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Types of Door Locks and Their Security Level

1/31/17
Revised: 1/18/22
Grainger Editorial Staff

Despite a decade-long decrease, the number of burglaries committed in the United States still topped 900,000 in 2020 according to the FBI. Door locks can play a key role in continuing this trend by deterring would-be trespassers, while also helping maintain privacy.

But there is a wide variety of locks on the market. Understanding the key differences among them is essential to choosing the ideal one for your facility. Explore our guide to learn about seven different common door locks, how they work and when to use them.

What Are the Different Types of Door Locks?

1. Knob Locks

Knob locks are the most common type of door lock available and the chief security method for most doors. The lock cylinder is located in the knob itself instead of the door. Thus, knob locks should not be used on external doors, as they can be easily broken into with basic tools like a hammer or wrench.   

2. Cam Locks

Cam locks consist of a fastener with an attached arm, or cam, that rotates to lock. They are cylindrical and have a metal tube with a hole in one side that helps position the bolt when it is inserted.

These door locks are typically used in vending machines, file cabinets, desks or display cases to prevent unauthorized access. In fully constructed cabinets, they are invisible for the most part. Certain cam locks secure cabinet doors completely, making them attractive for safeguarding sensitive materials.

3. Deadbolt Locks

Deadbolts offer even stronger protection against burglary or break-in. They have lock bolts that move with the turning of a knob or key without a spring. Their unique locking mechanism is better equipped to resist physical attacks, battering and boring, making them less susceptible to a knife or hand tool.

Deadbolt locks come in three primary types: single, double and vertical. Single-cylinder deadbolts are the simplest and can be activated from one side via a key. Double-cylinder deadbolts can be used with a key from both sides. Vertical deadbolts operate similar to single and double deadbolts, but the lock moves up and down instead of horizontally. This orientation is more resistant to forced entry via prying with a tool such as a crowbar.

4. Padlocks

Padlocks are freestanding. Unlike other lock types, they are portable and are not permanently attached to a door or container. They come in a variety of models that are grouped into two main categories: keyed and combination. Keyed padlocks also have a number of subtypes, including keyed alike, keyed differently and keyable.

Padlocks are easy to recognize due to both their mobile nature and their looped-handle shackle shape. They may be designed with raised shoulders around the shackle, also known as guarded or shrouded padlocks, to inhibit bolt cutters from cutting through them.

5. Mortise Locks

Mortise locks are powerful locks used on external doors and are available in light-duty and heavy-duty models. They comprise an internal system, making them more of a lockset than a lock.

These locksets can house either knobs or levers and provide more security than cylindrical locks alone. They are threaded and utilize mortise components added within the door. The box lock is set within a deep recess, or mortise, in the edge of the door and secured using a set screw and a cam, creating the locking mechanism. The cylinder component comes in various heights and lengths to suit different types of doors.

6. Keypad Locks

Keypad door locks can be opened using an attached numerical keypad rather than a key. They can be battery-powered or mechanical and generally utilize deadbolt locks, knob locks or mortise locks for the actual locking mechanism. These door locks offer enhanced versatility and enable entry without a key, although many also contain keyholes for alternate unlocking mechanisms. Some keypad locks allow for multiple custom codes, so building managers can easily restrict access.

7. Smart Locks

Smart locks are versatile electronic door locks that allow for more ways to lock and unlock a door. While many smart locks come with a keypad and have a keyhole, the main benefit of a smart lock is the capability to be locked and unlocked with a phone or key fob. Many smart locks are also Wi-Fi- or Bluetooth-enabled and can connect to home automation services. These locks require power to use the connected functions and need regular battery replacements.

More Considerations for Door Locks

The above list is not all-inclusive. There are plenty of other door locks, and many fall within the seven categories of knob locks, deadbolt locks, cam locks, padlocks, mortise locks, smart locks and keypad locks. For example, lever handle door locks are used for inner doors and work much like knob locks.

Besides the door lock, it is important to scrutinize the door for lock installation. One of the main factors to consider is the backset, which is measured from the center of the lock’s hole to the edge of the door. The backset measurement of a door determines if a lock will fit it properly.

Door handedness, or the direction the door swings when opened, is another crucial factor for lock installation. Some locks work with a specific handedness, while others work for both. For example, deadbolt locks can be installed on either type of door-handedness without any problem. Door-handedness is dependent on which side of the door has the hinges; right-aligned hinges mark a right-handed door while left-aligned hinges mark a left-handed door.

Door locks serve a critical function in homes and workplaces. That’s why it is important to invest time in proper research before selecting a door lock for your facility. It ensures you select the one that best suits your safety, security and privacy needs.

The information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only and is based on information available as of the initial date of publication. No representation is made that the information or references are complete or remain current. This article is not a substitute for review of current applicable government regulations, industry standards, or other standards specific to your business and/or activities and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion. Readers with specific questions should refer to the applicable standards or consult with an attorney.

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