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Can You Key a Deadbolt? A Complete Guide

Deadbolts are a common and effective way to secure doors in your home. But if you want maximum security, keying your deadbolt differently than your doorknob lock is the way to go. Read on to learn all about deadbolt keying and how to do it yourself.

What is a Deadbolt Lock?

A deadbolt is a type of locking mechanism used on doors. It consists of a bolt that fully extends and retracts by turning a handle or key. When extended, the bolt slides into a strike plate on the door frame, securely locking the door.

Deadbolts offer increased security compared to a standard doorknob lock. With a doorknob lock, it is possible to spread the frame and pry the door open if there is enough force. But a deadbolt sits flush inside the door and extends far into the door frame, making it very difficult to force open.

Deadbolt Features

  • Cylindrical vs. Mortise – Cylindrical deadbolts are the most common for residential use. Mortise deadbolts embed into the door edge rather than the face of the door. They provide added strength but require specialty installation.
  • Single vs. Double Cylinder – Single cylinder deadbolts have an exterior keyhole and interior turn knob. Double cylinder require a key to unlock from both sides.
  • Grade 1 vs. Grade 2 – Grade 1 deadbolts are heavy duty, while Grade 2 are standard residential grade. Grade 1 offers increased security and durability.
  • Smart deadbolts – Contemporary smart deadbolts allow you to control and monitor your locks via smartphone and integrate with smart home devices.

Why Key Your Deadbolt Differently?

Most homes come configured with the deadbolt and doorknob keyed alike. While convenient, this isn’t the most secure setup.

Having the deadbolt and doorknob on different keyways means each requires a different key to unlock. This way, if an intruder gets a copy of your house key for the doorknob, the deadbolt still provides protection.

Keying them differently essentially gives you two lines of defense to keep your home extra secure. It only takes a minute with a locksmith to rekey them differently.

Other Benefits

  • Allows you to give out a house key but restrict access to more sensitive areas like a home office.
  • Handy if you have a roommate/tenant but want to control access to certain rooms.
  • Provides flexibility if you need to deny someone access down the road. You only have to change one key rather than your whole house.
  • Makes it easy to grant access to maintenance workers or guests without compromising overall security.

How to Key a Deadbolt Differently

If your home’s deadbolt and doorknob are currently keyed alike, it’s easy to have your deadbolt rekeyed. There are two options:

Hire a Locksmith

The simplest route is to hire a professional locksmith to rekey your deadbolt cylinder.

  • They have the skills and tools to efficiently disassemble your existing lock, replace the pins inside, and cut new keys.
  • Many even offer mobile service where they’ll come to your home so you don’t have to remove the lock.
  • Cost is typically $30-$50 per lock depending on your area.

DIY Rekey Kit

If you want to save money and don’t mind small home projects, a DIY rekeying kit allows you to do it yourself.

  • Kits include new pins, springs, keys, and tools needed to replace your deadbolt’s existing pin combo.
  • It takes about 10-15 minutes per lock once you learn the steps.
  • Kits cost $15-$30 on sites like Amazon, less than a professional rekeying.

No special skills are required. As long as you can use basic hand tools and follow instructions, the process is straightforward.

Step-by-Step DIY Process

Follow these key steps to successfully rekey your deadbolt on your own:

  1. Remove existing lock – Unscrew the mounting screws and take the lock off the door. This gives you full access to disassemble it.
  2. Take apart lock – Carefully pry off the outer plate, tailpiece, cylinder housing, and cylinder plug. This exposes the pin chambers inside.
  3. Remove old top pins – Use the included pinning tweezers to remove the existing top pins from the cylinder plug.
  4. Insert new top pins – Referencing the kit’s pinning instructions, insert the new top pins in the correct sequence using tweezers.
  5. Reassemble lock – Replace the cylinder plug in the housing and slide the tailpiece back on. Screw the mounting plate back in position.
  6. Test and install – With the lock assembled, test the new key to ensure smooth function. Install back on door when working properly.

See a video tutorial for visual guidance through each step. The basic process is the same across most DIY rekeying kits.

Smart Deadbolts

If you have a smart deadbolt like August or Schlage Sense, the process differs. These contain electronic components, so you can’t simply swap pins.

Instead, you need to completely replace the cylinder with a new one keyed differently. This requires resetting and pairing your device, so follow manufacturer instructions closely.

Or you may choose to add a separate dumb deadbolt solely for enhanced security. Install it at least 40 inches from your smart lock.

Choosing a New Keyway

When rekeying your deadbolt, you’ll need to select a new keyway – the unique pattern cut into the key. You want one that is secure but convenient.

  • Use restricted keyways – These have extra grooves and edges that make them harder to copy. Schlage Primus and Medeco are two options.
  • Get it keyed randomly – Don’t use an easy sequence or your birthday. Random cut keys are harder to decode.
  • Avoid master key systems – Master keys can open multiple locks, increasing risk if duplicated. Use single cut keys.
  • Go with a reputable brand – Trusted brands like Schlage and Kwikset have extensive keyway options.
  • Make extra copies – Order 3-5 identical new keys so you have backups if one gets lost or damaged.

Alternative Options for Added Security

If you want to beef up security even more, a few additional devices provide supplemental protection:

  • Double cylinder deadbolt – Requires a key on both sides, preventing easy exit in a break in. Allowed for fire safety only if you have alternate escape routes.
  • High security strike plate – Beefed up metal strike plates with long screws go deeper into the door frame to resist spreading.
  • Door reinforcement plate – A metal plate covering the gap between door and frame prevents prying the door open. Installed on inside.
  • Door security bar – Secondary horizontal bar clamps across the door for brute force resistance. Quick to set and remove.
  • Smart door locks – Locks with keypads, fingerprint access, or smartphone control remove need to hide keys externally.

Maintaining Your Rekeyed Deadbolt

To keep your newly rekeyed deadbolt working smoothly for years to come:

  • Annually spray lock deicer inside to flush out accumulated dirt and lubricate.
  • If sticking or difficult to turn, use graphite powder key lubricant inside the keyway.
  • Ensure strike plate screws are secure so the bolt lines up properly. Tighten as needed.
  • Verify door alignment to prevent rubbing that can damage the bolt. Adjust hinges if needed.
  • Clean external surfaces with mild soap and water to prevent corrosion and rust.
  • Replace batteries promptly in smart deadbolts to maintain access control.
  • Change out old locks after 10-15 years of use for improved security. Update keyways and technology.

Key Takeaways on Deadbolt Keying

  • Keying your deadbolt differently than your doorknob significantly improves door security and limits risk if keys are lost or stolen.
  • A professional locksmith can quickly rekey your deadbolt, or you can use a DIY kit to save money.
  • When choosing a new keyway, opt for restricted, high-security keys from a reputable brand, and make spare copies.
  • Additional security devices like reinforced strike plates and door bars provide supplemental protection.
  • Maintain your rekeyed deadbolt properly so it continues to function smoothly long-term.

Rekeying your deadbolt is a simple, inexpensive way to make your home more secure. With a few new keys and some periodic maintenance, you can defend your home from unwanted entry.

Q: Can I rekey a deadbolt lock myself?

A: Yes, you can rekey a deadbolt lock yourself if you are comfortable with basic DIY tasks and have the right tools.

Q: How does rekeying a lock work?

A: Rekeying a lock involves changing the pins inside the lock cylinder so that a new key can operate the lock while the old key will no longer work.

Q: What is a cylinder plug?

A: The cylinder plug is the part of the lock that holds the key pins and springs. It is the part that is removed during the rekeying process.

Q: Can I rekey any type of deadbolt lock?

A: Most deadbolt locks can be rekeyed, but it’s best to check the specific brand and model to ensure it is rekeyable.

Q: Do I need any special tools to rekey a deadbolt?

A: Yes, you will need a rekeying kit that includes tools such as a plug follower, pinning tweezers, and a key gauge.

Q: How do I rekey a Kwikset deadbolt lock?

A: To rekey a Kwikset deadbolt lock, you will need to remove the lock from the door, disassemble it, remove the cylinder plug, change the key pins, and then reassemble the lock.

Q: Can I use the same key for multiple locks?

A: Yes, you can rekey your locks so that they all use the same key. This can be convenient if you want to reduce the number of keys you need to carry.

Q: What are some reasons to rekey a deadbolt lock?

A: Some common reasons to rekey a deadbolt lock include moving to a new home, losing a key, or if you want to ensure that someone who previously had a key no longer has access.

Q: Can I rekey a lock to match an existing key?

A: Yes, it is possible to rekey a lock to match an existing key, but you will need to purchase a rekeying kit specific to the brand of lock you have.

Q: How do I reassemble the lock after rekeying it?

A: To reassemble the lock, you will need to insert the key plug back into the cylinder and ensure that all the pins and springs are properly aligned.