Buyer’s Guide: Door Locks
The key to home security? Purchasing the best lock for your place, lifestyle, and budget!
Good home security starts at the front door. A home burglary occurs approximately once every 18 seconds in the United States, and thieves obviously prefer homes that are easy to enter.
A deadbolt—so called because the locking bolt is nonmoving and can only be operated by manually turning the locking mechanism with a key or a thumb-knob—offers the best security for most entry doors. Not all deadbolt locks are the same, however. They range in quality, price, and the level of protection. If you’re ready to upgrade your home’s first line of defense, read on to understand what makes a lock the best door lock and consider our top three picks.
Types of Deadbolts
Choosing a new lock can be confusing if you don’t know the lingo. While all deadbolts work on the premise of a solid steel bolt sliding into place to prevent the door from opening, there are
several different designs to choose from—and not all are ideal for the typical house or apartment.
- Single Cylinder Locks: A single cylinder lock opens with a key from the outside and operates inside by turning a thumb-knob. In addition to the exterior key hole, some newer single cylinder locks feature a keypad that permits residents to enter a numerical code to unlock the door. A keypad makes it handy for family members who wish to avoid fumbling for keys in a purse or pocket.
- Double Cylinder Locks: Like the single cylinder lock, a double cylinder lock opens from the outside with a key, but instead of a thumb-knob, the same key is used to lock and unlock the door from inside. Double-cylinder locks offer break-in security on entry doors that contain glass windows, since an intruder cannot break a pane and then reach in to unlock the deadbolt because there is no thumb-knob. Local fire codes often ban these locks, however, deeming them a hazard should a home emergency occur and residents need to get out quickly.
- Vertical Locks: This type of lock employs a vertical bolt that extends through a set of rings to secure the door. The strike plate (the metal plate that attaches inside the door frame) features steel rings that interlock with additional steel rings on the lock itself when the door is closed. Vertical locks can incorporate either single cylinders or double cylinders and are most commonly used in commercial applications, such as hotel doors or large apartment complexes.
- Smart Locks: As technology advances, so do ways of securing our homes. Smart locks, which use your home’s Wi-Fi network to send and receive information to your smartphone or computer, may be operated by voice control, from your smartphone, or by fingerprint recognition. In addition to locking and unlocking your door, some smart locks feature motion-activated cameras to record all visitors at your door.
Know Your Strike Plate!
The strike plate, or just “strike”—the metal plate that attaches inside the doorframe—is an important aspect of your home security locking system. When you lock a deadbolt, the steel bolt extends into a hole in the strike plate. Inexpensive locks may come with flimsy strike plates that bend easily when the door is kicked. Look for quality locks that come with reinforced strike plates for better protection against a would-be intruder.
Lock Quality: Making the Grade
The rating issued by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) can help homeowners suss out the strongest door locks available. Locks are given a grade rating of 1, 2, or 3 based on a lock’s durability and its potential to withstand attempted forced entry.
- Grade 1: This is the highest rating a lock can receive. Grade 1 deadbolts were once primarily limited to industrial buildings but in recent years, more lock manufacturers are
making Grade 1 locks for residential use.
- Grade 2: Many locks found on today’s homes are Grade 2 locks. They feature high-quality steel construction and are designed to deter most attempts at forceful entry. Unless you have high-security needs, a Grade 2 lock is probably sufficient.
- Grade 3: While a Grade 3 deadbolt still offers a measure of protection, it may contain substandard components that will not hold up to a determined intruder, and it won’t last as long as a higher quality lock.
Most residential deadbolt locks, no matter the type, fit the standard pre-drilled hole in an exterior door, so installation is a DIY-friendly endeavor. Quality locks often come with 3-inch screws for attaching the strike plate to the door frame. If your deadbolt’s screws are shorter, it’s wise to purchase 3-inch screws separately and use them in place of the shorter ones, which won’t embed deeply enough in the wall framing that lies behind the door frame. The longer screws will make it more difficult for an intruder to kick the door open.
Best Door Locks
After thoroughly comparing door lock reviews from consumers and experts alike, we’ve rounded up three of the most highly rated models available today to help you find one that fits your home’s needs and your family’s budget. Check out the best door lock options below!
BEST OVERALL: Schlage Single Cylinder Deadbolt
The Schlage Single Cylinder Deadbolt is an affordable yet highly secure Grade 1 deadbolt. It comes with an anti-pick shield, an oversized bolt, and a reinforced strike plate for kick-in resistance. Homeowners love its smooth operation, and do-it-yourselfers appreciate its ease of installation. Like other single cylinder locks, the Schlage accepts a key on the exterior and features a thumb-knob on the inside of the door. The thumb-knob is large and simple to turn, making compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Also well worth noting is that the Schlage Single Cylinder comes with a limited lifetime warranty against mechanical and finish defects. Buy now.
For exceptional resistance against kicking, lock-picking, and other forms of attempted forced entry, consider choosing the Medeco Maxum—a certified Grade 1 deadbolt that earns its price premium by providing homeowners with the value of peace of mind. With a 2-year warranty against factory defects, the Medeco is a stalwart home defender, durable enough to last for years. Buy now.
One of the first “smart” locks on the market, the August Smart Lock remains our top choice for its stand-out user-friendliness. That is, August installs with relative ease, and its companion mobile app works well and can be navigated intuitively. How does it work? The device installs on the inside of the door (but does not replace the deadbolt itself). Once in place, the lock provides a wealth of functionality. For one, August utilizes “geofencing technology”, making it possible for your door to unlock automatically when you approach from outside. In addition, the August enables you to monitor entry to your home even when you’re not there. Buy now.