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Door handles and locks: the key to choosing wisely

Shopping for door handles and locks? Beyond appearance, other important aspects should be taken into consideration, such as ergonomics, ease of installation, quality and, of course, security. Here are a few tips for making the right choice.

Parts and features

Here are the main parts of a door lock and their different features.

1 - Cylinder and guard

The cylinder contains the lock mechanism. A strong metal shield, the cylinder guard, is fastened to the cylinder collar. Inserting and turning the key actuates the deadbolt. These are ideal when you are installing a handle and lockset on an exterior door.

Some lock manufacturers make systems that can be configured so the user can activate or deactivate the keys that can be used with the lock, without having to call a locksmith. 

2 - Deadbolt

Solid cylindrical metal bar with a flat end, which locks the door by being projected into the strike. The bolt is actuated by the key or thumb turn.

3 - Thumb turn (or turn button)

Button that actuates the bolt from the inside, to lock or unlock the door.

4 - Strike plate

Metal plate with an opening, fastened over the hole in the door frame, which receives the bolt that closes and/or locks the door.

5 - Rose

Decorative plate surrounding the door handle.

6 - Axle

Metal rod that links the two parts of the doorknob and actuates the bolt when turned.

7 - Faceplate

Metal plate with an opening, fastened over the hole in the door edge, through which the bolt moves.

8 - Latch bolt

Solid cylindrical metal bar which holds the door closed when projected into the strike. The bolt is actuated by the doorknob or lever.

Types of finishes

Door hardware comes in a variety of finishes, the most common being brass, polished brass, antique brass, pewter, stainless steel, satin nickel and satin chrome.

Types of door handles

Here are the advantages and features of different types of door handles on the market. They should be chosen according to your door's features and to how handy you are.

Main types of locks

The choice of a lock will depend on the desired level of security and ease of installation. The features and advantages of each one will help guide your decision.

Installation: how it's done

Here are a few general guidelines to help you install locks and doorknobs.
  • Measure the thickness of the door. Handles and locksets can be installed on doors between 1 3/8" and 1 ¾" thick.
  • It is also worth knowing that factory-made doors (with holes ready drilled for the hardware) are all standard. Be sure to make the strike hole level with the pre-drilled hole in the door.
  • If you choose an undrilled door, make sure that you bore the holes for the handle and strike at exactly the same level – usually at a height of 36" (to the hole centre) for residential doors and 39 3/4" for commercial doors. A template is included with the door handle to help you drill the holes correctly.
  • If you are replacing an exterior door, it is advisable to choose the handle and lock at the same time. That way, when you order the door, the manufacturer will bore the holes to the right dimensions.
For more details, read our article Install an exterior door handle or lockset.

Maintenance tips

When choosing door hardware, especially for the front door, do not compromise on quality. Purchasing a high-quality product will provide security, reliability, durability and ease of use.
Handles and locks may occasionally need to be retightened or lubricated. Only use lubricants formulated specifically for door hardware. Conventional lubricants could damage the mechanisms.

Suggested products

See all handles and locks