Types of residential door locks are as numerous as the kinds of homes they’re made to secure. This article highlights some ad- vantages and drawbacks of residential locks—commercial locks are another world. Regardless of what you’re protecting, it’s illogical to install inexpensive locks to protect expensive possessions. While locks are a significant part of residential security, ignoring windows and other means of entry leaves you vulnerable. No home can be made impenetrable, but because burglars want to get in and out as quickly as possible, slowing them is a substantial form of deterrence. They move on to less-secure houses.
How a lock’s innards (tumblers) operate is an article in itself. In short, four types of tumblers—pin, wafer, disc, and lever—constitute almost all contemporary locks. To ascertain a given lock’s reliability and security, talk to an experienced residential locksmith who does not sell products.
Nearly three-quarters of residential break-ins are door kick-ins. According to the FBI, a house is broken into every 12 seconds in the U.S. Dead-bolted doors can be kicked in easily if the bolt penetrates only door-trim. To withstand a kick, a deadbolt must penetrate something structural, like a stud. Most doorframes will fail if kicked powerfully, so preventing a kick-in requires heavy-duty hardware.
The good news is that most kick-in aggressors will give up after a few unsuccessful kicks. On the whole, knob locks (knobs having a keyway) are less secure than quality deadbolts— look for a deadbolt with a rotating (wrench-proof) collar. But even they can be kicked or pried open with sufficient force, especially in a wood doorframe.
Starting at the front door makes sense because it is among the most frequently used. Locksets range from inexpensive units made in developing countries to complex electromechanical systems. For example, consumers can choose a $24 Master Lock Tulip Entryknob-lock and keyed-alike single cylinder deadbolt or a $294 iTouchless Bio-Matic Fingerprint model (amazon.com). Barebones security argues for the former, while convenience and a high gee-whiz factor lean toward the latter. I don’t recommend chain locks for two reasons: they’re only as good as the screws that secure them and most can be broken by a powerful kick.
As with most items, consider your budget and a product’s application before making a purchase. Most Americans invest a great deal of time, effort and money in improving their homes, so make an effort to balance your security budget with the value of your home’s contents.
Interior Garage Door
If you have an interior garage door that opens into your house, it’s the next line of defense. Installing a burglar- resistant lock is mandatory because if burglars enter your garage and close the overhead door, they can attack the interior door unobserved. Many such doors and frames are steel (for fire prevention), which has a great deal of intrinsic strength, so adding a strong lock makes sense. A garage window can be an invitation to those seeking targets of opportunity—block it or in- stall a steel grille to bar entry.
Back Doors & Glazed Doors
Back doors are problematic because it’s less likely that neighbors can ob- serve them. If your back door is glazed, consider replacing it with a steel or solid-wood door. It makes little sense to install a robust lock on a glazed door. If you don’t want to replace a glazed door, install a double-cylinder deadbolt, which requires a key on the interior and exterior. So even if some- one breaks the glass the door cannot be unlocked. If a door is mostly glass, replace the glass with safety glass or polycarbonate—the tough plastic that taillights are made of.
Keyless Entry Locks
Years ago, after moving into my wife’s mountain home, I discovered that numerous front door keys had been lent and lost over time. This situation was unacceptable to me, so I installed a Simplex (now Ilco Simplex) mechanical pushbutton lock. The door and frame were steel, so strength wasn’t a problem. I replaced the hinge screws with longer ones just in case. After setting the pushbutton numbers and sequence I relaxed.
The Simplex model I chose locked upon closing, a major benefit with teenagers coming and going. The steel interior garage door to the house had a similar history, so I installed another pushbutton lock there. It took a couple of days for everyone to get used to the locks and admit they were more convenient than fumbling for keys.
I chose a mechanical lock because experience has demonstrated that batteries fail at the worst possible time. While the locks I installed were convenient, there’s nothing like turning a deadbolt to create peace of mind. Deadbolts are inexpensive: the price for labor almost always exceeds that of the hardware. If you have DIY skills and a few hand tools, you can install a deadbolt in an hour or so.
Recently, a number of battery-powered, pushbutton entry-door locksets have appeared in the marketplace. Some have a keyway enabling users to enter using a key when the battery fails. Not having used such a lock, I’ll reserve comment. (Readers, please send me your experiences with them).
A Few Door Lock Options AUTHOR’S NOTE: The following products are not endorsements but are provided for informational purposes. Nightlock (nightlock.com) makes a $35 product to prevent kick-ins by anchoring the door’s bottom.
Door Devil (doordevil.com) makes $60 doorframe reinforcements from 11-gauge (1/8-inch) steel.
The Rebar Door Security Device (kick proof.com) makes $80 doorframe reinforcements using 14-gauge (1/16-inch) steel strips to reinforce doorframes plus longer screws for the hinges.
U.S. Bulldog Security Bars (thebulldogbar.com) sells models of The Bulldog Bar ranging from $150 to $250. Reinforcing the door and frame provides greater security than using a deadbolt alone. Use a search engine to discover similar products.
Established companies like Abloy (abloyusa.com), Assa (assalock.com), Baldwin Hardware (baldwinhardware.com), Medeco (medeco.com), Sargent (sargentlock.com) and Schlage (schlage.com) make high-quality security products. Be sure to read and compare warranties since some are as complex as insurance policies.
With your residence safely locked, let’s consider ways to secure your shed, gym locker or toolbox. Keyed padlocks are commonplace, as are lost padlock keys. Having had to use bolt cutters to remove padlocks with lost keys, I recommend combination padlocks but not those with a traditional dial.
Master Lock makes an inexpensive, resettable combination lock (#1175) with four rotating, numbered wheels on the bottom instead of a dial, making it faster to open. I’ve used several of these and have found them to be serviceable for a few years, after which they must be replaced. Their lifespan seems to depend on location and frequency of use. They cost about $20.
On the other end of the spectrum— if maximum security is a must and price is no object—Abloy Security (abloyusa.com) makes some of the most pickproof padlocks in the industry. For example, the mighty Protec2 PL 362 (shrouded, hardened steel body and shackle) padlock weighs three pounds and has an MSRP of $265.
Editor’s Note:N.E. MacDougald recently wrote a book under the SOF banner for Skyhorse Publishing (skyhorsepublishing.com): Soldier of Fortune Guide to Surviving the Apocalypse. Look for it on shelves and online.
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