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Hey, you're in the home improvement zone--YOUR HANDYMAN ZONE!

Doors and Components Category

Improvement Project:

How to choose a good door lockset.

Tools / Materials (See Below for Applicability):



There are various types of door locksets on the market.  Just before you go out to buy one to install it at your house, you should take some time to consider what type of door lockset you are actually buying because not all door locksets are the same in quality.  In fact, some door locksets are so low in quality that they make little difference in added security to the doors on which they are installed.

With the above in mind, particularly the need to seek out a quality door lockset, when you are purchasing a door lockset, there are many aspects of a door lockset that you must consider in advance, and they include the following:

  • The rating of the lockset.  Locksets are generally rated by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) for their strength, and primarily their design capability of resisting lock picking and otherwise forced entry without a key.  There are three ratings:  Grade 1, Grade 2, and Grade 3.

Grade-3-rated locksets are the standard locksets used for residential houses.  These locks can be purchased virtually at any home improvement store or department store.  Of the three grade types, these grade-3-rated locksets are the weakest in security because they are the most susceptible to the following:  1) bumping / bump keys; 2) picking; and 3) forcible entry (physical break-in by a kick-in and crowbar).


Grade-2-rated locksets are of heavy duty quality, used for light commercial purposes, and can be found to be used by some security-conscientious homeowners for their houses.  These locks are usually just purchased from locksmiths.  Of the three grade types, these grade-2-rated locksets are roughly in the middle of the scale of security strength, being far better than grade-3-rated locksets, but not as good in the quality of construction as that of grade-1-rated locksets.  With a high security key system (discussed below), grade-2-rated locksets may be able to resist the following: 1) bumping / bump keys; 2) picking; and 3) forcible entry (physical break-in by a kick-in and crowbar).


Grade-1-rated locksets are of very heavy duty quality, used primarily for commercial purposes, and can be found to be used by a few security-conscientious homeowners for their houses.  These locks are practically exclusively purchased from locksmiths.  Of the three grade types, these grade-1-rated locksets are the strongest in security, especially with the complementation of a high security key system (discussed below) in order to greatly resist the following:  1) bumping / bump keys; 2) picking; and 3) forcible entry (physical break-in by a kick-in and crowbar).

High security key systems are solely locksmith-controlled systems in which very specialized keys are used to lock and open locks, blanks of which are not sold at regular stores, like home improvement stores and department stores.  These keys are tightly controlled, and those only with proper identification (and proper authorization) can get duplicates.

  • Deadbolt locks.  Every exterior door of your house should have an installed deadbolt lockset.  Some people, if at all, install a deadbolt lockset just on their front exterior door and fail to install deadbolt locksets on their back and side exterior house doors, including the doors that lead into garages, as may be applicable; this is a mistake because most break-ins occur through such doors other than the front door, as they are usually hidden from public view--an attractive element for a burglar.  Quality deadbolt locksets are those made of heavy steel with reinforced-case lock cylinders. Also, to prevent a deadbolt from easily being crushed by an intruder, you should seek a deadbolt lockset that also has a solidified spin-ring component (i.e., the metal housing that surrounds the the outside of the deadbolt cylinder), as opposed to a hollow spin ring.  Aside from the fact that quality deadbolt locksets dramatically increase the security of your home, some insurance companies/insurance carriers may offer a good discount on your home insurance premium if you install a deadbolt lockset on every exterior door of your house.

  • Never buy tubular locksets.  Always choose cylindrical locksets over tubular locksets because cylindrical locksets have bigger lock chassis that are inherently stronger and, in effect, provide more security than tubular locksets.  If you are looking for something better than a cylindrical lockset, the next best lockset type is a mortise lockset, which usually requires a professional to install.

  • Right- and left-lock conscientious.  When buying a lockset, take into consideration whether your door--for which the lock is for--is either left-handed or right-handed:  The door is left-handed if the doorknob is on the left as the door opens toward you; the door is right-handed if the doorknob is on the right as the door opens toward you.

  • 1 key for all locks.  If you seek convenience and simplicity all the time, you may be a fan of having just one key to open all exterior locksets (including deadbolts).  At the time of purchasing, find the lockset-combo packages that open with just one key, or hire a locksmith to have your existing locksets re-keyed to fit one key.

  • Keyless locks.  Locks without the need for keys that are just opened with a correct code input on a keypad found on the exterior of such locks--like combination locks--are gaining popularity.  If you have locked yourself out of your house at one time, this may be for you.  This is not recommended for very rough neighborhoods.  Furthermore, if you are inclined to purchase a keyless lockset--including a digital deadbolt, make sure you buy one that nonetheless allows you to use a key as a back-up measure.

These are just some of the aspects of lockset security and convenience you should consider when purchasing locksets for your house.

Ed the Handyman


Your Handyman Zone Team


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