The world of locks
Locks are just to keep honest people honest, or so they say. But the protection of our possessions has pretty much been a concern since the first humans walked the Earth, and a good lock can do more than simply deter the chance thief. They come in all shapes and sizes, from the most basic of padlocks to the cutting edge electronic locks that use the latest technology, such as retinal scanning, but even a minimal lock can defeat the most determined of intruders. Indeed, a good lock (such as the standard mortice lock, where a pocket called a mortice is cut into the door, inside which the lock is fitted) is a requirement for home contents insurance, and the better your defences, the better your security rating. Given the importance of locks in safeguarding our possessions, it’s therefore no wonder that locksmiths have always had an important job to do.
What does a locksmith do?
Basically, a locksmith is skilled in the art of making (and breaking) locks, and will provide locks and keys for everything from your doors and windows to your garden shed and your car. Many are also general security specialists. There are a number of reasons you might need one:
- Key cutting. Locksmiths will replace lost keys or make duplicates of existing ones.
- Fitting new locks. Locks, like anything else, are affected by ordinary wear and tear over time, and so might need replacing. Locksmiths will replace locks that have been damaged in any way. But they don’t just replace damaged locks. When it comes to home security, it is better to be safe than sorry. The locksmith will fit high quality locks that will protect your home and meet insurance requirements, and will also fit door bolts to give you extra locking points, hinge bolts to protect the hinge side of your door, and window bolts to give your windows extra strength, all of which mean that extra little bit of security. If you’re moving to a new build home, such measures might come as standard, and a locksmith can provide the brand new locks for your brand new home.
- Repairs. Locksmiths will repair lock mechanisms that have suffered wear and tear over time, and can even repair old locks that cannot be removed owing to heritage rules, renovating them and bringing them up to date whilst ensuring that they retain their essential character. Locksmiths can also repair locks that have been damaged in other ways. If you’ve experienced a burglary, locksmiths can often repair the damage, fixing the locks (or fitting new ones) and even providing un-repairable items such as split doors and damaged frames.
- Locked yourself out? Locksmiths can also provide an emergency service. A professional locksmith will be able to break the lock on your door without causing any damage to the door itself, and will then fit a replacement lock for you. As you never know when you might need this service, it’s a useful one to bear in mind, particularly as it could save you doing any damage to your property (or yourself) in trying to get in, and could prevent you suffering the indignity of having to climb back in through a window!
- Other services. Locksmiths provide many different locking devices, not just the locks on your doors and windows. How about padlocks for the shed, or safes for storing valuables? And locksmiths don’t just deal in locks. As mentioned, some (but not all) are also general security specialists, who can provide advice on home security and insurance, and will install security measures such as alarm systems, bars and grilles, CCTV, and secure access systems for communal doors in multi-occupancy buildings.
What should I look out for?
With over 2,000 qualified locksmiths currently working in the UK, and given the many reasons why you might need one, there are many different things you should look out for. It is always worth finding out whether a locksmith is licensed by the Master Locksmiths’ Association, or MLA. This body is recognised as the authoritative body for locksmithing by the Home Office, setting and promoting standards of conduct, practice and materials within the trade. To gain a licence from the MLA, applicant locksmiths and locksmithing companies must undergo comprehensive inspection procedures. Look out for the logo indicating that the individual or company advertising it is approved by the MLA, which features two crossed keys on a yellow background and bears the name of the MLA.
Locksmiths are often based in a shop, but many are mobile, working out of a vehicle. Many are employed by locksmithing companies, while others are self-employed. Given this, and the fact that locksmithing can cover a whole range of functions as described above, the services offered by different individuals and companies can vary. Many locksmiths specialise in one aspect of the trade, for example as master key system specialists or as safe technicians. If there’s a specific job you want doing, you might be able to find a locksmith who is an expert in that field, and locksmiths are frequently certified in specific skill areas or to a certain level of skill within the trade. As already mentioned, many (although not all) are also security consultants, and can perform a wide range of functions as such. In short, always consider a locksmith’s level of proficiency and whether or not he or she has the skill to do the right job for you.
As well as considering a locksmith’s technical ability, it is also worth looking at the quality of the service that locksmiths and locksmithing companies provide. It may be stating the obvious, but in their line of work locksmiths must be trustworthy, honest and reliable, so always make sure you’re getting the kind of service and customer care you’d expect. If you want to install new locks or a security system, there are many different types of product to choose from. A locksmith should provide you with good friendly advice as to what product would most suit you and your property. Listen out for recommendations that come by word of mouth, as this is often a good guide as to whether or not a good service is offered.
How much will it cost?
Obviously, this depends on what you want. There are obviously great differences in price between having duplicates of your house keys made and having brand new security equipment installed! Even so, there are some useful general pointers to bear in mind. Always ask for a quote, and make sure that any estimates you are given are provided by fully qualified locksmiths. Comparing quotes from different individuals and companies will give you an idea of who could give you the best value for money. When buying products such as locks or alarm systems, seek advice before you buy as to which product might suit you best, check to see which represents the best value, and compare prices between locksmiths and locksmithing companies to get the best deal. Once again, listen out for recommendations, as this is often a good way to find out whether or not a locksmithing service represents value for money.