.

Finding a locksmith is not difficult. Often, real estate professionals can be a valuable source of homeowner resources--They offer contractor connections for jobs such as locksmiths or home repair.

Check your home warranty coverage to make sure that your plan covers rekeying. Then, once the job is complete, open a service request with your home warranty company and provide them with proof you had the work done.

AFC's Rekey Coverage

AFC Home Warranty provides rekey service reimbursement for plans purchased as part of a real estate transaction. If you aren't sure if your plan qualifies, contact your account manager or call 866-242-0629.

To ues your AFC coverage for rekey, simply have the rekey service performed by a licensed service provider such as a locksmith, then submit the paid receipt to your account manager. As of October 2023, AFC reimburses up to $150 towards residential rekey services. In this case, that reimbursement also goes towards the trade call fee/service fee.

Our Unbeatable Real Estate Plans

Plans purchased as part of a real estate transaction have a few perks, such as a waived waiting period with a valid home inspection, but home buyers will receive the same great coverage that all of our members receive.

We've also got great agent resources, such as our Invoice Generator and Agent Portal that make our coverage convenient for real estate professionals.

To learn more about AFC's real estate coverage, visit our Real Estate page.

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