All About Locksmiths

Locksmiths are one of the most sought-after trades in the Dentons Directories – both in our little “books” that are distributed across the south west of England, and our online national database,

Of course, that’s not surprising, since losing or breaking keys, needing locks replaced and looking after the security of property, is something that we all experience at some point. We usually call on locksmiths in an emergency “lost key” or broken lock situation, and for that reason most of them offer 24-hour availability.

Locksmithing is one of those professions that seems rather incomprehensible and mystifying to the layman. We revere locksmiths because they are privy to the inscrutable workings of locks and keys.

We thought you might be curious about the answers to some questions that come up regularly pertaining to locksmiths, and in the process learn a little more about the profession:

Why are locksmiths so expensive?

If you take a look at the Master Locksmiths Association (MLA) online guide to locksmith prices, you may be surprised to find that if you lock yourself out of the house and need a professional locksmith to open the door for you, it could cost upwards of £70. If this happens in the middle of the night, or if you have a complicated security lock on your door, the price could go up considerably.

The bad news is that there is no governing body for locksmithing, and although the MLA gives guidelines, essentially locksmiths can charge anything they like.

Having said that, most locksmiths charge appropriately and fairly for the work they do. If it seems too much to you, consider the fact that a locksmith is always on call, day and night; needs to invest in and maintain expensive specialised tools, machinery and equipment; has to undergo ongoing training to keep up to date with new technology; has to run a reliable vehicle big enough to act as a mobile workshop; and needs to charge a suitable hourly amount for his/her labour (bearing in mind they have a unique skill set and expertise).

Add to that the fact that locksmiths are not ten-a-penny, so local locksmiths virtually have the market cornered. If you need a locksmith, you’ll have to pay the price, unless it is unreasonably exorbitant. Ask for an estimate before agreeing to the work.

What qualifications does it take to be a locksmith?

There are a number of providers offering locksmith training courses at various levels. The most reputable courses are City & Guilds an NCFE certified. Courses range from a five-day specialist course to a three-day auto locksmith training course or a one-day uPVC lock repair course.

The Master Locksmiths Association offers beginners, intermediate and advanced locksmithing courses, the most popular being a five-day course consisting of four modules, which starts with two days of foundation knowledge including key cutting.

It is possible to set up your own basic locksmithing business directly after taking a short foundation course, and then gaining experience and more specialist training on the job.

Should you change locks when moving into a new home?

Changing the locks on all the exterior doors should be one of the first things you do when you move into a property. Just imagine – this building is the repository for everything you hold dear: your family, your possessions, your pets. You have absolutely no idea who holds keys to the locks that are in place when you move in. It could be just the previous occupant, or it could be a whole host of people like trades people, agents, or relatives and friends of the previous occupiers.

It’s not just the risk of being burgled by a stranger that necessitates the changing of locks when you move in, but the fact that if someone uses a key to get into your home to steal something you probably won’t be covered under your home insurance policy.

What are the different types of door locks?

This is a question you probably wouldn’t bother asking unless and until you set out to buy home insurance. When you do, one of the first things you’ll be confronted with when it comes to getting home insurance quotations is a question asking what kind of locks you have on your exterior doors.

Most insurance policies state that your locks must conform to the British Standard 3621. It’s not too difficult to check this. The Master Locksmiths Association has online advice on how to tell if you have a BS3621 lock.

(Briefly, you’ll be able to tell by looking for the heart-shaped kitemark on the faceplate of the lock, which should have the BS3621 stamped beneath it.)

The different types of door locks available are

  • 5-lever Mortice Deadlock
    Usually fitted to wooden doors. They lock inside or out with a key, and are fitted into the door rather than on it.
  • Multi-Point Locking System
    Found on UPVC or composite doors, these have multiple locking points along the edge of the door and require a key-operated cylinder lock, as well as turning the handle upwards in order to secure the lock.
  • Rim Automatic Deadlatch
    Also known as a nightlatch, these locks are fitted on the inside of a wooden or glass panelled door. They have a key-locking cylinder and lock automatically once the door is shut. This is usually a back up lock fitted together with a mortice lock.
  • Euro Cylinder Lock
    For UPVC, aluminium, and composite doors this type of lock is usually fitted for a multi-point locking system.

Is it best to Replace or Rekey Locks?

If you lose your keys or move into a property is it best to have the locks changed or just have them rekeyed? Rekeying means changing the existing lock to accept a new key – a relatively simple process for a trained professional locksmith. Re-keying involves adjusting the pins and tumblers inside the lock to work with a different key.

If there’s nothing wrong with the existing locks then you can have them re-keyed when necessary. Re-keying is far less expensive than replacing the locks.

If you deem it time to improve your level of security, or if the lock itself is damaged by efforts to gain entry, you’ll have no choice other than to have the lock replaced.

There’s no best course of action – Re-keying or replacing can be equally effective depending on the circumstances and your budget.

How do you know you can trust a locksmith?

It’s true there have been increasing numbers of “dodgy” locksmith operations being exposed in recent years, most of them being cited for overcharging and/or working without qualifications. To avoid becoming a victim of an unscrupulous locksmith its recommended that you do your research and find a reputable locksmith BEFORE you actually need one.

Most calls for a locksmith are emergencies, which allows scam locksmiths to take advantage of your situation. It’s best to identify a good locksmith who has been recommended by friends or family, and preferably approved by the Master Locksmiths Association (MLA) in advance and keep their number handy in your mobile.

Ways to vet a locksmith include:

  • Choose a local locksmith with a long-established business.
  • Check that the company address really exists and doesn’t just belong to a mailbox or is completely bogus.
  • Search out and read all the reviews and testimonials you can find.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions about liability insurance and third-party accreditation, and ask to see proof of any claimed certification.