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Choosing the right locksmith

Last updated 26th Jun 2017

Whether you have an old, sticking latch that needs an upgrade, or a broken lock that has to be fixed, a reliable locksmith can help make your home feel secure again. 

Whatever kind of lock job you need doing, it’s essential that you find the right locksmith to perform the work. We spoke to some of the experienced tradesmen recommended on MyBuilder to find out the key things you should know in order to make the right choice:

  • Find out if they have the relevant experience
  • Make sure they are transparent about their prices
  • Check that they are using quality products

Keeping these points in mind can help you focus on what to look for when you’re meeting with tradesmen and getting quotes for the work. Carry on reading for more details on how to go about finding the right tradesman for your job.

Find out if they have the relevant experience

Anyone can buy a set of tools and start advertising themselves as a locksmith - there are no legal regulations covering the profession, and no obligation for them to be qualified or accredited. Unlike with the Gas Safe Register, which anyone who works with gas in the home must be signed up to, there is no obligation for a locksmith to be part of a similar scheme.

However, many locksmiths will belong to organisations which aim to provide some regulation for the trade, such as the Master Locksmiths Association (MLA) which sets out standards for its members to abide by. Guy Fox of the MLA told MyBuilder: “With the absence of any government licensing of locksmiths we would always recommend the use of locksmiths who have a form of third party accreditation that includes vetting, regular inspection and a proof of competence.”

Similarly, others may be part of The Institute of Certified Locksmiths, which has a range of guidelines which its members agree to follow, including guaranteeing their insurance and quality of their work.

While membership of these bodies is a good sign that a locksmith is established in the trade and takes their responsibilities seriously, it is equally important to look out for their specific qualifications and experience. If a tradesman has lots of relevant experience, it can show their skills more than a membership of a particular body can. Many locksmiths will have a range of qualifications, such as City & Guilds diplomas, while others will have worked apprenticeships with other tradesman while learning the ropes. A simple way is to gauge their experience is to read feedback on their work on a site like MyBuilder, which allows previous customers to leave reviews of their experience with the tradesman. When you meet the locksmith, they may also be able to show you pictures of previous work they’ve done. If you’re hiring them for a particularly big job, involving replacing a number of locks on doors and windows for example, they may also be willing to put you in touch with previous clients, who can give a personal recommendation.

Mark Eckerleys of Eckerleys Plumbers & Locksmiths in Bolton has more than 150 positive pieces of feedback on MyBuilder. He said:

Lots of locksmiths are different - I’m not a member of the MLA or anything, but I gained qualifications early on, with City & Guilds in locksmithing and an NVQ in security. The key thing is really experience. The more jobs you do, the more you learn and the better equipped you are for the future. The majority of work I do as a locksmith is dealing with broken mechanisms, especially on PVCu doors and windows. On top of that, lots of people ask for lock upgrades, replacing old ones with something more up to date. I see these jobs all the time, and that familiarity is what’s important.

Mark Eckerleys, Eckerleys Plumbers & Locksmiths

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Lock installation

Locksmith Kevin Khadun installing a lock 

Make sure they are transparent about their prices

Most locksmith jobs are relatively small, and will not typically require getting quotations from a variety of tradesmen. However, it is worthwhile to ask for estimates to get a ballpark figure when hiring a tradesman, and comparing prices, especially when it comes to supplying new locks. A good locksmith should be transparent about how much a job will cost. Mark said:

Most jobs a locksmith does are relatively straightforward - we’ll have done them all before, and know what all the costs should be. There’s no reason not to be straightforward about the price.

Mark Eckerleys, Eckerleys Plumbers & Locksmiths

Locksmiths should also be clear about any callout fees they have, and if their are extra charges for emergency callouts. If the job is scheduled in advance, then it should not require any extra fee aside from their standard labour rate. Be sure to check for all extra potential costs, such as the price of cutting and supplying spare sets of keys, and agree to a price before the work takes place.

Check that they are using quality products

There’s little point having a locksmith come and do good work if the actual locks they fit aren’t up to standard, and installed correctly. Mark encouraged people to check that the locksmith is rigorous when measuring up any changes to be made:

There’s a common problem out there that a lot of locks are measured wrong and fit badly - they can stick out from the handle system. Even if that’s just by a few millimetres, it can be enough for a thief to take advantage of. Measuring everything up properly is crucial. 

Mark Eckerleys, Eckerleys Plumbers & Locksmiths

Dean Knowles of Chingford’s Union Security has more than 30 positive pieces of feedback on MyBuilder. He said:

The kind of locks that are used is the most important thing. Ask the locksmith questions about what they are and take a look at them before they’re installed. The key terms to look out for with new locks is that they’re anti-drill, anti-snap, anti-pick and anti-bump. They’re not necessarily cheap, but I always say to people, your house has an expensive TV, laptops, phones, jewellery, car keys - why would you protect all that with a £3 lock?

Dean Knowles, Union Security

The simple way to know you’re getting a quality locks on exterior doors is to look for British Standard locks - ones that are stamped with the Kitemark on the lock itself, and the packaging it comes in. The key standard for most exterior door locks is BS3621, though BS8621 and BS10621 can also apply to some locks. Up-to-date products by brands such as Yale, Union and Avocet ABS locks should fit these standards.

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