How to Break Down a Door

How to Break Down a Door

There's a point in everyone's life where they realize how convenient it would be to be able to break down a door.

Maybe it's when your flatmate is still asleep and isn't waking up to their blaring alarm clock.

Worse, maybe you don't have your keys and need to get back into your house.

Worse still--some people are stuck inside a burning building and that's the only way to get them out.

While you probably won't need to know how to do this, let's face it, when the day finally comes you'll wish you had taken the few minutes to learn how.

That's enough dilly dally for today, you're here to learn how to break some darn doors, not to listen to our personal thoughts!

Let's get started.

Interior Doors

How to break down an interior door

Method One

Give the door a well-placed kick or two to the lock area to break it down.

Running at the door and slamming against it with your shoulder or body is not usually as effective as kicking with your foot.

Your foot exerts more force than your shoulder, and you will be able to direct this force toward the area of the locking mechanism more succinctly with your foot. 

But is slamming into it with your shoulder effective?

We suppose if it is a glass door of some sort--but only do this as a last resort.

Method Two 

Note: Screwdriver required.

Look on the front of the doorknob for a small hole or keyhole.

Most interior doors have what are called privacy sets.

These locks are usually installed on bedrooms and bathrooms and can be locked from the inside when the door is shut, but have an emergency access hole in the center of the door handle which allows entry to the locking mechanism inside.

Insert the screwdriver or probe into the handle and push the locking mechanism, or turn the mechanism to open the lock.


Door opened.

Exterior Doors

How to break down an exterior door

If you are trying to break down an exterior door, you will need more force.

Exterior doors are usually of sturdier construction and are designed with security in mind, for obvious reasons.

In general, you can expect to see two kinds of latches on outside doors: A passage or entry-lock set for latching and a dead-bolt lock for security.

The passage set is used for keeping the door from swinging open and does not lock. The entry-lock set utilizes a dead latch and can be locked before closing the door.

Sounds tough.

So how do you get them open?

Method One

Give the door several well-placed kicks at the point where the lock is mounted.

An exterior door usually takes several tries to break down this way, so keep at it and don't get discouraged if it doesn't break down immediately.

Method Two

Note: Sturdy piece of steel or metal required.

Wrench or pry the lock off the door by inserting the tool between the lock and the door and prying back and forth.

Method Three

Note: Screwdriver, hammer, or awl required.

Remove the pins from the hinges (if the door opens toward you) and then force the door open from the hinge side.

Get a screwdriver or an awl and a hammer.

Place the awl or screwdriver underneath the hinge, with the pointy end touching the end of the bolt or screw.

Using the hammer, strike the other end of the awl or screwdriver until the hinge comes out.

Assessing the amount of force required

How much force do you need to break down a door?

Interior doors, in general, are of a lighter construction than exterior doors and usually are thinner--1 3/8" thick to 1 5/8" thick--than exterior doors, which generally are 1 3/4" thick.

This may not sound like much of a difference, but in the 'door-breaking-world,' it is.

Older homes will be more likely to have solid wood doors, while newer ones will have the cheaper, hollow core models.

Knowing what type of door you are dealing with will help you determine how to break it down.

You can usually determine the construction and solidity of a door by tapping on it.

Hollow Core

This type is generally used for interior doors, since it provides no insulation or security, and requires minimal force.

These doors can often be opened with a screwdriver.

Solid Wood

These are usually oak or some other hardwood and require an average amount of force and a crowbar, or other similar tools.

Solid Core

These have a softwood inner frame with a laminate on each side and a chipped or shaved wood core, and require an average amount of force and a screwdriver.

Metal Clad

These are usually softwood with a thin metal covering and require an average or above-average level of force and a crowbar.

Hollow Metal

These doors are of a heavier gauge metal that usually has a reinforcing channel and around the edges and the lock mounting area and are sometimes filled with some type of insulating material.

These will require maximum force and a crowbar.

Pour Conclure

So there you have it, folks.

We've covered all your possible door-breaking needs.

Now go forth and smash up some doors, and tell 'em ol' Survival Cat sent ya.

Just make sure it's warranted, of course.

The information presented to you here today is from Joshua Piven's book, The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook - an excellent on-the-go addition to any hiking pack or bug-out-bag.

However, something like the SAS Survival Handbook will be more practical for everyday use while outdoors.


-Alexander @ Survival Cat


If you're gearing up for your next adventure, take a peek at our catalog and see if there is anything you'll need to accompany your travels.


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1 comment

  • I had to break into a house I was dog sitting at for a friend back in HS.

    Day 2 of 5 I had locked the keys inside with the dog and it was either wait til my friends family got home and hope the dog survived or somehow get inside.

    I decided the best bet for entry would be thru the garage side door. Luckily their garage had a back door that was kept unlocked from the backyard. The door leading into the house tho had a handle lock but no deadbolt.

    I got to work using my library card and a nearby flat metal tool I used to shimmy the card into the space where the door handle locked into the frame. After slightly damaging the wood frame I got enough space for the card to push the metal back into the door handle and I got into the house in just under a half hour.

    Friends family never noticed and I got $100 for the week ;D

    El Gato

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