It’s all kinds of frustrating to find yourself standing on one side of a door and knowing your key is on the other side – and the door is locked. That’s why lots of people keep a spare house key hidden somewhere outside for just such an eventuality. You shouldn’t just hide a key anywhere, though: you want to be able to get to the spare quickly in an emergency, but you don’t want a ill-intentioned strangers to be able to just walk up and pluck the key from its hiding place. Some ingenuity is a good idea.
Where Not to Hide a Key
Even the most out-of-touch burglar knows all the classic hiding places. That definitely leaves out stashing a spare under the doormat or on the top of the door jamb. Even the dumbest of burglars knows all about those fake rocks, so those are pretty much out as well. The smarter burglars know to look at most of the knickknacks on your front porch, so you should choose one of those fake-bottom flower pots or cute turtles and frogs with care, and be sure to put it someplace less obvious.
Out of Sight, Out of Mind
Security experts and other paranoid people tell us that you should never hide the key to the front door at the front of the house, and at least fifteen or twenty feet from the door it unlocks. You don’t want someone to be able to watch you retrieving it: what’s the sense of a hidden key if a stranger knows where it is? At the very least, stash your door key in the back yard. Better yet, hide it somewhere off the property. Some suggest that you hook the key onto a tree in a nearby yard or park: put it somewhere out of sight; so even if a stranger does come across the key by accident, you’ve left him wondering what door it fits. Of course that only works if you’re not wondering around in your PJs and bunny slippers in the middle of the night.
Back before realtors all had electronic swipe cards, they’d hook a key box on the house’s front door, one that you needed a push-button code to open. Homeowners can still buy these boxes: all you need is to remember the code and you have your key. Be careful about where you put one, though: a key box is basically a blinking red light that says “Key Hidden Here!”
You know those magnetic boxes that people use to hide spare car keys? You could always stash a house key in one of those and tuck it under the fender. Watch out for big potholes, though… No one says that such a box has to be hidden on your car: you can put this on anything made of steel, like lawn furniture or a barbecue grill.
If your house has a sprinkler system, you can order a fake sprinkler head that plants in your lawn. The top screws off to let you stash a spare – all you need to do is remember which sprinkler head it’s in. This one’s not a good idea in snow country, though – you don’t want to have to dig through the drifts in winter looking for the stash box.
Hiding a key can be a hot idea if you use one of these thermometers. The fully-functional thermometer mounts on the wall, but lifts off and disassembles to reveal a hidden compartment for a spare key. Placement’s important again: smart burglars wonder about why there’s a thermometer on the front porch – the garage wall or the garden fence is a better option.
A little ingenuity and a few odds and ends from the workshop can work wonders when it comes to hiding a key. Some homeowners suggest that you tie the key on some fishing line and hang it inside a set of wind chimes. Not only does the burglar need to find it, he might make a lot of noise getting it free. Another solution for people with dogs is to hang a key on a hook in the doghouse – assuming you have a dog and he has a house (burglars are supposedly wary of houses with dogs, so even if you don’t have a dog, a dog house might be a deterrent).
Try duct-taping a spare key to the leg of a picnic table or the barbecue grill on your patio: just be sure your hiding place isn’t visible from the street. Another tried-and-true solution is to leave a key with a trusty neighbor (preferably not with one whose teenage son has started running with the wrong crowd, though). The disadvantage of this solution is that you neighbor needs to be available when you need the key, Murphy’s Law says that’s not gonna happen. It’s a good solution for people whose kids lock themselves out all the time, though – we have a key to our next-door neighbor’s house for exactly that reason.
Visit your local craft shop for some hook-and-loop tape (the generic term for Velcro®). Stick the key to one half and stick it to a strip of the other half in a hidden spot outside your house: inside the end of a downspout is a favorite location, or on the back side of the air-conditioner compressor.
Think through the process in advance: hiding a key in the water feature in your back yard or in a fake rock only works if you can find it in the first place and get it loose in the second. If you live in Wisconsin or Alaska, hiding your key in or on the ground is a lousy solution for several months a year. Hiding the key where it won’t be buried in a snow drift or in the frozen ground.
More Commercial Solutions
If your garage is attached to the house but your keys are locked in the car, you’ll thank yourself for installing a keypad for the garage door opener. With thousands of four-digit combinations, these will frustrate even the most patient of thieves. Even if your garage isn’t attached, once you’re inside there are thousands of hiding places in the average garage where you can hide an extra key.
Out walking the dog and locked yourself out? You’re in immediately if Rover’s wearing one of these collars with a stash pocket. Unless Rover is the world’s worst watch dog, no potential creep will be able to pick this key out of its hiding place!
Got plants? Here’s a solar light that doubles as a key stash. That also makes your hiding place easier for you to find in the dark
Let the local wildlife keep your keys hidden with a hide-a-key birdhouse. The bottom of this hanging plastic wren house opens up to reveal a hidden key compartment. No need to worry that you’ll disturb the nesting birds, either, because the hole is fake.
First, thieves can surf the web, too: don’t place a commercial hiding place where it’s obvious, and don’t put it where you can be seen retrieving your spare key. Second, even the best hiding place is useless if you don’t put the spare key back after using it!