The hot topic of last week was how to handle locks on dormitory entrance doors, since the students have figured out how to reach under the door with a coat hanger and pull down the lever to unlock the door.  There’s a minute+ of bad video below to illustrate the procedure, as reenacted by a couple of college boys.  The video has already been viewed 1,419 times by students who need help with their coat hanger technique, so the problem is bound to get bigger.

I asked all of the experts I could track down, and everyone had suggestions, but no clear winner in my opinion.  If you have an idea, leave a comment or drop me an email.  Here are some of the ideas:

1) Mount the levers vertically. As far as I know this would only work on mortise locks, but if the levers are mounted vertically it would be very difficult or impossible to turn them with a coat hanger.  I spoke to the locksmith for a large local university and he said that this was their solution to the problem.  The original question that someone called to ask was whether this would be a code violation.  There’s nothing in any code or standard that I know of that states that you can’t mount a lever this way, but you may run into a code official who would consider this an example of “prior knowledge” needed.

2) Change the lock function. If mortise locks are used, a dormitory function similar to the Schlage L9473 might work, but there are drawbacks.  A) The door can be left unlocked which is fine for some campuses and not acceptable for others.  B) You need to use a key to lock the door from the corridor side.  Less convenient but not a deal-breaker.  C) The lever does not retract the deadbolt and the latchbolt with one motion.  Depending on the local code, this may or may not be acceptable.

3) Add protection at the lockset. A plastic lever handle protector would make it tough to hook the lever, but would look pretty bad.  Another suggestion was mounting a towel bar to the back of the door.

DHSI Door Bottom4) Use an interlocking threshold. This is a 2-piece threshold / hook strip that interlocks at the bottom of the door.  This would prevent the coat hanger from going under the door, but it’s tough to get the tolerances just right and keep the doors operating properly.

5) Add an automatic door bottom. This is an effective solution because it seals the gap under the door and makes it really difficult to maneuver the coat hanger, but auto door bottoms can be problematic and could be dismantled by students.  There’s a interesting product manufactured by DHSI (at right), which is similar to an auto door bottom, but with a different type of trigger.

If you have experience with this problem, feel free to share by leaving a comment.

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