Around 3:30am on Saturday our smoke detector decided to lose its shit. It started beeping and loudly announcing “low battery!” Around 4am Matt decided to go an rip out the batteries. That was when he discovered that the smoke detector in the hallway is hardwired. Yup, our smoke alarm woke us up at 3:30am because the backup battery was bad.
Luckily we had extra batteries, so Matt grabbed a replacement…only to find that the previous battery was also rather corroded and the gunk left on the battery connectors was now impeding its ability to sense the new battery.
Now, I’m still in bed at this point so all I hear is Matt shuffling around the house like he’s playing some twisted game of Marco Polo with the smoke alarm. Then the alarm suddenly starts shrieking “Fire! Warning carbon monoxide! Fire! Warning carbon monoxide!” I start laughing like an idiot because now I’m convinced our smoke detector is just straight-up broken and of course that would happen at 4am.
Turns out Matt hit the test button to see if that would act like a reset and get the alarm to recognize the new battery. It didn’t work. Obviously. So now it’s 4:10am and I start googling how to remove a corroded battery because it’s either that or flee to a hotel.
In case you’re wondering, vinegar will clean off battery corrosion. You should really use gloves/eye protection, and of course be very careful around the electrical workings of anything–especially when it’s still connected to power.
After Matt and I properly woke up for the day, we went on a walk to get breakfast since we’re having a January heat-wave at the moment.* When we got back, I went to haul in the baby gear and the baby, and Matt stayed out to salt the walkways. I left Wesley snoozing in his stroller next to the door while I dropped the diaper bag and pastries inside, then turned to go back out and grab the baby.
Only the backdoor wouldn’t open.
I checked the locks. It was unlocked. I fiddled with the locks (both the deadbolt and the simple lock for the latch we never use). Nothing. Was it stuck on something? Nope.
I finally went out the front door, walked around the back and tried to shove it open vs pull it open. No dice. So I tried and force it open with my shoulder TV cop style. Ouch. Finally I gave it a good swift kick (just to show it who’s boss), collected Wesley and schlepped around to the front door.
When Matt was done salting, he repeated everything I had just tried and nothing worked for him either. It turns out that the bottom doorknob (which controls the latch) had inexplicably broken, so the knob could no longer retract the latch. This is a vital part of being able to open a door.
Step 1 was to run to the hardware store and buy a new latch set. I also picked up a matching deadbolt because I really didn’t like the existing brass one we had so hey, excuse to update! We thought Step 2 would be as simple as taking off the door knob and wiggling the inner workings around. Nope. The inner workings were well and truly busted.
Matt went through our tool stash to try and find something he could shove between the frame and the door to push the latch back in,** but it still wouldn’t budge. He asks me if I have any brilliant ideas, to which I reply “sure” and then immediately get to googling.***
It turns out this sort of thing is not unheard of and found a fairly lengthy thread in a DIY forum dedicated to it. Long story short, if your latch is properly busted (like in our case) there isn’t an easy fix. The general consensus is 1) don’t bother taking the door off the hinges because that often doesn’t help and 2) either bust out your hack saw or call a locksmith.
We chose the hacksaw option and it took Matt around an hour to cut through.
(We set the knob back in place to block some of the draft)
Thankfully installing our new latch and deadbolt was a piece of cake. Matt was very confused because I decided to try Kwikset Smartkey locks that let you re-key them yourself. They were more expensive that the standard locks, but cheaper than bringing in a locksmith (and we really didn’t want 3 different keys for our house). They are SUPER simple to use to, so we were able to get our 2 back locks on the same key as our front lock in about a minute.
Once the weather legitimately warms up we’ll also paint the the rest of the door frame and repaint the door, since it looks a little sad at the moment.
Matt looked up the security of these locks and it sounds like they’re no better or worse than a lock that would require a professional to re-key. Plus, as one person put it: your house is only as secure as its weakest point and we all have windows.
So that was our Saturday. We woke up to a demon smoke alarm and later I got locked inside the house. I have a feeling I’ve offended the DIY spirits in some way or else our house has spontaneously acquired a poltergeist. Maybe I should turn on our gas stove and shake some sage from our spice cabinet over it… If that doesn’t work, we are surrounded by churches so I could probably round up an old priest and a young priest.
*In Minnesota a winter heat-wave means anything over 30 degrees. Over the last 2 days I have seen 2 people outside in short sleeves, one guy in shorts, and several without jackets.
**During all of this we’re working from inside the house, so you have access to that tiny gap. The outside of the door frame has trim pieces covering up this space.
***This is how I solve problems at work too. People think I’m smart, but really I just figure out good search terms.