door with handle lock
Photo Andrew Kline
Are you still relying on the lock that was on the front door when you moved into your house? The lock seems like an old, dear friend, but it may not be. Nearly 3 million U.S. homes are broken into every year. Although not all break-ins are preventable, exterior locks and dead bolts are your most important line of defense. Today's locks offer much greater protection. But picking the right lockset can be very confusing. We've done the initial research on three major types of exterior locks on the market—keyed-entry doorknobs, handle sets and dead bolts—to sort out features and costs. In case all you need is a way to keep the kids out of your room at nap time or a new door handle for the closet, we also tell you how to judge the offerings in privacy and passage locksets. The Key to Security
The obvious purpose of any lock is to keep unwanted people out, but the kind of lock you buy depends on where it's going in the house and your budget. Exterior doors. To be truly secure, any exterior door needs a dead bolt. You have a choice of separates—a deadbolt and a lockset mounted separately—or a handle set that incorporates both features. Prices vary from $25 to over $300, reflecting a wide range of quality and style. Higher-end units typically feature solid, forged-brass components and a Grade 2 or even a Grade 1 (commercial duty) security rating. An antitheft option you should look for on locksets or handle sets is a dead-locking latch bolt; it prevents burglars from jimmying the latch with a credit card. On dead bolts, look for hardened pins that can withstand sawing. And because a latch or bolt is only as strong as the strike plate it engages, make sure the lock you're considering comes with a heavy-duty plate and 3-in. screws. A handle set that allows you to open both the dead bolt and latch from inside with a single motion is convenient and could be a lifesaver in an emergency. Another terrific convenience is universal keying, which allows you to carry one house key despite having installed locks on other doors from different makers. As for esthetics, look for dual-torque springs that prevent knobs from sagging and a no-tarnish lifetime finish. Interior doors. Interior door locks only prevent nuisance entry—they won't keep bad guys at bay. Grade 3 security is sufficient. But you might want a model with a latch kickoff that keeps the door from accidentally locking behind you. Also be sure there's an emergency release (look for a small hole in the center of the handle) that lets you open the door from outside with a paper clip in an emergency. As with exterior locks, look for dual-torque springs to keep knobs from sagging and a no-tarnish lifetime finish. Interior locks cost considerably less than exterior locks. Most go for $8 to $16, though high-end forged, solid- brass locks can cost 10 times that.
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