How to Remove a Closed, Locked Door

Lead Image
  • 1 hours
  • Intermediate
  • 0-150
What You'll Need
Power Drill
1/8" (3mm) drill bit
3/32" (2.4mm) drill bit
12oz finishing hammer
Flat screwdriver
Scratch awl or similar pointy tool

One night, after getting ready for bed, a person walks up to the main door of his house to lock it, and pulling up on the handle, he feels and almost hears the slight, almost imperceptible resistance in the German-manufactured locking mechanism of the latch. In that instant, his brain registers that trouble has just arrived.

The 70-mm door he designed and built himself, with sidelight, and framed with three European style hinges, and triple secured with a three-point locking mechanism all the way up the sash had always been his pride, but now it was now going to put him to the test. In a small movement of the wrist, it had just become his next nightmare. But being a DIYer that he was, his brain was already analyzing the situation and thinking up solution scenarios.

Figures 1 & 2_ Safety Hinge Ass'y

Step 1- Focus on the Hinges

Figure 1 shows a typical heavy-duty security hinge with the top and bottom sections (or sleeves) fastened to the door frame and the center part to the door sash. They were chosen especially for their security pins that made it impossible for burglars to take apart.

Figure 2 demonstrates how it’s done, with a partially pulled out pin showing a machined recess near the top where a set screw will rest and keep the pin from coming out. That set screw will be inserted into the top sleeve of the main body of the hinge at an angle turned towards the edge of the sash so it cannot be accessed for removal unless the door is wide opened. These heavy-duty hinges are usually in sets of three with only one being a safety hinge, which can be identified by looking at the hinge close to the wood to find the threaded hole housing the set screw on each safety hinge. The set screw can be removed by following the step-by-step instructions below.

Figures 3 & 4_ Pin Removal

Step 2 - Remove the Security-Lock Pin From the Hinge

Using a center punch, the location of the hole to be drilled is marked to keep the drill bit from slipping or “dancing around on the rounded surface”, as shown in Figure 3.

A 1/8” (3mm) hole can then be drilled perpendicular to the sleeve about 1/8” (3mm) deep to form a saddle where the drill can sit securely without slipping out. For a better result, it might be easier if a smaller size drill bit is used to make a pilot hole that will guide the 1/8” (3mm) drill bit and produce any drilling with much more accuracy.

Repositioning the drill perpendicular to the door frame as shown in Figure 3, the hole can be drilled further so that it passes as close as possible to the shaft of the pin and deep enough to reach the set screw.

Figure 5_Remove Pin

The bit can then be worked around to slightly enlarge the opening so that the set screw works itself loose (Figure 4). It should be done carefully to minimize the size of the resulting hole, until the set screw can be successfully backed out enough, with a scratch awl or some other pointy device, to let the pin slide out.

As in Figure 4, one of the other hinge pin or similar sized shaft can be used with a finishing hammer to gradually tap the lock pin slide out. A finishing hammer weighing only 12 ounces is a preferred tool to keep damages to a minimum if it should collide with the wood, but no matter what, the pin should be tapped very lightly and should come out if the set screw is backed out enough. If it is still jammed in place, return to working the set screw with the scratch awl, or the drill and back it out some more.

Figures 6 & 7- Removing the Sash

Once the head is exposed enough, a flat screwdriver can be used to finish tapping the pin right out (Fig.5).

Step 3 - Pry Out the Door

After the pins are removed from all the hinges, a small pry bar or a claw hammer can be used to start pulling out the sash from its frame very slowly, as shown in Figure 6.

Once the sash is pulled out enough to manage a good hold of it with one hand, the handle can be grabbed with the other hand and the sash moved sideways away from the latch as shown in Figure 7.

Step 4 - Remove the Hardware

Now that the door sash is freed from the door frame and the mechanism has been made accessible, it's become possible to remove the cylinder, the handles, and plates, and finally the mechanism to replace the broken one.