Residential - Tips & tricks - Hiding spare keys

Few things are as frustrating as being locked out of your own home because you’ve forgotten, mislaid or lost your key!

Unless you had the brilliant idea of keeping a copy handy, you find yourself standing outside your front door, feeling helpless. The majority of people, unfortunately, don’t think of making a spare – witness the fact that year after year, the lion’s share of calls to CAA-Quebec’s Residential Emergency Services are from members who’ve locked themselves out of their homes.

Not only is this situation inconvenient, but you can expect the locksmith’s bill for getting you out of this bind to easily top $100 – because it’s usually much more difficult to unlock a house door than a car door. And it will cost you even more if the locksmith has to set out in the middle of the night, and travel a fair distance to boot.

And yet, this troublesome situation can be avoided with just a little advance planning. There is no shortage of tricks for hiding a spare key away from the prying eyes of a burglar or other unauthorized person.

Choose a safe, but not too obvious, place
The challenge is to make sure you don’t make a criminal’s job easier. They know all the traditional hiding places for keys, so don’t even think about leaving your spare on top of the front-door frame, in the mailbox, under the doormat or in a nearby flower pot – these are the first places they’ll look. You need to find a more ingenious place to hide that key to be sure it will be there if you ever need it.

Wooden architectural features (e.g., railings, balconies) and your home’s exterior cladding can contain gaps or cracks where you can hide a key. Landscaping details can also provide excellent spots. If you choose this option, though, remember that most of your property will be covered in a snowy mantle for a good part of the year, so make sure you can get at your spare key in all seasons.

Manufactured solutions
At specialized locksmiths and some hardware stores, you can find small boxes and cleverly disguised items for holding keys.

The wide range of solutions available includes magnetic key holders, which are often used to hide keys under a car. This must be done very carefully, however, as the magnet might be jarred loose in an impact. Some manufacturers have gotten around this problem by designing two-part key holders: one part is affixed to the vehicle chassis, while the other sticks to the first part by means of a Velcro fastener. Note that for optimum, reliable adherence, you need to make sure the surface is perfectly clean and dry, the temperature isn’t too hot or cold, and that you abide by the recommended glue-drying time.

Another kind of container is specially designed for people who prefer or have no choice but to entrust a spare house key to a neighbour, a building manager or a janitor. These are plastic boxes that, once closed, must be broken to get at the key. If you make sure your signature is on the box, it will be practically impossible for anyone to copy the key without you knowing about it.

You can also stash your spare key in a container disguised as an everyday object found inside or outside most any home. Some of the most popular such “hide-a-key” items are designed to look like rocks, garden decorations or sprinkler heads. There are even imitation soft drink cans, dog food cans, and beverage cups!

The real key: Planning and imagination
Over and above these tips and tricks for making sure you don’t lock yourself out, there’s one thing to keep in mind. If ever somebody does find your spare key, you want to reduce the odds of their being able to figure out which door it opens. If you’re nervous about hiding a spare key somewhere on your property, the last places you should consider are your wallet, handbag or the glove compartment of your car. But consider this: if you hide your key somewhere on a neighbour’s property, it will be far less likely to lead a potential thief to your front door – even more so if that neighbour lives two or three doors down, or on the other side of the street.

Our thanks to Yves Piché of J. Piché et Fils, a locksmith established in Montreal for close to 85 years and member of CAA-Quebec’s Approved Residential Suppliers network.