Kwikset Smartkey System
Not long ago, we did what most Americans seem to do every five years or so: we moved into a new house. Although it’s the sixth home-buying trip for us, this time we did something for the first time: We changed all the door locks. You would have too, if you’d seen the dude been living there (the previous owner’s son-in-law – we think).
The three outside doors and the fourth into the garage all have deadbolts, and three of them also have locking knobs. The sellers turned over three keys, claiming that was all they had. The people had five kid, but only three keys? I became more concerned by the minute. No question I was changing the locks – the problem was how to get all seven locks keyed to the same key.
The solution? I bought four deadbolts and three knocking lobs, all of them using the Kwikset SmartKey system. The company's system turned me into an “instant locksmith”! SmartKey lets me re-key any of the locks to match any Kwikset key in just seconds – no lie.
The single-cylinder deadbolt (no key needed on the inside; required by code in many places) comes with all the parts needed as a replacement or for a new install. This includes the the strike plate and a metal receiver you screw into the doorjamb to improve security (oddly, it comes with neither installation instructions nor a drilling template). Even a beginning DIYer shouldn’t fear replacing an existing deadbolt or locking knob, as long as he has a screwdriver; although a fresh install would require more advanced skills and additional tools.
It took me about an hour replace all seven locks (four deadbolts, three knobs) about an hour, time that included finding the tools and a flashlight. I replaced two locks while multitasking on a phone conversation: this is easy, especially if your house is less than 20 years or so old. The only tools I needed were a Phillips-head screwdriver and a pair of needle-nose pliers. The minuscule Allen wrench that fits the set screw on the thumb turn (deadbolt) comes in the box. Kwikset packs a pair of two keys with each lock; a code printed on the package top lets you match locks in the store so you have multiple keys.
This is dirt simple: it took more time to read through the instructions than to re-key the first lock. Once you insert the little tool packed with the lock into a tiny slot on the face of the lock, then all you need is the current key and a new Kwikset key. For obvious security reasons, you can't re-key the lock without the current key. Kwikset advertises that the deadbolt security is rated ANSI Grade-1 for when properly installed¹ and protects against "bumping."
Kwikset SmartKey system locks are available in six finishes. Deadbolts are sold in both in single- and double-cylinder designs, and SmartKey System knobs are available in handle set, knob, and lever styles.
The only problem we ever had with our Kwikset locks is that the bright brass finish on the exterior rosettes of two of the deadbolts tarnished after five or six years. It didn’t effect their function, but also didn’t look all that pretty. As far as security is concerned, Kwikset locks have never been considered top-of-the-line; if you’re super-concerned about having the most secure locks available you should look elsewhere.
Any locksmith will tell you that there’s no telling who has keys to a house - why not invest in new locks? Given a set of Kwikset SmartKey locks, you can re-key every one of them to any Kwikset key. You can change one lock temporarily for a house-sitter or a plumber; and change it back when their job is finished. Think of all the possibilities – and while you're thinking about it, think about the creep wandering the streets with an old key to your house in his pocket!
SummaryPlus: easy installation, takes only seconds to re-key
Minus: some finishes suspect, not the most secure locks available, installation instructions sometimes lacking
What They're Saying: With Kwikset SmartKey System locks, you can re-key your locks any time you decide you want to.
¹ proper installation entails use of the included bolt receiver with screws long enough to reach all the way through the door jamb into the stud.