Schlage Locks: Setting the Industry Standard

Residential and Commercial Security

When to Re-Key Your Locks

Both commercial and residential property owners know how costly it can be to re-key locks.  Fortunately, this is one expense that can be avoided, save for a few critical times and occasions in the life of a building.  Avoiding re-keying altogether though in the hope of saving money can actually cost far more in the end than the cost of re-keying (even if it means re-keying more than once.)

Residential property: It’s thought to be standard advice and common sense: when you purchase a new house, the first thing you should do is re-key the locks.  This is a simple way to prevent former owners or anyone else who may have once owned a key to that home from getting into the house.  Yet it’s estimated that one-third to one-half of home buyers do not actually re-key the locks on their new homes.

Failure to do so opens residential property owners up to a great deal of risk.  Even when you purchase a home from someone you know and trust, changing locks is still necessary.  It’s impossible to tell who may have obtained copies of keys from previous homeowners, whether by honest or dishonest means.  It’s absolutely critical to assume that there could be dozens of copies of keys (or more) to your new home circulating about.  The only way to ensure complete protection is to re-key every exterior lock/door on the home.

It’s also a good idea to change the locks to any outbuildings on the property too.  This includes sheds, garages and greenhouses.  Even if you don’t plan to store valuables inside these buildings, it’s still important to restrict access in order to prevent vandalism and arson.

Re-keying locks is a definite MUST if your home’s security has been breached.  Change locks after a break-in, or after your house key has been lost or stolen.

Commercial property:  The “rules” are a bit more complicated when it comes to re-keying commercial property locks.  How often you do so depends on a number of factors, like the size of your building, the number of employees that work in the building, the number of employees who have (or have had) keys, how much foot traffic the building gets, etc.

Some business and commercial property owners advocate changing locks once every other year.  While this may be ideal, it isn’t always practical, nor is it always necessary.  Small businesses with few staff members (five or less) and little staff turnover can probably get away with re-keying less often; every three to five years perhaps.  On the flip side, larger businesses may also be able to get away with re-keying less frequently if tight key restrictions exist and/or very few staff members have keys.

On the other hand, big buildings/businesses that have large staff and have distributed dozens of keys may want to consider re-keying every one to two years.  The expense is well worth it if it protects from the costs associated with theft and vandalism.

No matter what size your business or commercial building, ALWAYS re-key locks:

  • After a break-in or theft.
  • After theft of keys to the building.
  • After an employee loses a key.
  • If an employee quits without returning assigned keys.
  • After terminating a key-holding employee.

Many key and commercial hardware suppliers have key-control solutions that can be tailored to fit the needs of specific businesses.  Security companies may also be able to do “security audits” and make security and key recommendations based on those findings.

June 30, 2009 Posted by | Commercial and Residential Security | Leave a comment

Choosing Your Ideal Door Trim

It seems like a trivial thing, but trim is an important part of your business’ doors.  The type of trim that you choose may have a significant bearing on the type of traffic that your business will attract.  This is particularly true for those who run a retail store, or at least have a retail component to their businesses.

Trim” usually refers to the hardware components of a door that are visible to the public.  It typically includes door knobs/handles, key/lock plates, deadbolt levers, etc.

Businesses that see a significant degree of daily traffic from the general public need to consider their average patrons when selecting door trim.  This is particularly true when choosing between knobs and levers.

Levers are the easiest kind of door handles for most people to operate.  Children, the disabled and the elderly may have trouble exerting the kind of rotating motion that is necessary to turn a door knob.  Levers, on the other hand, require only the ability to grasp and apply gently downward force.  Styles like the Schlage AL Series and the L-9000 Series offer ease of opening for most every type of patron a business might serve.

Businesses that don’t want to outfit an entire store with lever-style handles can choose one or more main doors to equip with levers.  These should be the doors that the general public uses most often.  The rest of the building can then be outfitted with knob-style handles.

Schlage manufactures a wide range of door trim options.  Many of its commercial hardware knob and lever handles come in both medium and heavy duty styles, many with UL fire-rated components.

June 23, 2009 Posted by | FYI | , , , | Leave a comment

The A-Series: Schlage’s “Cornerstone”

The Schlage Company considers its A-Series of standard/medium duty cylindrical locks to be its “cornerstone” product.  Throughout the decades it has been one of the company’s top-selling mechanical lock products.

The Schlage A-Series has applications in both the commercial and the residential market.  It is considered medium to heavy duty when used in a residential setting. The series is classified as standard duty when applied to a commercial setting.

The Schlage A-Series of cylindrical locks is manufactured in both lever and knob style handles.  Residential users tend to gravitate toward the knob-style.  The knob is also popular in commercial buildings, but commercial buildings may just as frequently install the lever style.  Both provide equally effective performance and durability.

This “cornerstone” product has a number of desirable features both for residential and commercial building, including:

  • High strength steel: This ensures durability, and helps to prevent tampering and breaking through the use of force.
  • Plating: The steel components are plated for corrosion resistance. It resists damage from scratching, denting and soiling.
  • Versatile finishes: The visible components and the knob/levers are available in a variety of  popular finishes, making it easy to match the A-series with any decor.
  • Meets ANSI requirements.
  • Rated Grade 2 commercial.
  • UL listed for three hour fire doors.

The Schlage A-Series of locks has been around since 1925.  This is nearly as long as cylindrical locks themselves have been around.  The fact that it continues to outsell all other major brands in its class is a testament to the reliability of Schlage’s products in general, and the A-Series in particular.  It’s possibilities in both the commercial and residential market are abundant.  Backed by Schlage’s performance guarantee, it will likely continue to be a top-seller for decades to come.

June 16, 2009 Posted by | Commercial and Residential Security, Schlage Product Reviews | , , | Leave a comment

The Schlage S200-Series Interconnected Lock System

Different commercial buildings/businesses have varying requirements when it comes to the level of security needed.  While effective security is always crucial, heavy-duty lock components may not always be the most cost effective for certain buildings.  Hotels, motels and condos/apartment buildings, for example, do not require the same level of security as a bank.  The Schlage locks S200-Series Interconnected Lock system was designed for such commercial applications.

The S200-Series is a medium-duty system of interconnected locks.  Interconnected locks combine the convenience and ease of use of a cylindrical lock/latch mechanism with the extra security of a deadbolt.  The entire apparatus works together as one unit.

The S200 builds upon the standards set by the original S-Series of Schlage locks.  The S-Series features heat-treated steel components.  This ensures extra strength and durability.  Durability is further enhanced by two independent heavy-duty torsion springs.

The S200-Series Interconnected Lock uses the original keyed lever of the S-Series and combines it with a deadbolt and patented doorframe reinforcer.  This adds extra strength to the deadbolt portion of the lock system, making it highly pick and tamper-resistant, and more difficult to break (i.e. kicking in the door.) 

From the interior, the door latch and deadbolt are retracted simultaneously.  This feature saves precious time during an emergency which would require a quick exit.  From the outside, the latch and deadbolt must be engaged/disengaged separately.  This makes it difficult for unauthorized entry to occur.

Other features of the Schlage S200-Series Interconnected Lock include:

* UL listing for three hour fire doors.

* Product exceeds all ANSI standards for grade 2 locks.

* Available in a number of popular finishes.

* Several keying options available, including standard six-pin tumbler style locks.

The Schlage S200-Series offers high durability at an economical price for commercial buildings with standard security needs.  The variety of finishes makes it easy to match any building decor, both interior and/or exterior.  It is also compatible with other Schlage lock products, parts and templates.

April 29, 2009 Posted by | Commercial and Residential Security | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Restricting Key Duplication: Restricted Keyways

Naturally many businesses have reason to be concerned about the use of keys to their premises, and who has access to keys at any given time.  Controlling who has a key to your building can be difficult and time-consuming, and invariably, mistakes are made and keys get lost by employees.  Restricted keyways may be the answer for business owners who need to maintain control over keys to their properties and access to locks.

Restricted keyways are keyways (the part of the key cylinder that the key is inserted into) and key blanks which have strict limitations on use and distribution.  When a business owner purchases a restricted keyway system, he is actually purchasing a certain level of security because key copies can only be made under very specific circumstances and only by certain companies.

The purchaser of this system orders a particular number of keys which will open the building’s locks.  The number is usually up to the purchaser, though minimum orders may apply depending on the manufacturer.

Once the initial keys have been ordered and the locks installed, new keys cannot be made by the local locksmith.  When the purchaser needs to obtain new copies of his or her keys, he has two major options, depending upon the agreement made with the manufacturer of the keyway system.  He must either:

* Present an authorization card to an authorized locksmith.  This card is issued by the lock system’s manufacturer.  The locksmith must contact the company that issued the authorization card to get permission to copy the key.  A restricted keyblank will be sent to the locksmith who will then make the duplicate.

* Send away for duplicate keys.  In this type of agreement, no locksmith is able to duplicate a key.  Instead, the owner must contact the supplier of the lock system with his or her key number (which is stamped on the key), and the supplier sends the duplicate key(s.)

The restricted keyway is a good idea for business owners who don’t require complicated and expensive security systems, but rather simply need a way to control who can make copies of keys to his/her locks/premises.  The restricted keyway makes it extremely difficult or impossible for employees to make unauthorized copies of keys.  Business owners have peace of mind knowing that when an employee leaves and returns his/her key, the employee has not made extra copies for him/herself or others.

April 21, 2009 Posted by | Commercial and Residential Security, FYI | | Leave a comment

Discourage Lock-Pickers Before They Begin

As fast as lock manufacturers are  producing more tamper-resistant and pick-proof locks, criminal elements are coming up with ways to pick them.  While few locks qualify as “pick-proof,” there are some locks that are more resistant to picking than others.

The best way to avoid becoming the victim of a lock-picker is to discourage him from trying to pick your lock in the first place.  Here are some tips to help you scare away criminals before they attempt to enter your home:

1) Brand matters: ALWAYS choose reliable, trusted brand names like Schlage.  Lock-pickers know locks, and they know brands.  They know which manufacturers make inferior-quality products.  These are the ones that are easiest to pick.  Installing a Schlage lock lets would-be criminals know that your lock isn’t an easy target.

2) Choose stronger models: Installing a heavy-duty lock rather than a standard or medium duty lock makes the lock harder to pick. 

3) Install a mortise-style lockMortise locks used to be the norm until the cylindrical lock was invented.  However, modern trends are beginning to favor the mortise lock again.  The reason: mortise locks are stronger and harder to pick.  They’re also harder to install.  But the trade-off for better security may be worth it in the long run.

4) Always install a deadbolt in addition to a regular lock: Deadbolts are more difficult to pick, tamper with and open with force than regular locks.  Criminals will hesitate at the sight of two locks that have to be picked open rather than just one.  (Make sure they’re both Schlage brand for double protection.)

5) Make sure doors are visible: Criminals avoid doors that have clear sightlines to the street, other houses, etc.  The more visible your door is to other people, the less likely your home or business will be targeted in the first place.  Use landscaping to your advantage: keep bushes and hedges trimmed.  Make sure no trees block any sightlines to your front door.  Always make sure that your door is well-lit.  Keep a light turned on over your doors when it’s dark.  (Using an energy-saving bulb will cut your electric bill and preserve the planet.)

For further reading: “How Many Deadbolts Does my Door Need?”

April 15, 2009 Posted by | Commercial and Residential Security, FYI | , , | Leave a comment

What is the Difference Between European and American Locks?

Americans who are more familiar with a typical cylinder lock might find a trip to a European hotel interesting.  While they function on similar principles, the preferred lock style in Europe has some subtle differences from a standard North American single or double-cylinder door lock.

For a number of years Europeans have favored multi-point door locks over their single and double-style American cousins.   One reason that they haven’t gained the favor of Americans (yet) is because they are somewhat fussy compared to European style multi-point locks.  They are so named because they latch at three points instead of one or two.

Naturally, this makes European style locks more difficult to install.  But, a good rule of thumb when it comes to locks: the harder it is to install, the more security it will provide.  This is true of the multi-point lock.  They are extremely difficult to pick or to try to tamper with (i.e. kicking the door in.)  Think of it as a would-be criminal having to pick or break three locks instead of one.

European style multi-point door locks offer a solution to one problem of aesthetics vs. security: Doors which are taller and/or wider than standard size doors are harder to secure.  In order to ensure that these kinds of doors are tamper and burglar resistant, often several separate locks must be installed in the door.  Using a multi-point lock means that one lock is often enough.  Not only does it keep a larger door more secure, it’s also better for the overall stability and long-term wear of the door.

Due to the design of this type of lock, an extra motion is required to engage or disengage the lock.  It involves first lifting a lever.  This movement engages the outer two points of the lock.  Only after this step can the bolt be thrown.  In essence, it adds an extra step to the process, which North Americans tend to balk at.

However, because multi-point locks offer so much more in the way of security, they are beginning to gain ground in the American lock market.  American multi point locks are frequently designed differently from European ones to eliminate some of the inconvenience Americans associate with European locks.  They are manufactured in styles which have automatic or semi-automatic locking systems, leaving only one motion necessary to engage the lock.

Another difference between European and American locks is the thumb-turn.  A standard North American style lock has a thumb-turn located above the lever.  The thumb-turn is rotated 90 degrees to activate the lock.  In a European lock, the thumb-turn is below the lever and must be rotated a full 360 degrees, making it impossible to tell at a glance whether the door is locked or not (another feature that Americans find annoying.)

Multi-point locks are worth considering if you have a bigger-than-standard door, or just like the idea of extra security.  North Americans who prefer the European version can find them through specialty commercial hardware or lock distributors, or over the Internet directly from Europe; expect to pay a little more if this is the case.

For more information visit the Home Security Guru.

March 25, 2009 Posted by | Commercial and Residential Security, FYI | , , , | Leave a comment

The Schlage L400 Series of Mortise Locks

The Schlage L400 Series offers the finest in institutional and commercial protection on today’s market.  Business or commercial property owners who are looking for top quality security for their businesses have several good reasons to consider the Schlage L400 Series of locks:

* Mortise style: The Schlage L400 Series of commercial door hardware locks are mortised into the door.  Mortise locks are more difficult to install than other types of locks, such as cylindrical locks.  However, it is that very complicated nature of the mortise style lock that makes it the perfect choice for high-security applications.  Mortise locks are extremely difficult to tamper with.  Doors outfitted with them are far less prone to being broken through by force (i.e. kicking in.)  Mortise locks are also harder to pick.  This makes the Schlage L400 Series an ideal choice for institutional buildings like schools, dormitories, residential care facilities, hospitals, etc.

* UL tested:  The Schlage L400 Series has been thoroughly evaluated and tested.  It has received the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) seal of approval.  This ensures that it will perform correctly under the circumstances for which it is intended to be used.  It also gives the user peace of mind that lock product is safe.

*Fire rated: This is critical for institutional applications.  Fire-rated commercial door hardware like the Schlage L400 Series are suitable for use in fire doors.  This helps to prevent the spread of flames from one part of the building to another during a fire emergency.

*Exceeds security requirements: The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the Builders Hardware Manufacturers Association(BHMA) have partnered together to set out standards of evaluation for commercial hardware products such as door locks.  Hardware products receive a grade of either 1, 2 or 3.  Grade 1 indicates the highest level of security and performance a product can receive.  The Schlage L400 Series continues to exceed the standards of a Grade 1 rating.  Users can be assured that it will provide the best security and performance on the market.

* Style options: The Schlage L400 Series is available in a number of styles and finishes (i.e. brass, bronze, stainless steel.)  From utilitarian to fine and decorative, this lock series will fit any building style or decor beautifully.

The Schlage L400 Series offers the best in both security, reliability and aesthetics.  Building/business owners and tenants can fully rely on its technology and ease of use to protect lives and livelihood.

March 18, 2009 Posted by | Schlage Product Reviews | , , , , , | Leave a comment

What is a Wafer Lock?

Wafer locks are not nearly as well-known as their pin-and-tumbler cousins.  However, an estimated one-fourth of the world’s locks are wafer locks (also known as wafer tumbler locks) so they are common enough to warrant a look and evaluation.

As already mentioned, wafer tumbler locks are related to pin-and-tumbler cylindrical locks.  The two operate on very similar principles.  Two main differences exist between the two types.  First, as their name suggests, the inner workings of a wafer lock consist of flat “wafers” rather than circular “pins.”   Secondly, a wafer tumbler lock is all one piece while the pin and tumbler lock is not.

Though there are some significant differences, the two lock styles operate in a simlar manner.  The wafer tumblers are housed inside a cylinder.  The proper key for a particular wafer lock has square cuts (unlike the pin and tumbler key which has pointed cuts.)  Their keys are usually shorter, but the same width as pin and tumbler lock keys.

Wafer locks may have tumblers on one or both sides much like pin and tumblers.  Therefore, wafer keys may have cuts on one or both sides (Single bitted/wafer or Double bitted/wafer.)

Wafer tumbler locks consist of four main parts.  The plug housing holds the wafers and their springs.  The shell, the cam and the retainer make up the rest of the mechanism. 

The plug housing has a series of chambers in which the tumblers rest.  In a single-bitted model, the chambers are on top.  In double bitted styles the chambers are on both the top and bottom.  The most common number of tumblers is four to five.

Wafer tumbler locks are relatively inexpensive, especially compared to pin and tumbler locks.  However, they are less secure (and easier to pick.)  For this reason they are not used for high-security applications (residential or commercial door locks.)  Instead they are more frequently found on desks, cabinets, filing cabinets, padlocks, trailer doors, trunks, suitcases, etc.

March 11, 2009 Posted by | FYI | , , , , | Leave a comment

The Extinction of the Bascule Lock

It’s likely that few people alive today have even heard of a bascule door lock, certainly not those born and raised in North America.  The word “bascule” itself is more commonly associated with bridges, though the bascule principle can apply to other mechanisms and devices as well.

Bascule locks were once relatively common in Europe and the U.K.  Even today one might find bascule locks on older homes there.  New buildings are rarely outfitted with them, though some owners like them for nostalgic or decorative purposes.  One would certainly not find a bascule lock on any building (commercial or residential) built in the last century in North America.

The bascule principle is most easily explained in terms of a see-saw.  The idea is balancing a lever on a fulcrum (as with a see-saw), and counterbalancing each end with some type of weight.  There are thousands of bridges in North America that function on this principle (i.e. drawbridges.)  Weight is applied to one end of the “lever” or bridge section (referred to as a “leaf”) in order to lift up the other end so large vessels can pass underneath.  The bridge is then lowered into a closed position by counterbalancing the weight again.

Bascule door locks work on a similar principle.  When the lock lever is counterbalanced, the door remains in a locked position.  To open the door, weight must be applied to one end of the lever.  The weight lifts the other end of the lever, releasing the locking mechanism and opening the door.

The bascule lock could be considered a predecessor to the  modern exit device.  It offered a way to keep doors locked from the outside.  When the lock is released and the door opens, the lock re-engages once the door is closed again.

Bascule locks became extinct in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s for a number of reasons.  First, they are unwieldy and somewhat difficult to operate.  Mortise locks had already become favored by American builders by the late 1800’s, though their European and British counterparts were still fond of the bascule lock. 

When inventor Walter Schlage designed and built the first cylindrical lock in the 1920’s, he literally changed the face of security forever.  Cylindrical locks had several distinct advantages over their bascule and mortise-style cousins, the main one being that they were simply easier to install and operate, and therefore far more convenient for most applications.

Another reason bascule locks fell out of favor directly related to their unwieldiness.  Bascule locks took longer to disengage than other types of locks.  Under normal, day-to-day circumstances this may not have posed much of an issue.  However, in emergency situations, such as a fire, precious seconds often make the difference between life and death.  One such example of a situation involving bascule locks that contributed to tragedy is the Iroquois Theater Fire of 1903.

The Iroquois Theater in Chicago was considered to be “state-of-the-art” in the early 1900’s.  However, its many design flaws became apparent after 602 people perished in a tragic fire therein only a month after it opened.  One such “flaw” was the inconsistency of its door locks.

Many of the doors on the Iroquois Theater were fitted with standard mortise-style locks.  But, for reasons that have never been completely understood, some exit doors, particularly ones leading out of the auditorium itself, were outfitted with bascule locks.  Bascule locks may have been a familiar sight in Europe and Britain at the time, but virtually no American had ever seen, much less operated a bascule door lock.

When fire broke out on the Iroquois stage, frightened patrons tried desperately to exit the theater.  Unfortunately, many exit doors were either blocked, covered or locked.  Some of the doors which were locked had bascules.  But since Americans were unfamiliar with them, no one knew how to operate them.  Dozens of theater-goers died right at the door, either from burns or smoke inhalation or from being crushed up against the door by the hordes.  One patron who happened to be an immigrant from Europe managed to open one of the door’s bascule locks, and he is credited for saving dozens of lives that day.

After the tragic Iroquois Fire, hardware salesman Carl Prinzler, who had been scheduled to attend that fated performance at the Iroquois but canceled out at the eleventh hour, wanted to ensure that this kind of tragedy could never happen again.  He went on to invent the world’s first exit device, or panic bar, which was subsequently marketed by Von Duprin.  Von Duprin is still one of the world’s leading manufacturers of exit devices today.

The invention of both the exit device and the cylindrical lock marked the beginning of the end for the bascule lock.  Exit devices accomplished the same purpose as bascule locks, but saved precious seconds and were considerably easier to operate, even for children.  In fact, it’s estimated that these devices have saved millions of lives over the last one hundred years.  It would be extremely difficult for one to find a supplier of the virtually extinct bascule door lock today.

March 4, 2009 Posted by | Commercial and Residential Security | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments