The Door, the Lock and the Hinge – How to Know What’s Broken

The Arizona sun is hot and sometimes merciless in the damage it inflicts. For example, my brother-in-law built his dream home with a beautiful front door. After five years of daily torment from a hot afternoon sun, the wood door succumbed with daylight cracks, losing its luster, and finally had to be replaced. The new door, like ours, is a composite designed to withstand the abuse of long, sunny days.

So, it was no surprise that over the past year, the lockset on our front door started to fail. In fact, we’ve replaced our doorbell three times in the last 10 years. Aside from the dull and tarnished finish, the lock would stick, making it more and more difficult to open and close. At first, I was thrilled – a chance to replace all the door hardware in the house. But, the more I investigated, I realized that I wasn’t ready to make that type of decision; because then we would need to repaint, and perhaps, replace the floors, and then, maybe the light fixtures, and then the counters – well, you understand the slippery slope I was heading down. In the end, I succumbed to simplicity and ordered replacement hardware from the manufacturer that was EXACTLY the same as the originally locksets on all our outside doors.

However, in the years since the house was built to now, the mechanical aspects of the hardware had changed slightly. And after poring over the instructions, we realized we didn’t have the tiniest of all tiny Allen wrenches to remove the current lockset from the front door. At that point, preparing for Thanksgiving, my husband and I gave in and called our local locksmith. The locksmith, in turn, called his son who came over to do the installation. (Maybe his wife had him working on household chores for Thanksgiving as well??)

The young man told us he was working with his dad while he tried to make it in his “semi-professional” rock band. My husband and I looked at each other with a knowing glance and let him get to work. Quickly, he had the old lock off the front door and the new lock on when he asked if he could show us something.

“The problem wasn’t really the lock but the hinges,” he showed us how the hinges were weak at the top of the door and not holding true within the frame. The lock couldn’t latch properly because the door was out of balance. We had two choices: he could move the strike plate and the lock so that they would line up better or replace the hinges. “Don’t feel bad about buying the new locks. I see this all the time – a lot of locksmiths don’t even know to check for this. But it’s easy for me to see things that are out of balance. It’s just the way I am.”

After he left, I started thinking how often this happens – in life and our businesses. We are so certain of a solution to a problem that we ignore all the other possibilities. These are not wild or crazy solutions –but maybe just slightly hidden or seemingly unrelated like the hinges on my front door.

I know there is some sort of common sense between acting quickly on our own knowledge or instincts and being stuck in “paralysis by analysis” by asking EVERYONE we know their opinion of solutions to our problems. But the lesson for me is that every once in a while, a fresh pair of eyes on an old problem could be a good idea. 

Who in your life can see when “things are out of balance” and offer alternatives that will provide you a better solution?

I have no regrets in buying new locksets for all our exterior doors. The finishes were worn from the sun and the handles all work much better, but the actual lock function is about the same. To truly fix the problem of my sticky locks, I chose the new hinges which will be installed next week to bring the door into alignment.

“Then your door will work like a dream,” our young apprentice told us.

And maybe it is just that simple!