Seattle Home Inspector's Blog


Can you lock yourself out on your deck?

     Second floor decks are very common on all kinds of construction but particularly on all the townhouses sprouting up like Kudzu (this allusion is for all my Southern friends) all over town. 

     These decks, with no stairs to the ground, usually only have one access----the door from the home. 

Locking yourself out on your deck     A VERY common issue with these doors is the use of locksets that allow someone to lock themselves out on the deck.  As one can see in the picture, the locking mechanisms for this door include a lockable handset and a separate dead-bolt.  The handset is the type----as it should be-----that when you turn the handle it lets you out of the door without having to fiddle with the locking mechanism of the lockset.

     The problem with this particular type of lockset is that it doesn’t actually “unlock” the mechanism.  When one goes through the doorway onto the deck and then closes the door, one is locked out on the deck.  A “safer” system would be to change the handset to a non-locking type lockset and rely on the deadbolt----or multiple dead-bolts depending on what part of town one lives in or how paranoid one is.

     People go to great lengths to put the most complicated and redundant locking mechanisms on doors when “actual” security can be measured by the closest brick----especially when the door is all glass like this one is.

     Locking oneself out on the deck can rate anywhere from mere embarrassment----if it was pitch dark when one stepped out to look at the stars naked-----or result in hypothermia and death if no one is around to hear ones screams.  Climbing down is not usually a good option and most downspouts---contrary to the movies----will not support a person weight.

     Can you lock yourself out on your deck?


Charles Buell



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Comment balloon 26 commentsCharles Buell • February 09 2009 06:58AM


Yep I've been locked out on a deck in a vacant house.  Fortunately the front door of the house was unlocked and a neighbor was home and saved me.  Not a fun experience.

Posted by Pat Fenn (Marketing Specialist for CJ Realty Group/Cindy Jones Broker ) over 10 years ago

Charles, at the moment its not funny. But I have locked myself in balconies, bedrooms, bathroom, and totally out of the whole house. Of course with time and methods change with experience, it being a long time that has happen to me. LOL

                                             ~ Life is Good



Posted by Roy A. Peterson, P.R.E.I. (Domicile Analysis of Texas) over 10 years ago


I could lock myself on my deck, but it is not a balcony....has three stairs to the ground. So, if I was naked, I could operate with some stealth till I got back inside.

Posted by Steven L. Smith, Bellingham WA Home Inspector (King of the House Home Inspection, Inc.) over 10 years ago


I don't have the stealth option - the high school is right across the street from my house. and there's always something going on.  Also, the fire station, the cop shop and city hall are within 2 blocks.

I'm betting that I wouldn't get to coach the junior high school track team again if I star-gazed au natural!

Posted by Paul Duffau, Caring for People, Educating about Homes (Safe@Home Inspections, LLC in SE Washington) over 10 years ago

Charles, My husband and I did this at a time share in Indio just last November.  We finally shimmied the lock.  It was a little scary because neither of us had our cell phones with us.

Posted by Sidney Kutchuk - Realty Works Temecula Kutchuk - Realty Works Temecula, Realty Works Temecula (Realty Works Temecula) over 10 years ago

Hi Charles, Point well taken.  That could make for a sticky situation.

Posted by Sandy Shores FL Realtor®, Melbourne Real Estate, Brevard County Real Estate, Florida's Space Coast (M & M Realty of Brevard Inc.) over 10 years ago

I just had the misfortune of doing exactly that this morning during a very early home inspection. I felt pretty stupid there for a while. My client did the same thing about 20 minutes later. I've got a funny feeling they'll be changing the lock-set before long.

Posted by Suesan Jenifer Therriault, "Inspecting every purchase as if it were my own". (JTHIS-Professional Home Inspection Team) over 10 years ago

Charles - haven't done that yet, but I'm sure the day will come.

Posted by Jack Gilleland (Home Inspection and Investor Services, Clayton) over 10 years ago

my bad, I thought the title said DESK-  I had a good comment for that.  My deck has two sets of stairs to exit.  Cheryl (I don't do naked star watching)willis

Posted by Cheryl Willis, MO Broker - Mt Vernon, Monett, Aurora, Barry & Law (RE/MAX Solutions- OZARK MISSOURI) over 10 years ago

Just jump!  I mean, duuuhhhhhh....


Very kindly,



Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 10 years ago

Pat, as you can see from the comments that came after you----this happens a lot----way too often.
Helpful hint of the day----since most of these doors on upper decks seem to swing out----they can almost always be opened with a pocket knife if the security pin improperly goes into the strike plate hole----as is often the case.
Roy, it is pretty easy to do.  Sometimes I have my buyer lock me out on purpose just to show them how quick I can get back in with a credit card or a pocket knife.
Steve, knowing you, you wouldn't remember the three steps and would die of hopothermia
Paul, it sounds like you live in a very stressful area:)
hopefully you had your clothes:)
, you can bet that this defect has resulted in many interesting stories.
Suesan, there is nothing that gets the point across quicker than when the client locks themselves out during the inspection.
Jack, one time a wind storm came up suddenly and took my ladder down when I was on the roof.  I jumped to a tree that was close to th house and climbed down
(don't lie to me)Willis, everyone knows about your star gazing habits:)  Pretend the post said "desk"----we all want to know what you were going to comment:)
Leave it to Croakster to come up with the "logical" solution!

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 10 years ago

Charles, it amazes me how people are so protective of themselves that they are actually stupid.  I was showing a house the other day.  The two car garage didn't let the owner in the house.  They had to go out a door, onto a porch, and then open doors into the house.  The door had of course, the deadbolt plus regular with two different keys.  A person out to do damage had plenty of time to attack the person while she or he fumbled with multiple locks to get in! my opinion. 

Posted by Barbara S. Duncan, GRI, e-PRO, Executive Broker, Searcy AR (RE/MAX Advantage) over 10 years ago

Charlie, Has not happened to me ...yet. But like you said with the door being all glass anyone who wants in it's just a stones throw. That brings up another stupid thing people do with locks. How often do you see keyed dead bolts inside the house.

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) over 10 years ago

Barbara, I think security is largely in the mind:)  You are right people go either overboard or do too little.  The ones I love are the people that think they are totally secure and I show them how quick I can get in with a credit card.  Most modern steel insulated doors with the cushy foam weather-stripping can be opened with a credit card quicker than a person can open it with a key----if there is no dead-bolt or the dead-bolt is not used.

James---quite often---always call them out as a safety hazzard----they are actually not allowed any longer per IRC.

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 10 years ago

Charles, I know people who can open doors with credit cards.  I guess I'm just dumb.  I've never been successfully.  On the other hand, perhaps those people have a touch of larceny in their personalities!  : )

Posted by Barbara S. Duncan, GRI, e-PRO, Executive Broker, Searcy AR (RE/MAX Advantage) over 10 years ago

Barbara, well Nutsy taught me everything I know about it----so you must be right.

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 10 years ago

Boy am I glad to find out that I'm not the only idiot that has gotten locked out at a listing. It was bad enough that I had to call the Listing Agent! He did tell me a funny story about a broker who used to go with his wife to a high end listing and hot tub naked under the stars. The hot tub was on a third floor and the broker was rather rotund. They undressed inside and wha-la, the door closed and locked on the way out.  He had to climb down (how I don't know, but the visual of this naked fat man was killing me) and then climb over a fence to get out. 

Posted by Teresa K. Nelson (Windermere Real Estate/HLC) over 10 years ago

Theresa, has this scenario been made into a movie yet?:)

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 10 years ago

As far as a brick breaking the glass in that door, if it is tempered glass (as it should be), I'll bet you can't do it. I had a scrap tempered glass door once that I purposely tried to destroy with a shovel, and then a sledgehammer, and came away feeling like a 100 lb weakling, because it refused to break.

 As far as being locked out... been there... actually locked IN a bathroom. I closed the door behind me to check for "proper operation", and then I heard the "thump" that was the outer part of the bathroom lock.. hitting the hallway floor, leaving me with no way to open the door...oops. Turns out the strike was defective too, and jambed. Luckily, I had a screwdriver, and was able to remove the hinge pins, and make good my escape. (Just one of the many hazards of inspecting vacant properties by yourself.) :(

Posted by Kevin Corsa, H.I.S. Home Inspections, Stark & Summit County, OH Home Inspector (H.I.S. Home Inspections (Summit, Stark Counties)) over 10 years ago

I always keep the keys in my pocket when walking through a listing. I almost was locked in a garage with a client, but saved the day with the key in my pocket! It was a close call and lesson learned the easy way.

Posted by Angi McFarland over 10 years ago

kevin, you are correct that they can be dang hard to break----gosh locked in the bathroom of a vacant house?  You wouldn't even have anything to read:)

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 10 years ago

Charles - I'll have to put that into my list of things to look for.  I also will remember your advice about downspouts.  I have an inspection to attend tomorrow and I find myself glued to several good inspector blogs this evening - reading through and praying I find none of the things I read about in them!  Haha.  Thanks for always giving us the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Posted by Matt Stigliano (Kimberly Howell Properties (210) 646-HOME) over 10 years ago

Matt, just make sure you are all decked out when you go out on the deck:)

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 10 years ago

Could see this happening although I have avoided it so far.  We have dogs for security, big shepherds. Lots of woof!

Posted by Kathleen Lordbock, Keller Williams Realty Professionals (Keller Williams Realty Professionals) about 10 years ago

Kathleen, I have heard of "Woof Brand Locks" before:)

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) about 10 years ago

My husband did this once when no one else was home.  He was wearing shorts, no shoes and had no cell phone with him.  He ended up busting the door frame to get in!

Posted by Cheryl Powell - The Powell Team, Concord,Harrisburg & Charlotte NC Area Real Estate (RE/MAX Executive - The Powell Team) about 10 years ago