How To Break Down A Door

by Brett & Kate McKay on April 8, 2008 · 63 comments

in Manly Skills

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Alright, let’s get this out of the way first: kicking down a door is not the best option for opening a locked door. It will damage the door and cost you lots of money to fix it. It is better to call a locksmith, pick the lock, or attempt to crawl in a window.

But let’s say it’s an emergency. You’re in a burning house and you need to escape and the door is on fire. Or your loved ones are in a burning house and you’re locked out. You can’t stand there fiddling with the lock, you’ve got to break it down! Or perhaps a loved one is stricken with a medical emergency and is locked inside a room or in their house. What to do? Be a man, dammit! Break down that door! You know you’ve always wanted to.

How to break down a door

If you have watched enough movies, your next move is a no brainer….run at the door shoulder first, right? Wrong. This technique may be uber-manly, but it will probably dislocate your shoulder. It is better to employ a more forceful and well placed kick.

Check to see which way the door opens by checking the hinges. If the door opens towards you, kicking it down is going to be next to impossible. Kicking a door down is best employed on a door that swings away from you.

Kick to the side of where the lock is mounted (near the keyhole). This is typically the weakest part of the door.

Using a front kick, drive the heel of your foot into the door. Give the kick forward momentum and keep your balance by driving the heel of your standing foot into the ground. Don’t kick the lock itself; this could break your foot.

The wood should begin to splinter. Today most doors are made of soft wood and are hollow. They should give way fairly easily, especially since the lock’s deadlock bolt extends only an inch or less into the door frame. Older, completely solid doors will prove more resistant. Just keep on kicking until the door gives way and you can save the day.

Avoid jump kicks. While you may be tempted to employ this manly move, jumping diminishes your stability which causes you to lose power.

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{ 63 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Julian Gall April 8, 2008 at 10:40 pm

I think you should tell us whether you’ve ever tried this. I locked myself out of my apartment many years ago and attempted to break the door in. Zero success – fortunately no one was looking.

It isn’t as easy as it seems in the movies. Have you actually done it or have you just made this up?

2 Stian April 9, 2008 at 1:46 am

Great, now I wish I had a door that I could afford kicking down :p

3 Chris April 9, 2008 at 3:28 am

Only interior doors are soft and hollow. Besides interior doors with locks are easity opened with a screwdriver.

Most exterior doors are thicker and reinforced for strength. I don’t think one kick is going to do it. 10-20 maybe.

Chris

4 Alessandro April 9, 2008 at 5:12 am

How about a follow-up post on how to pick a lock? You know, for those occasions when Bruce Lee tactics don’t work or aren’t appropriate, maybe some James Bond will do?

5 Art Gonzalez April 9, 2008 at 7:16 am

An additional tip is to imagine the impact of your kick being around 30 or 40 centimeters further away. This is a tip from Bruce Lee also for punching.

Many blessings to all,

Art Gonzalez
Check my Squidoo Lens at: Quantum Knights

6 Matt April 9, 2008 at 7:42 am

This might be effective when applied to the right situation. It is a heel kick that is part of the Pankration martial arts. The url links to a video from Discovery’s The Human Weapon. Completely safe for work.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aPvJHIyFTII

7 Terry April 9, 2008 at 11:26 am

In my line of work I have kicked a lot of doors. The best way I have found is a mule kick. With your back facing the door, you kick backwards and aim about six inches to the side of the handle and lock. 90% of the time, the jamb will split in 1 or 2 kicks. Using this method lessens the chances of hyper-extending your knee.

8 knytfyre April 9, 2008 at 12:03 pm

When using a front kick, most people have the problem that they choose the door as thier target and only kick the surface, this will do nothing but make you look foolish. As with a well places punch, your target isn’t the surface of what you are trying to hit, but actually 3-4 inches behind it. In the case of a punch to the face, your target isn’t the face it’s self, but the back of the skull, the face is just in the way. With the door you want to try to kick THROUGH the door, not just the doors surface. This is why the mule kick listed above works so well, being turned away from your target, you don’t stop the kick on the surface, but behind the surface. However a front kick is more accurate and capable of generating more force. Another piece of information to take to heart is, kick solid objects, like doors, with your heel. If you land this kick closer to the toe, you can easily hyper extend your foot and be in a lot of pain. Since the heel is in line with the leg, the leg is able to absorb more of the shock without causing the foot to flex. Using this kick, I can splinter a door jam on a solid door with 3 or fewer kicks.

9 Shannon C April 9, 2008 at 12:16 pm

My exterior door most definitely would succumb to a well-placed kick. My 3 year old daughter loves to launch her whole body at it and try and break it down… The sad thing is if she could just launch her body a little higher she’d probably successfully break it open, too.

Now what I really want (need) to know is how to cut through a bicycle lock. One of those uber-strong theft-proof spiral cord locks. Our bicycle has been locked on our balcony since last summer thanks to a very, very, very lost key.

10 Shaze April 9, 2008 at 12:26 pm

Just carry around a bump key. They’re cheap and accessible from almost any locksmith, and best part is it takes about a minute to bust through any lock/deadbolt.

11 Jim April 9, 2008 at 3:54 pm

“This is typically the weakest part of the door.”

It’s not. The weakest part is actually the top (and bottom) corner opposite the hinges. The door lock is the strongest part on that side, but it is the only area on that side with solid but breakable resistance.

If you put the pressure on the top or bottom corner, the force will push the door back but will also distribute through the surface of the door. Kick near the lock and the force is put where you want it: with the resistance from the lock (the door will not “give” and distribute the force into the rest of the door).

12 Dave April 9, 2008 at 5:04 pm

I have broken down a door. It was locked and the only way in was breaking it down.

Two things… I kicked on the side with the hinges and it caved with my first kick. I found that screws tear out of the wood rather easily.

Second, it cost less than a dollar to fix.

Other than that, this article seems to echo my own experience quite accurately.

13 Albert | UrbanMonk.Net April 9, 2008 at 6:23 pm

I loved this post – both for the practical value and also because I couldn’t imagine another blog posting stuff like this, gave me a good chuckle. Thumbs up!

14 Brett April 9, 2008 at 8:55 pm

@ Albert Thanks! That’s what we’re here for-discussing important, yet often overlooked man skills.

@Everyone else Thanks for the comments, contributions, and sharing your experiences kicking down doors. I’ve learned some new things.

15 cory huff April 9, 2008 at 9:48 pm

makes me wonder if Chuck Norris wouldn’t have written the same thing on his blog…

16 Ed April 10, 2008 at 8:56 am

Good post and interesting responses. I tried to kick open a door of a house that was on fire as a teen, but couldn’t do it. A neighbor came by and broke the door down shortly afterwards. Good skill to have.

17 Jeff April 10, 2008 at 12:19 pm

I’ve kicked down two doors in my life. The first went on the first kick. The door didnt even break, it just swung open and the only damage was to the lock itself. The pin (im not sure if thats what its called but its the bar that stops the door from opening) flew out into the room. The second time it took 3 kicks. The area around the lock was completely destroyed but the door flew open.

18 Jason April 10, 2008 at 2:38 pm

My 2 year old daughter locked herself into a public bathroom–steel door, steel frame. Her mother went to find an attendant with a key and everything was cool until my daughter stopped answering me. I used the shoulder ram technique and while the door opened, it hurt like hell the next few days.

19 Mark Million April 10, 2008 at 6:48 pm

Freaking common sense tips secondary to basic physics. Ridiculous post.

20 Some guy April 10, 2008 at 7:01 pm

Last Friday night I locked myself out of my apt and couldn’t get a hold of my roommate. I did everything I could to reach him but no luck. So since I was drunk I decided I would just try to break it down. I used the shoulder ram technique and 3 hits and 15 seconds later the door swung open and I was in. No bruises or pain of any kind the next day (it obviously didn’t hurt at the time either because I was drunk, I can’t say how much it would’ve hurt if I was sober though). Unfortunately I did a crappy job of putting the lock back in and had to have my landlord fix it for me the next day so I could get OUT of my apt. In the end though the door had to be replaced (I get to pay for it), but the locks were intact and are now being used on the new door.

21 GUNNY HARTMAN April 16, 2008 at 11:27 am

Jason, I assume your daughter was okay?

Well, I hope to not have to use this skill, but now I’ve got it just in case.

Danke!

22 Gdub April 16, 2008 at 8:42 pm

Man I shouldn’t have read this right before bed…now I am going to dream of kicking down doors, and wake up tomorrow looking for the chance to do it.

23 Shan from NY April 18, 2008 at 5:36 am

I’ve broken down 2 doors in my life. Very invigorating hehe.

1st was an old solid wooden bathroom door. Father-in-law tried to break it open in vain. So I gave it a shot, and front-kicked the area next to the lock. The door knob lock deformed & shot out of the door. Apt management replaced the door =D.

2nd was a steel door at the gym. The lock stuck, trapping me in the locker room. I wasn’t waiting around (alone in the gym on a snowy evening), so I also front-kicked the area next to the lock and blasted it open on first try. The steel door, lock, and door frame were all twisted. If you weight-train, make sure to do your squats!

24 LightningCrash April 22, 2008 at 10:38 am

I had to break down about 30 doors when I was working in New Orleans (for various reasons), and none of them were easy. You wouldn’t have any success kicking through the ones that I dealt with.

25 Ryan April 22, 2008 at 5:50 pm

I kicked in a dozen or so doors in my house in New Orleans after Katrina. If you do it right, its easy. Some of the real solid doors were tough, especially when they soaked up water and expanded. Use an axe for those.

26 Ogre April 23, 2008 at 7:27 pm

Took my house door down with my shoulder… but I guess that’s easier when you’re a 350lb biker. Liked it better using the battering ram we had in the MP corps though… much more fun.

27 Charlie May 1, 2008 at 9:28 am

I’ve never kicked one down but I’ve seen one kicked down. A gal locked herself in the bathroom at the restaurant where I worked several years ago and one of the chefs, a beefy ex-soldier, kicked that sucker in just as described above with one kick.

28 Logan May 2, 2008 at 6:01 am

I had opportunity to witness 2 soccer players unsuccessfully kick in their apartment door (made me smile as I’m not a jock). I asked to try. Front kick nor mule kick worked, but my shoulder sent the whole door, hinges and all flying. FYI, the door was aluminum with a wooden frame. *grunts* It was fun. Thanks for reminding me of a good memory.

29 David May 7, 2008 at 4:40 pm

I have a door security product on all my doors and no one will be able to kick in my door! Not even Bruce Lee! (R.I.P.)

It’s from a website called http://www.invasionproof.com

30 James August 22, 2008 at 11:43 am

I have kicked in many doors in my fraternity house due to drunken debauchery. Due to the old age of the house, and 25 years of fraternity occupation, the doors all have come down with ease. Our biggest problem is keeping doors on their hinges. However, the most manly way I have ever gotten around a door was to take a shovel and dig through the wall next to the door and then reach around to unlock it. I am obviously better at fixing drywall than door frames.

My roommate found me on the couch the next morning sleeping with the shovel

31 Stormy Girl September 19, 2008 at 4:31 am

Mule Kicks work well.

32 Willy October 27, 2008 at 10:18 pm

It only took me 3 kicks to brwak down the door to my house

33 Paul November 20, 2008 at 10:42 pm

Great article! I’ve got the Ultimate Lock protecting my door. It distributes the force of a kick throughout the door frame so you can’t kick it in. They’ve got a SWAT team officer using a battering ram trying to open the door on their website. It’s pretty impressive. Check it out –> http://www.theultimatelock.com

34 Firehunter December 24, 2008 at 1:21 pm

In some fires, the door can be pinched even more securely into the frame and be harder to kick in. A few years ago, a place behind me was burning down, a baby was in it, so a neighbor and myself went to kick the door in, we did do it correctly, however metal doors are very difficult against metal frames, what actually worked was I kicked the frame the bolts of the door went into, and that gave way on the second kick!,, however,, , yeah I did break my foot, however the important thing was to get someone Into that buiding and save a life! So we kept kicking 2 more times till the door just suddenly burst open! Happy holidays, and be safe!:>

35 Chris January 9, 2009 at 8:07 pm

Right well you described the technique correctly, but you missed a couple details.

Firstly, you have to be confident that you can and will break the door down. Without that confidence most will not apply all of the force that they can, and you must be absolutely comitted to breaking it in, so it’s best to only do it in extreme emergencies when the cost of fixing it is the last thing on your mind.

Secondly, be aware that kicking in a door can be extremely damaging to your knees and body if you fail or do it incorrectly. You MUST kick in the door so that the impact goes into the door and not your leg itself. Do NOT try to kick at it repeatedly (unless you are making visible progress) as this will only hurt you.

Furthermore, as you kick the door there are two key things that can change the outcome drastically. 1: force your whole body into the kick while pushing on the grounded foot. You will be tempted to lean backwards as you kick, which in some cases is the proper thing to do, but here, you want to keep your torso vertical to ensure that you put as much force as possible on the door. 2: Martial artists scream when they punch or kick for a reason. It lets out all the air in your lungs, and thus tightens your core muscles, which prevents injury.

Also, unlike the image attached, you want to kick directly under the handle/lock. If you kick in the middle you are likely to put a hole through the door and get your leg stuck or just break your knee. (I’m sure doors in Iraq are much weaker than ours which is why he is not worried about it)

It must also be noted that actually kicking a door down, as in off the hinges, is next to impossible. Only kick doors that swing away from you, as the goal is not to break the door down but to break the deadbolt housing in the frame or the deadbolt itself. If it opens toward you, best bet is a crowbar.

And he is right about not using your shoulder. No matter how many can claim to have done it without injury it is EXTREMELY dangerous and should NEVER be practiced in such a manner. The shoulder is a soft object and usually it will give before the door does. Kicking is undoubtedly the proper technique.

And lastly, front kicking is not the only method. Side kicking is actually better for some and even back kicking can be effective, by putting your back to the door and kicking behind you under the knob you ensure that your heel hits the door. It is less likely to injure your leg.

36 E. K. February 16, 2009 at 9:21 pm

If the door opens toward you, the easiest thing might be to take out the hinges. This would display your manly ingenuity. :-)

37 lord_galathon March 4, 2009 at 4:21 am

My front door is steel mounted on a steel frame. Kicking it = fail. But I’ve devised a simple plan; I call the locksmith when I lock myself out.

It only happened once but 50$ to unlock sure beats 6 weeks with a cast on my foot!!

38 Debra Martindale May 22, 2009 at 8:52 am

Do you mind if I use this picture of the soldier kicking down a door on the back of a book cover “Eliminating War”

39 Nate August 6, 2009 at 3:08 pm

From experience, a keg shell used as a battering ram works very well, should you have one laying around.

40 Manly Joe from Chicago September 1, 2009 at 12:00 pm

Alternative: standing a few inches from the door and with your back to it, flex your whole body bellyward then slam your upper pelvis/lower back FLAT against the door. (FLAT or else you’ll bruise yourself.) This worked for a door where a tenant painted the door frame and essentially glued it shut.

41 inigo montoya September 5, 2009 at 1:44 am

why don’t you just bust through the wall and yell “Oh Yeah!”

42 Manly Joe from Chicago September 6, 2009 at 8:52 pm

…or, if you are truly manly, you can do it with one finger. Depending on the type of door and its construction, there is a “sweet spot” usually midway up, off to one side, typically on the exterior wall or on the door jamb itself. Press firmly with your index finger, wait a few seconds, and the door will open on its own.

Depending on the neighborhood, this “spot” can also be found on the steering wheel of your neighbor’s buddy’s automobile, especially in the morning.

43 Mel September 13, 2009 at 4:34 am

awsome post…if ever there was an act that was all man…kicking down doors is definitely one of them. My little input from experience…shoes w/ankle support helps out w/the blast of your foot to the door regardless of what technique you use(don’t try it w/slippers on, bad form)…two feet is better than one- that means if one of you is having problems maybe your teammate side by side hitting the same point at the same time may dominate the situation.

44 T October 23, 2009 at 2:06 pm

If you can see the door hinges (“Check to see which way the door opens by checking the hinges. If the door opens towards you, kicking it down is going to be next to impossible.”), hold your kicks and just remove the hinge pins with a screwdriver….

45 C December 16, 2009 at 6:36 pm

If it is an interior door with a normal lock with the button that you depress and a hole on the other side it takes just a few seconds to pick the lock with anything long and slim.

46 E December 21, 2009 at 4:35 pm

Had to do this once, and it worked EXACTLY as described. Great post, great site. Keep up the good work!

47 mattie February 9, 2010 at 11:44 am

Excellent post, gentlemen.

I have spent lots of time in the Army kicking down doors, and this is exactly the advice I would give someone. I might add, as have others, that some doors will require multiple kicks, so don’t get discouraged if the door doesn’t explode into splinters on your first try.

48 esau March 22, 2010 at 9:52 pm

What font is that wood type looking one you are using in the title? It is cool.

49 Rory September 22, 2012 at 11:01 am

Front kick works well, but a skipping side-kick absolutely destroys. Juts make sure you have enough room to skip and extend, otherwise you’ll lose power.

50 g October 20, 2012 at 1:05 pm

flat obstruction fallen on floor stopping door opening from other side, outside room. not an emergency. very thin gap under door; may use a steel rule to slide under door. could cut through with jig saw. any ideas ?

51 A. Nonny Mouse December 10, 2012 at 8:14 pm

Most of the time you can not take out the screws of the hinges. (When it opens towards you.) However, if the door opens towards you and you have time (should take less then 5 minutes(mabby like 2 )) look at the doorknob and see if it has any screws. You might be able to just disassemble the knob. (and yes this can be done without opening the door.) To disassemble it you will need a screw driver like one on a Leatherman or Swiss army knife. I don’t know exactly what you mean by the screws on the hinges. (are they the screws holding the hing to the door/frame?) I do know, however, that (most) doors have bolts holding the 2 parts of the hing together and that they will stick out on the opining side. These bolts should be fairly easy to remove but I have never had need to try. (a good thing)

52 Brian December 20, 2012 at 9:27 pm

Ex-cop here. Kicked in more than a few doors. There’s a reason we used a “breaching tool” or battering ram. It is not easy to kick in an exterior door. Interior, usually, but as someone else noted, you can usually open an interior door with a screwdriver. Or a coat hanger. Much easier than kicking in a door.

53 Mike December 30, 2012 at 10:30 pm

We use the donkey kick in the Fire service. You put your back to the door and kick backwards. Lots of force and more stability.

54 Carter February 9, 2013 at 1:08 am

I’m a 2nd degree black belt in Taekwondo and a Firefighter for 20 years. I have to say that many kicks can work on some doors but if a door is “kickable” as in not steel reinforced or burglar barred…etc. and if you are wearing a fireman’s bunker pants then the mule kick is the only way to go. for every door that flys open there is one that will humble you, even when you know what you’re doing! And be careful, there could be fire or pitbulls behind that door, or some guy with a gun. (true stories)

55 Chuck March 20, 2013 at 8:26 am

Kicked down a few doors in my career ( fire) the Donkey Kick, ie facing away from the door is most effective…
@Carter, You Sir are CORRECT!

56 Wackyfunster March 20, 2013 at 1:21 pm

I think the donkey kick works best.Where you turn your back toward the door and reverse kick, I have used it more than once.

57 Pete March 20, 2013 at 10:55 pm

Donkey kick works.

Worst experience I ever had was trying to get into an older house trailer. Four of us kept kicking and kicking to get in. The entire side of the trailer was so flexible the wall gave 4-5 inches with every kick.

I believe we eventually gained entrance by shoving a cop through the door by his shoulder. That finally bent the metal covered door over the latched deadbolt and sprung the frame enough for the dead bolt to release.

In other words, nothing is for sure.

58 Bill March 22, 2013 at 6:15 pm

Donkey kicks work. Sledgehammer works better, and faster. Or, what we used to use in the Army, a master key-a small, 3 shot shotgun, with powdered lead slugs. Bungee corded to the front of us. Blow the hinges. Door comes right off :)

59 Jenn in Tenn April 11, 2013 at 11:27 pm

Our security guard accidentally locked me in our office. I broke down an interior door with three kicks. I aimed for below the knob and kicked with my heel. I was wearing flat boots. The first kick cause the top half of the door to bend outward. Then the strike plate popped out of the door jamb and shot across the hallway. And I was out! The door wasn’t that damaged…just some scuff marks around the door knob. It had to be rehung, since it was dragging on the carpet. But now it won’t lock, which is good, because that door is not supposed to be locked.

I’m a girl. Can I have my manliness card now?

I honestly think any able-bodied adult could do it, but not very many people would want to, which is a shame, because it was very satisfying!

60 Spence June 10, 2013 at 10:10 pm

The mule kick described earlier is the most effective and safest method for kicking a door with your leg.
Personally and professionally, I prefer Sledges, Hallies, Quickee Saws, Chainsaws, Broco cutting torches, Shotguns, and High Explosives.
Body breaches are for amateurs.

61 Dave Rich June 25, 2013 at 12:24 pm

My cousin had to break his own door down once. Cops arrived. Wasn’t funny. Well, it was but not for him.

62 Ferg July 12, 2013 at 11:02 am

Terry (#7) and Spence (#60) are correct. The mule kick is THE kick for an hasty breach on most residential doors. I use it a lot on patrol during welfare checks and domestics and it saves the knee

63 Jet November 20, 2013 at 7:48 am

Nothing says “Everybody do what I say” quite like kicking a door off the hinges. I think that’s the way The President of the United States should enter every room. Press conferences, UN assembly, Congressional sessions…

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