Atrium Lock Opening

Harold Fink, Locksmith, CRL CPS
Sun, Feb 14, 2010

Opening Malfunctioning Atrium Locks

This is a common problem which will require the attention of a locksmith, and is your opportunity to rise to the challenge.

First, don’t forget to rule out the possibility of opening the lock from the other side. Rule out all other doors as a means of entry and verify that access cannot be gained by using the other side of the door. What often causes the inoperability of these locks is poor alignment between latch bolt and/or dead bolt and strike, so take a moment to ask your customer if they remember having to push or pull on the door from the side you are standing. Oftentimes, by using the motion they have described, accompanied by lubrication of the profile cylinder used in these locks, you will be able to open the lock without any drilling at all.

If you are unable to unlock in this manner, begin to remove all the trim, including levers and spindle. First, don’t assume that the lock must be drilled. It is entirely possible to actuate the mechanism even if it has not been operated in years, with a deliberate and conscious effort on your part to do several things at the same time.

It is possible to apply lubricant carefully through the spindle hole between spindle hub and lock case, though difficult, (or profile cylinder keyway, depending on handing and orientation) it is understood that only the lubricant that draws down into the case by gravity will actually find its way to the detent (about 1 ½” from profile cylinder edge) that prevents the bolt from drawing into the lock case. A little bit in precisely the right location will often allow the key or thumb turn to work. Again, use your customer as valuable insight into what side may be exerting friction against the bolt as well. In cases where there is ample room for a tool bent at a right angle, use the key (or turn the plug with your screwdriver after picking) while assisting the dead bolt back towards the lock case with this tool at the same time. Sometimes a sharpened ice pick or other hardened tool can be sharpened to carefully work the bolt back into the case through the little bit of gap between door and frame, while you turn the profile cylinder. If you are attempting the opening from the inside of the door (locked in and locked out), use the same steps above with the thumb turn of the profile cylinder if it is of the single cylinder type. Last, attempt to turn with both the thumb turn on the inside while an assistant turns in same direction with operating key or picked plug from outside, all the while doing what is necessary to exert some pressure on the side of the door which will release any friction present against the dead bolt, allowing it to finally move past the strike and into the lock case.

If you absolutely cannot open the lock with the above recommendations, here’s how I measured Atrium style door locks for when they malfunction and cannot be unlocked from either side of the door. Drilling should only be required when the lock cannot be opened from either side of the door, and needs to be done from the correct side of the lock case to have the deadbolt detent visible and reachable with your tools.atrium-lock-measurements-for-deadbolt-with-detent-lifted

First, to get to your point of reference, you have to** imagine** that you are looking at the edge of the door with the door open. As you look at the edge of the door, if the dead bolt is at the bottom with the latch bolt at the top, you will be drilling on the left side of the door, regardless of door handing, approximately 1-9/16” from the edge of the profile cylinder. If the deadbolt is on the top with the latch at the bottom, you will be drilling on the right side of the door, regardless of door handing, approximately 1-9/16” from the edge of the profile cylinder. Remember, you are only imagining that you are looking at the edge of the door, so there can be no arguments about what is left or right or the handing of the door. It is the easiest way for me to convey to you what side to drill on, knowing that the door is closed. If you drill on the wrong side of the door you would have to drill through the case and quite possibly ruin the lock to raise the detent, so get it right. Your drill point should be roughly in line with the keyway and 1-½” to 1-5/8” away from the edge of the cylinder, and 3/16” towards the door edge from the centerline of the cylinder, using the keyway as your centerline. If you have a replacement in your locksmith service vehicle, go get it and take a measurement of your own to confirm where you are drilling and what needs to be done to withdraw the dead bolt. Alternatively, if you can see the uppermost point of the faceplate trim of the lock, you can measure 5-¼” down from the upper radius of the faceplate, as viewed through the gap between door and frame, and 1 5/8” from faceplate door edge  to the same point described above. Drill a ¼” hole through the outer door skin to, but not into, the lock case, stopping when you see that you have reached the cavity between mortise in the door and the lock case. It is not necessary to penetrate the lock case to force the detent up and away from the bolt. I usually stop as soon as I know I have penetrated the outer door material only, being careful to leave the lock intact, leaving the deadbolt detent undisturbed in any way.

Reach through the hole with an ice pick or similar tool and pry up (or away from the deadbolt) on the deadbolt detent. While holding the detent, use a knife or small screwdriver to work the deadbolt back into the lock case. The Carolina roller, or keedex tool, works well to get behind the end of the bolt and speed up the process of pulling the dead bolt back into the lock case. Alternatively, you can use a piece of ice pick or worn out jeweler’s screwdriver with about one half inch bent at a right angle at the end. Chuck it in your vise grip and carefully pry the bolt back into the case through the opening between door and frame. Put spindle and lever back into the spindle hole and open the door.

While far less likely, if the spring latch is the problem, measure down 2-9/16” from the top of the faceplate or visually sight the center of the latch. Draw a straight line 1-½” from the front of the faceplate. A similar measurement can be made that results in drilling 7/8” from spindle center towards top or bottom edge of lock and 5/16” towards door edge from spindle center. For the latch, you will need to drill on the side opposite to what is described above for the bolt. Drill a quarter inch hole where the lines intersect. Again, using an ice pick or similar tool, reach through the hole and work the latch back to open. Have a piece of plastic handy to help loid the latch back once you have it moved slightly, or have this handy for your assistant to use on the other side of the door if the door swings in towards you. Try to put spindle and lever back in spindle hole to assist with bolt and open the door. This situation is far less likely to occur than the atrium lock dead bolt failure first described above.

Again, having a lock case to look at is indispensible in this matter. If you are not stuck now, look at one. I have yet to encounter an atrium lock design that could not be opened using these measurements. Because the design is something of a standard, always having a replacement to measure from is going to be your best source of accurate measurements. Additionally, because the lock is not usually available at home centers, it is an opening, repair and/or replacement process that is worthy of a professional fee. With that said, it has been rare that I actually had to drill these locks, so make a deliberate attempt at the suggestions above, before drilling, before assuming the lock has to be drilled at all. This will allow the possibility of using the same lock, should your customer allow you to lubricate and service it, or if you have no replacement lock on your service vehicle, or if the cost of the replacement atrium lock is out of your customer’s budget.