Good Door Locks Provide Security Good Door Locks Provide Security

The world of door locks has come a long way from the time when people used to hang a latch string out a hole in the door then pull inside at night to  prevent intruders from opening the door. So, while modern door locks provide way more security than a latch string ever could, it's easy to be confused by the seemingly endless types of locks now available. Fortunately when you look a little closer, particularly with residential door locks there are really only two major types to consider - spring latch (slip bolt) and deadbolt.

Spring latch locks

  • Are the familiar "key in lock" designs in which the you activate the locking bolt by turning a knob in the handle or simply pushing a button. These locks are very inexpensive, easy to install and convenient to use, but unfortunately, don't provide the best security.
  • For example, the beveled bolt of a spring latch can be pushed back out of the strike plate using a stiff piece of plastic (like a credit card), allowing the door to be opened. Plus, even if the opening is blocked so plastic can't be inserted, the lock can be defeated by brute force and twisted out of the door with a large pipe wrench or even less sophisticated - simply kicking in the door.

Deadbolt locks are much more secure

  • Deadbolt locks are activated by turning a key in the lock cylinder and are much more secure than spring latch designs. There are four types of deadbolt locks, single and double as well as horizontal and vertical. Single deadbolt locks are locked using a key on the outside but have a thumb turn on the inside. Double deadbolts require a key be used to lock or unlock them from either side. (Because double deadbolts require a key to be unlocked, some jurisdictions don't allow as they could trap people inside in an emergency).
  • Similar to a spring latch design the bolt of horizontal deadbolt slides horizontally into the strike plate of the door jamb. However, a deadbolt is squared off on the end, (not beveled) and can't be forced out of the strike plate, plus, deadbolt locks have a throw of al least one inch, making them difficult to overpower by brute force.
  • Even more secure than a horizontal deadbolt is a vertical deadbolt design. This lock has two vertical bolts that slide into holes or sockets in the door jamb, making it impossible for the bolt to be slid back from the outside.

Choosing a deadbolt lock for your home

When deciding on the deadbolt for your home look for these features -

  • A horizontal throw of at least 1".
  • When locked, part of the bolt remains in the door making a solid bond with the door frame.
  • Made from solid steel brass or bronze (cast metals can be broken with a heavy blow).
  • A solid, free turning ring around the cylinder to protect the lock from being twisted off with a pipe wrench.
  • Can be unlocked from the inside without a key.

Murray Anderson is an experienced freelance writer whose work has appeared on numerous web sites, as well as in newspapers and books in both the US and Canada. He is often cited as an expert on home related topics.

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