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Ask A Locksmith: How Do I Choose a Door Lock For My Home?

Home security starts at your front door with – you guessed it – your lock and deadbolt. With option after option on the market, how do you cut through the clutter and choose the lock that best suits your needs? In this article, we’ll discuss the process of comparing locks, what to look for, and how to choose the right one.

We sat down with our expert locksmiths and engineers, Mark Bloom, Chris Taylor and Michael Winardi, to get the inside scoop on how they choose locks for their own homes and families.

Types of Locks

There are two main types of locks: knobs/levers and deadbolts. Typically, both are found on your front and back doors. However, “knobs and levers are secondary security, while deadbolts are your main security feature and the preferred lock when it comes to securing your home,” Winardi explains. 

When researching which lock to buy, what should homeowners look for?

Locks aren’t a purchase you make every day. There are a few main reasons you purchase home door locks: during new home construction or existing home renovation, and after a break-in. While most people consider style before function, it’s important to take the opposite approach. Your lock is only as good as its quality, so let’s walk through how to pick the highest quality lock.

Step 1: Consider Function

First and foremost, for what room are you looking for a lock? There are three main functional categories: privacy, passage and entry. Defining the primary function is the first step in choosing a lock. Function will help determine the level of security and endurance your lock will need to uphold. For example, a hallway or interior door typically doesn’t need a higher level of security than your front door. If it’s a high traffic area (such as a bathroom) you’ll want your lock to hold up longer, therefore a higher grade of lock is more appropriate.

Step 2: Consider Endurance

Endurance is a matter of grade. Once you choose a certain type of lock (and subsequent grade) for your home, you typically choose the same lock throughout, with the exception being the exterior doors of the home. 

Lock grading ranges from Grade 1 to Grade 3. For example, residential deadbolts are available in Grades 1, 2 and 3, with Grade 1 offering the highest level of security, followed by Grades 2 and 3. Kwikset’s Grade 1 and 2 products generally include the Smartkey cylinder, and all grades of products are BHMA certified. As you move up in deadbolt grade levels, there are more options available for styles and finishes. All Kwikset deadbolts have a 1-inch throw, recommended by most security professionals. 

Residential knobs and levers are available in Grades 2 and 3, with Grade 2 products generally including the Smartkey cylinder. Both grades produced are BHMA certified. Kwikset products are often tested to a grade higher than what they are certified for because Kwikset engineers know how their lock products are used. They design their products to withstand the routine punishments and abuse a typical homeowner will inflict on a lock over the course of time.

For each grade and style of door lock, Kwikset offers a variety of functions to meet your needs from entry for your front door and the privacy function for your bedroom and bathroom, to passage for hallways and closets and even other specialty functions for closet and hallway needs. 

Step 3: Consider Aesthetics

Only after completing Steps 1 and 2 should you consider aesthetics. Luckily, all grades of locks have a wide range of shapes and finishes to match the décor of your home. “Aesthetics will always be an important deciding factor, but it shouldn’t be number one,” Bloom says. “It really depends on what is important to the particular consumer.” 

In addition to the three important areas of door lock consideration outlined above, consumers are always interested in price point. Traditionally, as the price point increases, there are more grade options and with those come additional choices in styles and features.

With these outlined steps, your perfect lock is only one deadbolt away. But before you head to the store, check out some exclusive tips from our locksmiths and engineers.

Tips from the Pros

“When you’re securing your home, make sure you’re using a Grade 1 deadbolt with a 1-inch throw to maximize security. A throw is the actual bolt that slides into the door jamb and locks the door.” – Chris Taylor, licensed locksmith who has been with Kwikset for 30 years

“No matter which lock you choose, be sure to look for the UL on the packaging. This denotes that the lock meets fire safety standards (very important to have on the door that goes between the home and the garage).” Michael Winardi, Senior Engineering Manager who has been with Kwikset for 17 years

“If you’re looking at levers, know they come in varying degrees. For example, some levers have to be rotated 80-90 degrees before the door opens. Others only have to be rotated 45 degrees. When you have a load of groceries in hand, it helps to have the 45-degree lever. That’s what I keep in my home.” – Mark Bloom, VP of Engineering