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Home Depot, Kwikset SmartKey & Me – Installation, Keying & More on Security

This was originally a partnered post with the Home Depot.

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Here is a little background on why I found myself installing a new lock over the weekend:

(1) Kwikset Brand Has Been Around

About twelve years ago, I installed a Kwikset keychain remote controlled dead latch on our front door. For the next decade, with some maintenance, we pressed a button on a key fob for entry. We loved it but Kwikset moved on from this technology. Last year my button stopped working altogether and as the fobs have become increasingly hard to find I went back to a physical key.

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(2) Look Out for Lock Outs

About a year ago I installed a new lockset on my back door. The handle is the pull down variety and will open from the inside when locked. If you forget to push down on the outside to check, you might find yourself locked out. We have done so a number of times, and once it was both of us at 5 in the morning. My mom lives in an addition next door. We had to call her, the first thing I said was “Everything is Alright” and then “could you come let us in?!”

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(3) Looking a Lock Bumping

Several weeks back, I looked into keyless dead latches for a client and learned about lock bumping. Bumping is when a burglar has a specially cut key for your brand of lock. The key can be inserted and then struck (bumped) to open the lock.

About the same time I was pricing and looking into keyless entry systems for my client, Building Moxie was offered a partnership with Home Depot and Kwikset SmartKey Locks. The deal was this, we would get a $200 dollar Home Depot gift card to purchase a Kwikset SmartKey lock in return for a couple of posts on this here blog about the product.

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In this article, Barry discusses:

Click a link to jump to that section – otherwise, please Read On. ~jb

Kwikset SmartKey Features

• Have you ever loaned out a key that was never returned, or would you like to be able to grant temporary access to neighbors or a contractor? SmartKey rey-key technology is the solution. The Kwikset SmartKey lock gives homeowners the ability to quickly and easily re-key their own locks without removing them from the door.

SmartKey offers increased security and peace of mind because lost, loaned or unreturned keys become useless. It also offers one-key convenience for your home – you can re-key your front, back and side doors to the same Kwikset key.

Kwikset SmartKey’s re-key technology features a patented side-locking bar, central to the locks’ ability to be rapidly and easily re-keyed. The bar replaces the traditional pin and tumbler design that is particularly vulnerable to increasingly popular lock-bumping attacks.

• Delivering outstanding strength and protection, SmartKey deadbolts have passed the most stringent lock picking standards and offer ANSI/BHMA certified Grade 1 security. Grade 1 security is the highest level of tested residential security available in the industry.

• Based on performance and features, Kwikset SmartKey deadbolts earned the prestigious Best Buy rating from Consumers Digest Magazine in the residential deadbolt lock category in February 2010.

Kwikset SmartKey deadbolts can be purchased online and at your local The Home Depot store. Here also on Amazon.

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Facts about Kwikset & Me

Fact: Our front door has a Kwikset remote controlled dead latch which is 12 years old. It has worked well through the years and has enhanced our quality of life.

Meaning: We are the perfect candidate for an electronic lock. We like the convenience, trust in the technology, and we trust the Kwikset brand.

Fact: Our back door’s present handle style and dead latch work well for us with one drawback. Sometimes we find ourselves locked out of our home!

Meaning: We need to refine our concept, keeping the push down handle style which allows us to open the door with an elbow, but eliminating the lock out surprise.

Fact: I recently looked into modern dead latch keyless entry systems for a client, the type with a key pad in which you enter a code (remember — our ancient one is operated by a remote control key fob).  While learning about them I also learned about criminals gaining entry to a home via a method called lock bumping.

Meaning: I need some first hand experience with touchpad keyless entry & I definitely need to learn more about lock bumping.

If you asked me a month ago, I would have told you I could neither afford the time to install new locks on my back door nor the money for the hardware, and as my client had decided not to go with the touchpad locks, my learning about them and lock bumping would have to wait.

Enter Kwikset SmartKey

Enter the Home Depot, Kwikset SmartKey lock Blogger Program whereby Building Moxie was offered a Home Depot gift card to purchase Kwikset SmartKey locks in return for writing (whatever we want) about them.

I decided I would take them up on their offer and make time for learning and making things better. Armed with a $150.00 gift card I marched into my local Home Depot. The store had a great selection of Kwikset products, so $148.15 later I emerged with these items:

Everything about the Touchpad Keyless entry system promised to be smart. It came equipped with both SmartCode and SmartKey re-key technology. Smart in this instance meaning easy while losing nothing in the way of security. Also, the lock featured something called BumpGuard protection — against lock bumping.

I could not find an exterior push down handle without a lock so I went with a Bed and Bath handle figuring that the placement beneath the porch roof would give it ample protection from the elements. (I’ll take this chance on my own home but if I were installing this for a client I would contact Kwikset to be sure.)

I also bought the SmartKey re-key set which comes with the re-key tool, 4 identical keys for your people and 2 different identical keys, allowing entrance to your home while you are away — the idea being that you do not have to give out your family’s master key.

Kwikset SmartKey Installation (Lessons Learned)

Installation was easy for both lock and dead latch, but I did manage to screw up:

The dead latch determines the hand of you door automatically so if you skip this step you might be confounded. My pride was slightly wounded here as I learned that I do not (always) follow directions as closely as I think, but the fact is, I missed it, and you do not want to.

The biggest difference I noticed between the electronic mechanisms in the old lock on my front door, and in the new one installed on the back, was the size of the unit itself (the old one was much larger) and the new felt much sturdier.

Is the Kwikset SmartKey really … Smart?

“Smart” is one term that has just about been run into the ground. We have Smart Cars, Smart Phones and Smart Houses. Consequently, Like “Green” the word “Smart” raises some red flags with me.

Smart, as applied to products, has been around a little longer than Green. Even as a kid, I seem to remember the word being a favorite in advertising with catchphrases like “Its smart design will make you re-think what a (Insert Product) can be.” Not all things which claim to be smart impress us as such, and supposedly smart things which make us feel silly incur a special wrath. How many times have you heard someone exclaim “D*** Phone!”?

Kwikset’s SmartKey Keys and Codes

So, I think it is a good idea to determine the intention of the meaning behind the word “smart” when applied to a product, or the criteria for the term, if you will. In the case of Kwikset‘s SmartCode & SmartKey I think the company intends for smart to mean “intelligently designed” but even more importantly “easy”.

Judging by the small amount of time and lack of frustration involved in dealing with both of these products/systems, and applying our criteria, I think Kwikset has earned the moniker of “Smart”. Truthfully, neither SmartCode nor SmartKey could be much easier. In fact, it is interesting to note that Kwikset seems to increasingly be living up to its name.

In the early 90’s, I worked at a hardware store and learned how to re-key Kwikset locks. As I remember, It was a delicate process of taking the lock apart down to the cylinder, removing the old pins and replacing them with carefully chosen new ones which corresponded to the cut of the new key. The pins were installed with springs behind them and powdered graphite made it all move smoothly in the end. One could get good at it but it took a few tries. I believe the kit was fairly costly and there was a charge to the customer for the service.

DIY Re-Key

With SmartKey, the homeowner is empowered to re-key their locks, quickly and easily, as often as they would like. This makes it possible to change a single lock to a service key for the day to allow entry, for say a plumber, and then to change it back to the family’s master key that night.

(1) Insert functioning key and turn 1/4 turn clockwise.
(2) Insert and remove the SmartKey learn tool. Remove functioning key.
(3) Insert new key and turn 1/4 turn counter-clockwise. Done. Your lock is now re-keyed!

Pretty smart! And it really is that simple. JB sent along to me THIS video from Dave West of Meadowview Construction performing the re-key.

It occurred to me that a likely unintended benefit of the SmartKey re-key system is that it allows us to take all of those mystery KW1 keys we have tucked away, which no longer open any lock that we know of, and press them into service again. Key recycling is pretty cool.

The Kwikset touch pad keyless entry dead latch comes with the SmartCode system which is similarly simple to set.

* Three Steps for Re-Keying with the SmartCode System:

(1) Press the program button on the interior unit once.
(2) Enter in 4 to 8 digit code on the keypad.
(3) Press the lock button to save the code.

By following the directions it is possible to program a second 4 to 8 digit code and there are user selectable options such as whether the keypad emits a beep when the buttons are pressed and enabling the dead latch to lock automatically after thirty seconds.

I mentioned yesterday that the housing for the automatic locking mechanism is much smaller in the new unit than another I have which is twelve years old. I am also happy to report that the locking action on the new unit is much smoother as well.

Locks and Technological Innovative Products :: A Historical Perspective

The Pin and Tumbler lock was invented in 1848. That same basic design provides the security for a very high percentage of lockable doors in America today. In 164 years the package and technology inside have changed very little.

The iPad 2 was released to the public on March 11, 2011. The iPad 3 unveiled yesterday. The 3 is a very different machine than it’s predecessor, sporting a high definition display and more powerful processors. In short, the package is similar while the technology inside is evolving at an incredible rate.

It is easy to look at the above and question our priorities, but I believe what we should be questioning is our perception. iPads are fun, independent machines with many uses that (aside from the money) are easily replaceable. Locks however are necessary fixtures with one use that require money, tools, time and often patience to change.

In the case of locks, are we are inclined to stick with what we have simply because they’re installed on our doors? We insert our key, the lock opens and our sense of security remains intact. That same sense bolstered perhaps by the simple fact that we have never had a break in. Our locks are not broke, so why would we fix them?

Here is a Fact (about Lock Bumping)

If you have a pin and tumbler lock on your home it may not be broken but it is vulnerable to a technique known as lock bumping. In this type of lock, the pins are of varying sizes within the cylinder which correspond to the cut of your key. Inserting the key makes everything line up within the cylinder so the tumbler can turn, unlocking the door.

To bump a lock open, someone must have a specially cut key for your brand of lock. The cut of the bump key looks almost like sharks teeth. The bump key is inserted just shy of completely and the back of the key is, then, tapped or “bumped”. The physics of this cause all of the pins to line up for a split second in which the key can be turned and the lock can be opened.

What to Kwikset Locks do to Protect Against Lock Bumping?

This week, thanks to Home Depot, we have been evaluating the Kwikset touchpad keyless entry dead latch. Keyless here means that we can press a preset combination of buttons on the touchpad and the lock will electronically open. This lock comes with a physical key as a backup. but It also comes with something called “BumpGuard“.

Kwikset has a video on its website explaining what is different about a “BumpGuard” lock.

Kwikset Lock Bumping Protection. This page is flash so, ironically, it is best to visit it on something other than an iPad.

Essentially, the difference is that in a BumpGuard lock, a side locking bar technology replaces the traditional pin and tumbler. While the Kwikset key may look the same, what is on the inside of the lock is very different.

Kwikset is not the only brand out there creating locks which cannot be bumped. The question remains whether bump-proof locks are pickable. It is safe to say, though, that picking a lock is a skill that is much harder to acquire than a bump key. They are easily purchased online. Security, like anything else, is a relative term.

More information:

LOCK BUMPING on Wikipedia

A very informative WHITE PAPER on Lock Bumping from TOOOL (The Open Organization of Lock Pickers).

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KwikSet SmartKey Review Wrap Up

After a week of use I can say that the Kwikset keyless touchpad was just the right addition to our home. Our lockout issue is solved and if I start the van to let it warm up, I do not have to worry about taking the keys with me if I forgot something.

Also, now I have some first hand experience and knowledge to share with clients who are interested in touchpad locks, the Smartkey system or Lock Bumping.

Thanks for reading this week and thanks to Home Depot and Kwikset locks!

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Links and Statements

Kwikset Shop on Amazon.

For more from Barry, including a number of other product reviews, please stick and click.  Ironically, he reviewed the Griffin Survivor Protective Case for the iPad, right here.

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