Know your locks

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. 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.  

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. 

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.  

Mortise Locks

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.   

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.  

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