Protecting Your Home: How to Select the Best Door Locks

Protecting Your Home: How to Select the Best Door Locks

Written By

John Lister

With so many options available from various manufacturers and a range of features from which to choose, door locks don’t fit into neat, distinct categories, and it’s not easy to select the one right for your home. However, the task isn’t impossible; you just need to start the process by understanding how a lock is positioned and how it’s activated.

The basics

Almost every door lock shares a few basic design points. For instance, inserting and turning the right key will slide a metal bolt into the doorjamb, which is part of the door frame and the wall next to the edge of the door. Some manufacturers use the term deadlock in different ways, but it often refers to a lock following this basic setup, so you may want to ask for precise details about how it works.

Dead bolt

Dead bolts are most commonly used for front doors because they provide a good balance between security, convenience and cost. Once locked in place, the bolt is fixed and can only be moved by unlocking the door.

The usual setup is a single dead bolt, where a lock is on the outside and a small, turnable handle is on the inside, so you don’t need a key to open the door from inside your home. The double dead bolt variant has a lock on both sides, either of which opens the door, so you’ll need a key to unlock it from the inside and outside, potentially presenting a risky situation in an emergency, such as a fire.

Surface dead bolt

This dead bolt variant mounts the mechanism onto the face of the door. Then, the bolt slides into a slot — known as a strike plate — on the door frame. While these locks are quick and simple to fit, they’re more vulnerable to brute force that tries to snap the strike plate or break it away from the frame.

A padlock


A latch lock or door latch differs from a dead bolt because it utilizes springs and automatically locks as soon as the door closes. While you won’t have to worry about forgetting to lock the door when leaving home, you might accidentally lock yourself out if you leave the key indoors. The way a latch lock uses springs also makes it vulnerable to precision attacks that aim to maneuver the bolt to an open position.

Mortise vs. cylinder

These two terms refer to the way a lock is fitted in the door, rather than how a locking mechanism works. With a mortise lock, the entire locking mechanism is built into a rectangular unit shaped like a book and mounted into a hole cut into the side of a door. A cylinder lock is fitted by drilling two holes, one into the side of the door and one into the face of the door. On the one hand, a cylinder lock is typically easier to fit and replace, but on the other hand, a mortise lock is usually more resilient to attack.

Knob or level handle lock

In both of these door locks, the lock cylinder is built into the door handle rather than the door, with a keyhole on the outside. From the inside, you can activate the lock by turning a small lever on the door knob or lifting the entire handle. While convenient, these locks are vulnerable to somebody forcing the entire handle away from the door.

Broken door knob

Multipoint lock

A multipoint lock combines two or more locking mechanisms, often including both a bolt and latch. To use them, you’ll usually need to engage one part first. For instance, once you lift the handle, you can insert a key and unlock it, adding an extra layer of security in exchange for a higher price point.

Smart lock

A smart lock, also called a keyless lock, engages the lock electronically. This type of lock usually involves a deadbolt that’s moved in and out of locking position via a battery-powered motor. Electronic locks provide many possibilities for control unavailable with a physical key. For instance, if you install a keypad with an entry code, you can change it without replacing the entire lock. More complex options include allowing a user to open the door with a smartphone app and automatically opening the door when the user’s device is within a certain range measured by a wireless connection.

Once you understand the mechanisms behind door locks, you can start down the path of selecting the right model for your home. After all, keeping your family and belongings safe and secure is a top priority, and the door is your first line of defense.

Curious to learn more about home security? Check out the smart locks offered by Vivint, and learn how to keep your home safe today.