If you bought your house from the builder and have not yet had it re-keyed by a Society of Professional Locksmiths member, then chances are that your house is not as secure as you think.
Builders often use lower grade security door locks and hardware which are just enough to get the job done and cheap enough to operate on what is known as a "builders key", which is setup to operate all the locks in the development or project the builder is involved in.
Most subdivision construction is done by one developer / builder. In order to ensure easy access for their carpenters, electricians, plumbers, etc. all of these workers have what is called a BUILDER’S KEY or CONSTRUCTION KEY. The locks are usually ordered in sets for each house and usually specified so that each house has a different operating or change key and the BUILDER’S KEY will open all of the houses.
This makes all the homes in the area more easily accessible to everyone involved in the construction process. This type of door lock condition is known as being set up with "construction ball masterkeying". Lock manufacturer Kwikset identifies it as Protecto Keying or PK Ball. No matter how you identify it, it is a potential security and safety bombshell for the homeowners who are not aware of what is inside their new locksets and deadbolts.
Why New homeowners NEED to protect their family’s Safety and Security -
- Anyone with a little knowledge can make a master key for your subdivision.
- The Builder may have a master key that will still open your house.
- Your locks are stuffed with master pins, which makes your locks easy to pick or bump open.by criminals or kids acting on what they learned from a YouTube video.
- Up to 32 different keys may operate your locks with no signs of entry.
- If you've NOT yet used your house key in a construction-keyed back or side door, any or all of the construction workers still have access to your house.
- The records of the locks used on your home and their combination are retained at the builders supply company that supplied and combination them, making it easy for keys to be made without your knowledge.
The locks are made so that the first use of the home owner’s key will lock out the BUILDER’S KEY - But what they may not tell you is that the lock is still stuffed with master pins which makes picking, bumping and even random keys to operate it! The builder may also have specified that the locks be delivered with a master key that will work after the builder's key is locked out. The significance of master pins is the large increase in the number of keys that will operate a cylinder containing master pins.
If you put 1 master pin in one chamber it creates 2 shear lines in that chamber thus 2 keys would operate that cylinder. When you put 1 master pin in each of the 5 chambers then 32 (25) different keys will operate the cylinder.
What does "construction keying" mean? Construction keying means that the locks are pinned up in such a manner as to allow a "construction key" or "builder key" to be issued to every carpenter, electrician, plumber, etc. that will function to permit entry into a premises during the construction phase but will be subsequently locked out by use of the occupant's key after change of possession.
Kwikset's documentation shows how a protecto-keyed® lock is pinned up. The first diagram is a picture of the diagram in their book. The 2nd picture, modified by Professional Locksmith Charley Eastwood, shows the addition of a master pin creating yet another (3rd) shear line in the pin stack in question.
If the locks are pinned up with one master pin in each chamber + protecto-key balls in one chamber that makes the total number of keys able to open that lock 64. Once the protecto-key balls are raised above the shear line into the upper chamber of the lock the spring will force them into a small hole milled into the side of the plug where they will reside, doing nothing, until they are physically removed.
What does this mean to the homeowner?
Quite simply that anyone with a small level of knowledge about locks can very quickly & easily, with one lock and one house key, determine the cuts of a key (not the locked out builder’s key) that will act as a master key that will likely open not only YOUR home, but also some or all of the houses in the subdivision.
The ONLY way to ensure the security that your family deserves is to have your house re-keyed by a member of the Society of Professional Locksmiths to a new key and have all of the master pins removed from your locks OR replace your locks or cylinders. Ask your SOPL Locksmith about upgrade options using restricted high security locksets or a keyless digital or mechanical lock.
If you contract with a professional locksmith company to re-key your locks, insist that they also add a step of replacing some of the “top pins” with special “spool pins” or “mushroom pins” that will serve to make your locks considerably more resistant to anyone attempting to enter your house by picking the locks. Below are diagrams of a regular top pin and an anti-pick "spool" pin. These pictures were taken from a Kwikset® pinning kit.
To get help finding a qualified & trusted locksmith in your area - Contact the SOPL
Professional Locksmiths can easily create a construction ball masterkey system using FasterMaster Pro II software by Rabbitsoft, Visit Rabbitsoft.us to download the free trial of FasterMaster II Pro. The trial period is thirty (30) days and reduces the quantity of keys and pages generated during that time period. To view a few samples of Master Key systems... click here.
Tom Lynch, CRL