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How to Pick a Lock

How to choose one, that is: An overview of residential locks

Photo by Ellen Silverman
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Modern lock technology has been around for a while: since 1861, in fact, when Linus Yale Jr. patented the now-familiar flat key with a serrated edge that is cut to conform to a set of pins in a cylinder. But like everything else around the home, that basic lock has given rise to a dizzying array of choices. Today's manufacturers use powder coating and physical vapor deposition, or PVD, to create dozens of permanent finishes, from satin and antique nickel to hand-rubbed bronze. Traditional brass has been joined by zinc and space-age metals like titanium to make components that are light yet strong. Maximum-security features and high-tech electronics once seen only on commercial locks are now available to homeowners. And all those options come in a nearly limitless range of styles. Here we provide the rundown of lock types and features.

Modern lock technology has been around for a while: since 1861, in fact, when Linus Yale Jr. patented the now-familiar flat key with a serrated edge that is cut to conform to a set of pins in a cylinder. But like everything else around the home, that basic lock has given rise to a dizzying array of choices. Today's manufacturers use powder coating and physical vapor deposition, or PVD, to create dozens of permanent finishes, from satin and antique nickel to hand-rubbed bronze. Traditional brass has been joined by zinc and space-age metals like titanium to make components that are light yet strong. Maximum-security features and high-tech electronics once seen only on commercial locks are now available to homeowners. And all those options come in a nearly limitless range of styles. Here we provide the rundown of lock types and features.

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Basic Locksets

 

Basic Locksets

Key-in-Knob lockset: Schlage, Artisan series,
Photo by Ellen Silverman
Key-in-Knob
The most basic lockset operates with a key on the outside knob or lever and a thumbturn or button on the inside. Technically, it's called a tubular lockset, after the 1-inch-diameter "tube" that houses the spring-loaded latching mechanism (inset). Mass-market tubular locks are generally made of stamped brass; higher-end locks will be made from heavier, forged brass with a more solid feel and a harder-wearing finish.
Shown: Schlage, Artisan series, $79
How Secure Is It?
A lock's security is denoted by its American National Standards Institute (ANSI) grade, with Grade 1 the most secure and Grade 3 the least. A builder-quality tubular lock will likely be a Grade 3, a good-quality handleset a Grade 2. Only the most secure deadbolts earn a Grade 1 rating, by incorporating such features as antipick pins, extra-long bolts in extra-tough alloys, and reinforced strike plates with long screws to secure them to house framing. When choosing a lock, get the most security you can afford. Manufacturers don't always list lockset grade, so you may have to ask. Be skeptical of a lock that boasts Grade 1 "features" — just because it has one or two high-security features doesn't mean it has earned the ANSI grade.

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Locksets With Special Features

 

Locksets With Special Features

Stand-alone Deadbolt: Medeco captive thumbturn double-cylinder deadbolt
Photo by Ellen Silverman
Stand-alone Deadbolt
A keyed knob by itself doesn't offer much in the way of security. So it's usually paired with a deadbolt. One-cylinder deadbolts unlock with a key on the outside and a thumbturn on the inside. Double-cylinder deadbolts are keyed on both sides. While that provides extra security on doors with glass or sidelights — an intruder can't smash the glass and open the door — it slows escape during a fire. One solution, required in some places by code, is a double-cylinder deadbolt with a "captive" feature, which prevents the interior key from being removed when the door is locked from the inside.
Shown: Medeco captive thumbturn double-cylinder deadbolt, $245
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Mortise Locks

 

Mortise Locks

Entry Handleset: Baldwin, Logan series in Venetian bronze; inset: Kwikset, Gibson in satin nickel
Photo by Ellen Silverman
Entry Handleset
An entry handleset combines a tubular lockset and deadbolt in one matching set. Instead of a round knob, a thumblatch retracts the lower spring-loaded mechanism. On most handlesets, only the deadbolt is keyed. Some manufacturers offer
the option of a keyed thumblatch, which provides a way of securing the door in addition to the deadbolt.
Shown: Baldwin, Logan series in Venetian bronze, $305; inset: Kwikset, Gibson in satin nickel, $160
Mortise locks, which predate today's tubular models, have a spring-loaded latching mechanism and deadbolt in a single rectangular housing. The lock gets recessed, or "mortised," into the edge of the door. It is the strongest of residential locksets and an expensive piece of precision hardware that takes a pro to install correctly. Door hardware for mortise locks comes in just about any style. Expect to pay from $350 to $700 or more per lock, before installation.



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A New Look for Keys

 

A New Look for Keys

Electronic Deadbolt: Weiser Powerbolt 1000
Photo by Ellen Silverman
Electronic Deadbolt
A four-digit access code is all it takes to unlock this electronic deadbolt. You can change the codes as often as necessary and even give temporary ones to painters, baby-sitters, and house cleaners. It runs on four AA batteries — no small feat considering that it takes a bit of torque to turn a deadbolt. A warning light an-nounces when the batteries are getting low, but if you don't change them in time, you can still unlock it the old-fashioned way: with a key.
Shown: Weiser Powerbolt 1000, $99
One day, technologies like fingerprint readers, iris scanners, and voice-recognition systems may make keys obsolete. (Just look at what's happened to cars. Not long ago, everyone had a car key; now most cars unlock with an electronic fob.) Until that day arrives, manufacturers continue to introduce new keying systems, designed for maximum security and convenience.





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Where to Find It

 

Where to Find It

Introduction:
Lockset with Georgia Knob and Flair lever in #609 Antique Brass
Schlage Lock Company
Olathe, KS
www.schlagelock.com

Basic Locksets —
Key in knob:
Sienna in Artisan Series brushed knickel
Schlage Lock Company

Stand-alone deadbolts:
BX122, double-cylinder captive deadbolt
Medeco
Salem, VA
800-839-3157
www.medeco.com

Entry handleset
Logan 5315.122ENTR
Baldwin Hardware Corp.
Reading, PA
800-566-1986 www.baldwinhardware.com

Keyed thumblatch:
553 GNXSY Single-cylinder Keyed Handleset
Kwikset Corp.
Lake Forest, CA
800-327-5625
www.kwikset.com

Electronic deadbolt:
Powerbolt 1000
Weiser Lock
Lake Forest, CA
800-677-5625
www.weiserlock.com

Interconnected entry set:
Normandy
Monolithic Style entry set with Harrisburg lever inside
Emtek Products, Inc.
City of Industry, CA
www.emtek.com

Mortise lock:
Baldwin Hardware Corp.

Copyproof keys:
Mul-T-Lock USA, Inc.
Lodi, NJ
800-562-3511
www.multilockusa.com

Smart keys:
The E-Bolt Key Management System
Schlage Lock Company
 
 

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