Moving Into New Home - Changing the Locks - Builder Has a Magic Key to Reset Locks???

Discussion in 'Remodel Forum & Blog' started by Thewaltwhitmans, Jun 8, 2012.

  1. Thewaltwhitmans

    Thewaltwhitmans New Member

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    I have received great information from this forum so hopefully this is the best place for this question:

    My mother is moving into a brand new home down the road from us and we got to talking about installing new locks around her house as I have always heard (and followed practice) that when you move into a new home, always rekey the locks. Apparently the builder has told her to go around to all the locks once she moves into the new home and by using her new key the locks will reset themselves to fit that key. Apparently it is a new home thing. Has anyone heard of this before and how likely is it? Apparently there is one key that the builders/etc. can use and once this "magic key" is inserted into the lock, the pins reset and the old key the builder has no longer works, therefore preventing one from having to change locks once they move in.
     
  2. nukeman

    nukeman Nuclear Engineer

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  4. Thewaltwhitmans

    Thewaltwhitmans New Member

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    I asked her about these and she said that there were no additional tools - that the builder mentioned something about his key being shorter than the ones he would give her and that when she used her key it would drop another pin, thereby keeping his from working. I am not really that familiar with it though.
     
  5. Gary Swart

    Gary Swart In the Trades

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    I had not heard about these keys before, but my older Kwik Set locks can be changed by the hardware store that sells them. New method sounds great!
     
  6. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

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    What he told you is true. Just insert her key into EVERY lock and it will stop the construction key from working.
     
  7. AcidWater

    AcidWater Member

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    >the builder mentioned something about his key being shorter than the ones he would give her and that when she used her key it would drop another pin, thereby keeping his from working.
    >

    The problem with that is that every house in the neighborhood has the exact same key, except for the last pin. Makes it pretty easy to open the lock; just find a key from the neighborhood and cut duplicates with every height for that one last pin.
     
  8. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

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    The "construction key" is "unique" to that house, just as the homeowner's key is. The "construction" key will NOT open the other houses in the neighborhood.
     
  9. preeti22

    preeti22 New Member

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    How it is a possible to one key work for all Locks?
     
  10. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

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    Locks are keyed alike all the time. You may need to order them that way or find any locksmith to rekey them for you. It is also possible to key (some types of) cylinders to accept a master key. A master key does not mean it will open any lock, only those setup to that specific master. In this situation, there's a key that only opens its own lock, but the master can open many. This is frequently done in larger commercial buildings so a person of responsibility doesn't need to carry hundreds of different keys, but everyone else can only open their door(s).
     
  11. jimbo

    jimbo Plumber

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    You need to study up on locks! What you say is NOT correct. Each house is keyed different. There is a construction MASTER which allows the builder access to EACH house. In fact there may be masters and submasters, etc. But these locks have special tiny little balls in recesses ( I forget the name for this system) and the homeowner key is shorter, so the very first time you put that key in the lock, the ball drops and forever after blocks the masters.

    NOW, would I rekey the locks anyway......YES.
     
  12. nestork

    nestork Janitorial Technician

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    No, that's not how it works.
    I don't know anything about the key system the OP asked about, but regular Weiser and Schlage deadbolts have 5 places on each key where the key can be cut to one of 8 different depths. So, in the simplest kind of lock, you'd be right; only one key profile would fit each lock.

    However, if you use TWO (or even three) shorter pins in some of the tumblers instead of only one longer pin, then you can have multiple key profiles that will open the same lock.

    It's by using multiple pins in each tumbler that a locksmith can rekey a hundred different locks that each have a unique "tenant" key that will only work in that lock, but still be able to cut a "master" key that will work in all of the locks.

    Medeco Locks are considered the most secure locks because Medeco keys can't be copied in a regular key cutting machine. That's because Medeco keys have some of their teeth cut at an angle to the key, and regular key cutting machines can't make that kind of cut. Only professional locksmiths have access to Medeco key cutting machines, and locksmiths will ask to see identification and check with Medeco to see if the ID matches the registered owner of that key before cutting a duplicate.
     
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2012
  13. Alex Burkeva

    Alex Burkeva New Member

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    I agree that medecos are more secure then your average lock. If that is an option for you I would get that installed for your home. For the Smart key locks all you have to do is put in the old key and use the Smart Key function to put in a new key and have it work. Either way if you wouldnt like to change the locks I would call a locksmith to come in and rekey your locks to a new specific key. So after he does that no one will have the key to your home even if they had the master would no longer work.
     
  14. Magneto

    Magneto Member

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    The master key will not open any lock, and these new sets of keys that are mentioned are seemingly pointless after the initial consumer has used their key and released the final pin of the lock. This renders all other prior keys useless. Locks and keys work through a synchronicity, the slightest change will render them both useless.
     
  15. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

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    In fact, some locks have a device that you insert into the lock, turn it 90 degrees, then insert ANY OTHER key and it is instantly rekeyed.
     
  16. Alex Burkeva

    Alex Burkeva New Member

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    Haven't heard of anything like that but it sounds like smart key locks if anything. I think it's illegitimate. I was going through a similar situation so I just went to google and typed in "should I change my locks after moving into a new home?" and stumbled upon a solid article that gives some expert advice.
     
  17. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

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    Maybe one of the first things I'd want to know about the installed locks is what security grade do they have? If it was a grade 3, I'd probably consider changing them to at least a 2, and maybe a 1. This defines how easy or hard it is to force open among other features. Of course, the quality of the door and framing plays a part, as even the strongest lock is useless if the bolt isn't projecting into something solidly reinforced or the door is flimsy. Having breakable windows on a sidelight nearby may mean they just break those, and reach in and open the door. Lots of things to consider.
     
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  18. Good-wrench

    Good-wrench New Member

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    Come on does anyone know what they are talking about? I'm actually an old locksmith and yes even Kwikset still makes these locks with "contractor" pins or actually little balls that drop out once the owners key is used.. The contractor- builder gets his keys out and gives the new owners their keys.. They are not "masters" or fit any other house in the sub-division. All they ask is that you not use your "owner keys" until you no longer want the contractor entering the property. His key will no longer work once your key is inserted and rotated the first time it's used.. The locks can be rekeyed by any competent locksmith and they may be able to place the "balls" back in and let the contractor finish too!
     
  19. wirecutter

    wirecutter New Member

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    I am *not* a locksmith, just a hobbyist. I have the original Kwikset Titan cylinder from when my house was built 18 years ago. Yes, it was changed out long ago, I just didn't throw the old one out. I have non-destructively disassembled and reassembled the lock a few times.

    I have the original keys, and the lock belongs to me. I took it apart to see how it works. The "builder key" feature is well known and called something like ProtectoKey or some trade name. If you get the plug out of the lock and look at it, there are small holes next to the tumbler holes, but with slightly smaller diameter so the pins won't fit into them. They will line up with the tumbler holes when the key is turned counter clockwise about 30 degrees. The ProtectoKey function is implemented by putting 2-3 steel balls in one of the tumbler cylinders. The builder key opens the lock when the steel balls remain in the inner plug and the rest of the pins line up to the plug's shear line. The balls stay with the key-side as the cylinder turns. As others have said, when the owner's key is used the first time, the balls stay in the outer cylinder, and as the plug is rotated, they fall into the adjacent smaller hole. They stay there until the lock is disassembled, but upon doing so, the balls can be reset so the builder's key works once again.

    In the case with my lock, 5 of the 6 tumblers have 3 pins, not just 2. That basically means that the cut of the builder's key is more like a master key, and need not be that close to the cut of the owner's key. The reason for this is probably so that, if someone like me figured this out, it would be harder to derive the cut of the real builder's key from examining just one lock cylinder. It also means that, even after using the builder's key, there can be a key that works as a master in the lock. To lay this out, I cut two additional keys in addition to the owner's key. One key works as a builder's master key, and is invalid once the owner's key is used. The next is a master key that works only after the owner's key has been used.

    If you really want to see it, message me here and I'll put together a video demo, or just search for user bosnianbill on YouTube. I'm not him, but he does a lot of videos about locks in general, and he also has a low opinion of this design.

    Because 5 of 6 tumblers have 3 pins, rather than 2, that means that for 5 tumblers, there are 2 different cuts that work in that position on the key. So even after invalidating the builder's key, there are 10 different key variations that can work in my lock. Oh yeah, and Kwiksets are notoriously easy to pick.

    So yes, when moving into a new home, it is a good idea to replace the locks. Based on what I've learned, you probably want something more secure than Kwikset or Schlage, which are both very common and not terribly secure. That's my $.02, and it's worth what you paid for it.

    Edit: I think I got the math wrong on the number of keys that will work. It might be as many as 32 key combinations.
     
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2017
  20. bgard

    bgard Member

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    Locks only keep honest people out! If a thief wants in they will find a way
     
    dgold and Stuff like this.
  21. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

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    New England
    All of the lock companies sell locks with different security and durability capabilities, so calling out any single company doesn't indicate their capabilities, durability, or strength. IMHO, it pays to buy better ones than typically installed on a home.
     
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