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Master Key system for homeowners

Although master key systems seem to be targeted more towards the commercial and industrial sectors, homeowners are now beginning to see their advantages and adopting them to maximise both security and convenience.

Homeowners need to have access to all parts of their properties while limiting access for others. For instance, if you have a master key system and have house cleaners coming to your property, you can give them a key that allows them to access certain rooms only while restricting access to others, such as where your valuables are stored.

Other examples include rental properties, such as apartments and Airbnbs. A master key system limits the area where the renters can go, preventing them from trying to explore your home without permission.

Other than allowing and restricting access to certain areas, a master key system allows you to open multiple doors using a single key, while also allowing individual key systems to open individual doors only. This can be especially beneficial for apartment complexes and rental properties.

Read on to find out how a master key system works, the points to consider when implementing one, and the benefits they can have for homeowners:


A master key system refers to a group of locks and their corresponding keys that are related in a hierarchy, with the one key at the top fitting into several locks, and the several keys at the bottom fitting into a single lock.

There can be different levels to a master key system; two-level, three-level, or four-level, all of which have a highest-level key, bottom low-level keys, and other keys in the middle.

The fewer levels that a master key system has, the more secure it is said to be, and the number of levels you require depends on several factors such as the access levels, number of people, and the level of security on your property.

Regardless of the number of levels and the size of the system, careful planning is critical in the successful implementation of a master key system.

Master key systems, in simple words, are systems where keys have different levels of access. The homeowners or property managers control who has access to each room so that only authorised individuals can access them, and unauthorised individuals, even if they live on the property, are unable to.

In a residential setting, a master key system may have:

  • One key that opens every door on the property. (Master key)
  • One key that can open only the main door.
  • One key that can open the main door and certain rooms.
  • One key that can open only one room.


The most common levels within a master key system include:

Change key

A change key also called a user key, is another name for the regular keys that allow you to open a single lock, such as a single room in a home.

They are given to individuals who do not need high-level access and cannot open any other doors except for the ones they have the change keys for.

Master key

Without the use of a master key (MK), there is a single key for every lock. A master key is given to individuals who require high-level access and can open several doors using it.

It can open all access levels beneath it, such as the doors accessible via the change keys, but cannot open locks that keys on access levels above it can.

Grand master key

The grand master key (GMK) is a tier up from the master key in the master key access level. It has a higher level of access than master keys and can open all the doors that a maser key and change keys can.

GMKs are often used for large residential complexes, such as different buildings in the same area, and should be limited to just one or a couple of authorised and responsible individuals.

Great grand master key

The great grand master key (GGMK) is the highest-level access for a master key system that can open all the access levels beneath it. It allows access to the entire property, including all the doors, locations, and facilities.

Ideal for situations with multi-site properties, GGMKs should be given to only certain people within the system who require complete access as it will limit the number of individuals with high-level access and make your master key system as secure as can be.


There are several reasons why someone would want to install a master key system on their property. The foremost reason is, of course, increased security due to controlled and restricted access.

Convenience is another major factor, which you would understand if you’ve ever seen a maintenance worker with a heavy key ring hanging from their belt.

A properly designed and implemented master key system not only increase security but also reduces the number of keys required since one key allows you to open several doors.

Here are all the benefits of a master key system for homeowners:

  • Reduced number of keys: carrying just one or two keys in your pocket vs. carrying several for unlocking the different doors on your property, such as the front door, back door, garage, etc, is much more convenient and easier to manage.
  • Saved time: imagine having to leave the house in a hurry and being unable to find the right key in your set to lock up the house. We’ve all been there and know how frustrating it can be. Thankfully, switching to a master key system eliminates this issue and saves precious time in such situations.
  • Access to more than one door: for times when the usual entrance to your home is blocked or inaccessible for some reason, you can use the same master key to open another door without worrying about carrying a different key with you.
  • Better key management: allowing easier access to your home all the while maintaining tight control over it is probably the biggest benefit of a master key system since it allows you to strike the perfect balance between security and convenience.

While master key systems are highly effective and convenient, they must be implemented keeping the best practices in mind, or else you risk turning them into a potential security risk.

The worst-case scenario with a master key system would be to lose the master key or to have it stolen by someone with ill-intent.

Since a master key gives access to all the doors to the property, anyone in its possession has the power to access them, cause damage, remove and take any valuables, or even threaten the occupants without leaving any visible traces of forced entry.

Due to this, only very few trusted individuals must be given access to a master key and its location should only be disclosed to someone who the property owner or manager has complete confidence in.

That being said, there are several ways to maximise the security of your master key system, starting with designing one with no room for risks.


When implementing a successful master key system on your residential property, there are a few things you need to keep in mind to make sure the system is an effective and secure one:

Identify all the access points

The first step is to identify all the access points on the property that require keyed locks. Give careful consideration to the main access points and high-security areas.

Once that is done, a security hierarchy, which resembles an organisational chart, must be created that corresponds to the level of access permissions for each area throughout the property.

Assign access permissions and restrictions

Access permissions and restrictions are a huge part of master key systems since they determine which individual will be allowed to enter which area.

It corresponds to assessing who will possess which kind of key – change key or master key – based on their role in the hierarchy.


As convenient as master keys are, they require careful planning and management to prevent them from landing in the wrong hands.

In addition to designing a secure master key system, there are a few tips that need to be followed to avoid such risks:

Be selective

Rule number one of effective master key system management is to give the keys only to individuals who require access and those you fully trust.

This will make sure that the keys stay with the right people and the property remains safe from unauthorised access.

Although this is not a guaranteed way to ensure safety, it is definitely a good place to start.

Key tracking

Keys are given unique serial numbers before being assigned to individuals, allowing the people in charge to keep a record of the key’s access permissions and the person responsible for it.

A record must be maintained containing information about who the keys are issued to, the dates of issuance and return of the keys, and the person responsible for approving the access permissions.

A great and notable feature of some master key systems is that the keys can be tracked at all times for better control and management.

Most of the time, this is achieved through computer software that is secured from online threats and gives property owners the control to effectively and remotely secure their properties from absolutely anywhere in the world.

Key storage

Since keys are prone to getting lost and being stolen, they must be kept safe at all costs, especially master keys that can give access to an entire property to whoever possesses them.

These keys must be kept in a proper storage facility, such as a key storage cabinet, so that they are safe from unauthorised access.

Not only do these storage cabinets provide a secure space for the keys but also make it easy to organise them, locate them, and identify them in case they go missing.


If your master key is lost or stolen, it may be used by criminals to access multiple areas of your home. Therefore, in addition to safeguarding the keys using the above-mentioned tips, installing security systems such as burglar alarms and CCTV cameras can provide valuable peace of mind.

A burglar alarm can be installed on all the key areas of your property to make sure that all unauthorised attempts to break into your property alert you and the relevant authorities instantly.

These alarms come equipped with sensors, such as motion sensors and door and window sensors, that pick up on unusual activities and send an alert to the homeowners.

You may opt for a simple bells-only system or go for a high-security monitored burglar alarm system for added security.

Used with a master key system, these alarms make sure that you are alerted every time someone accesses the doors to your property.

Coupled with CCTV cameras that record the movement of all those accessing your property, these security systems pack quite a punch.

In addition to being alerted of an intrusion, you can also see who is trying to access your property. If it is an intruder, you may alert the authorities right away. You may also use the recorded CCTV footage to show the authorities to help them catch the perpetrator in case they get away.


While master key systems offer great advantages in the form of controlled access and better key management, many property owners are now moving to electronic access control systems that eliminate the need for physical keys along with the risk of them being lost or stolen.

Instead of relying on physical keys, you may opt for modern authorisation methods such as digital codes, proximity cards and fobs, and biometric identification.

Access control systems are increasingly replacing master key systems in both residential and commercial properties, allowing for smart control and the perfect balance between convenience and security.

Means of access to an access control system can be withdrawn at any time, i.e., codes and fobs can be deactivated, giving you total control over who uses them.

They can also be connected to security systems, such as burglar alarms, CCTV cameras, and fire alarms, and can easily be deactivated in the event of an alarm trigger or unlocked in the event of a fire alarm.

Two-factor authentication can be included in high-risk areas, where the users would be required to use two methods of authentication to gain access through a secured door.

In addition to that, access control systems enable tracking and recordkeeping for all access-related activities, allowing you to not only control who enters which area of the property, but also know when someone tried to gain unauthorised access.

In the event of a security incident, such as internal theft, the accurate records provided by the system help put together a timeline that allows you to trace who had access to the area where the incident occurred, along with precise timestamps.

Modern access control systems also allow remote access with full functionality via a smart device such as a smartphone, tablet, or laptop.

This entails that property owners don’t have to be present on-site to keep an eye on access control, and they can give or withdraw access from afar, lock or unlock the entire system, and track every movement back at the premises.


Calder Security has been in the security industry since 1976 and we are members of the Master Locksmith Association (MLA).

We provide all kinds of security solutions designed bespoke to your property’s requirements and are experts in both master key systems as well as electronic and keyless access control systems.

Our expert team of SSAIB approved installers can help you assess your security needs and offer the right master key system or different types of access control systems including intercom, proximity fob, card swipe, keypad, and biometric systems that work with fingerprints or retina scans.

We are experienced with creating sophisticated access control systems for residential properties, large scale commercial enterprises, as well as smaller businesses.

We offer expert key cutting services from our Lock and Safe Shop in Wakefield where you can get your keys cut while you wait. We can cut virtually any key to a high degree of accuracy without having to send them away to be cut using our state-of-the-art digital equipment and key cutting machinery.

We can also work on a wide range of locking mechanisms, are specialists in wooden, UPVC, and aluminium doors, and the official suppliers for leading lock brands including Chubb, Yale, Securikey, and Garrison.

Contact us here or call us on 0800 612 9799 to talk to our professional locksmiths right away!

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