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Guide to Door Locks and Bolts

Guide to Door Locks and Bolts


Selecting the right door hardware can be a daunting task for anyone – there are so many different types out there, from knob sets and levers to mortise locks, deadbolt sets and latches. So how do you figure out which one you need? The best place to start is to learn about what features they have and what makes each type of door lock different. From there, it’s as simple as selecting the one that best meets your needs in terms of function, appearance and security.

What are the Options?

Privacy Sets Example

Privacy Sets: These are a cylindrical lock set that is used on interior doors. They usually fit into a pre-drilled door and can be locked with a simple button or push-and-turn lock. These are easily unlocked by inserting a key into the knob itself. The bolts on these lock sets do not usually extend more than a half-inch into the door frame, and are thus, not the securest of options. However, they remain a popular option because they are both inexpensive and simple to install. They can be coupled with deadbolts or latches in order to add an extra element of security.

Keyed Entry Sets Example

Keyed Entry Sets: These knob or lever latch-sets incorporate both a convenient handle and a matching deadbolt for a complete front door handle. Many keyed entry sets are mounted on the same backplate to provide a clean unified appearance on the front door.

Deadbolts Example

Deadbolts: A deadbolt is a fundamental piece of door hardware if you are looking to add security to a door. It has a flat-ended bolt that extends a minimum of one inch into the door frame. A good deadbolt will have a low side profile, which helps prevent tampering. The most popular style is a single cylinder deadbolt, with a thumb turn latch on the inside.

Double Cylinder DeadboltsExample

Double Cylinder Deadbolts: A double cylinder deadbolt has the same functionality as a traditional deadbolt, but it is key operated on both sides of the door. These can add an extra level of security since there is no inside thumb-turn and a key is always required to open the lock. Usually these are used for entry doors that incorporate glass or ones situated with windows on either side. However, it should be noted that double cylinder deadbolts are restricted by fire code in most jurisdictions.

Mortise Lock Example

Mortise Lock Sets: Mortise locks are a type of deadbolt that contains all of the locking mechanisms in a fully enclosed casing. This type of lock is more secure than a traditional deadbolt, both because of its structure, and because it’s installation style requires it to be encased in a drilled pocket in the door itself. However, due to the less common installation method, a mortise lock is best installed by a professional locksmith.

Other door knob types include passage knobs, which are functional door knobs that do not include locks, and dummy hardware, which is just for appearance and doesn’t feature any latching mechanism at all. Passage knobs are typically used on internal doors, while dummy knobs and handles are often found on French doors to provide a balanced appearance.


Door Measurements Image

Before deciding on a specific door lock, it’s important to make sure that every part of it will fit where you would like to place it.

Backset - The backset is the distance between the edge of the door and the center of the hole for the door knob. If your door features a pre-drilled hole or has existing hardware, you will need to measure this to ensure that the new hardware you select won’t protrude past the edge of the door. For reference, standard residential doors usually have either a 2-3/8" or 2-3/4" backset.

Center-to-Center - For door hardware, center-to-center usually refers to the distance between the center of the deadbolt and the center of the knob/lever. This distance is critical for latch-sets with an auxiliary deadbolt because crowding could cause problems with installation and function.

Stile Width - On a door that features a panel design, the stiles are the vertical outer frame parts of the door front. The width of the stile is important because it determines the maximum width of a door knob that can be properly mounted on your door.

Backplate - The backplate is the metal backing that goes between the handle and the door. Not every handle features a backplate, but if the one you’re considering does, it’s important to compare the measurements and ensure that it will fit on the stile.

Pre-drilled Doors - The majority of doors sold at retail outlets have 2-1/8" cutouts to facilitate door hardware installation. If you have a pre-drilled door knob hole or existing door hardware, you need to measure the diameter of them (and distances between holes, in some cases) and make sure the door hardware trim covers the openings. Some door hardware sets are made especially for pre-drilled doors, while others are made for custom installation.

Door Thickness - Residential interior doors are usually 1-3/8" thick, while residential exterior doors are usually 1-3/4" thick. If your doors are outside those measurements, be sure to pay special attention to these measurements when shopping for door hardware. Note that for some door thicknesses, there are conversion parts available to make different sized handles fit.

Door Handedness – While not strictly a “measurement,” door handedness is an important thing to note before choosing a lock or handle. This term refers to which side of the door has hinges when viewed from the outside. Most residential doors are left-handed and swing inwards, but closet doors and storm doors swing outwards (which is called reverse left-handed). You need to specify door handedness when buying non-reversible door hardware such as heavy-duty mortise locks and sets where a thumb-grip handle is used on the outside and a lever on the interior.

Other Locking Hardware

Keyless Entry Set Example

Screen and Storm Door Hardware - Usually, screen and storm door hardware is included with the purchase of the door. However, if yours has taken a bit of wear and tear, you would like higher quality hardware, or you would like something that looks a little better, there are plenty to choose from. Screen door hardware usually functions in a simple manner, and will almost never be any more complicated to install than a passage set on a normal door would be.

Keyless Entry Sets - Keyless entry sets are commonly used in rental and commercial applications, and are becoming more prevalent in the residential arena. Keyless options vary a lot depending on the brand, style, and price range you are looking at. Some are more complicated to install than others, but regardless, most of them offer fairly detailed instructions and spec sheets, which should make selecting the proper lock a bit easier. Keyless entry sets are convenient and secure, and work great for large families, shared houses, or those who tend to lose their keys often. Keyless entry codes are great for allowing people you trust in while you're not at home, and the code can be changed often to keep your home secure.

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