Choosing The Best Deadbolt For Your Exterior Doors

Your local home improvement store has a variety of deadbolts available with each one saying it will keep your home safe. To make the best choice, you need to understand how these locks work and their vulnerabilities. Here are some guidelines for finding the best lock for your home.

Basic Deadbolt Operation

The typical deadbolt is mounted in the door with a key lock exposed on the outside of the door and a knob or handle on the inside of the house. A thick bolt moves into the door frame when the lock is set, preventing the door from being opened. While this lock is effective, there are a number of ways it can be circumvented. When buying a lock, there are features to look for to improve its security.

Material Options

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the Builders Hardware Manufacturers Association (BHMA) grade locks on a scale of one to three, with one indicating the use of the best materials and manufacturing. Choose a grade one deadbolt that is made of solid steel, bronze, or brass. Low-priced die-cast locks can break under a sudden force, such as a hammer blow.

Installation Options

The strike plate is a flat piece of metal with cutouts for the bolt and screws. Your locksmith attaches this to the door frame. The standard strike plate that comes with many deadbolts is typically a simple metal plate with short screws. These screws could allow someone to pry under the plate and force the door open.

Look for a lock that has a reinforced strike plate, or ask your locksmith for one that works with the deadbolt you've selected. These strike plates come with longer screws that make it difficult to pry the plate off. The plate itself will have a small metal box that sits inside of the door frame into which the bolt slips. This makes it more difficult to force the door open by breaking the doorframe.

Buying a high-grade deadbolt with an enhanced strike plate and screws protects your home from most intruders. There are still a couple of options to consider to address special situations in your home.

Alternatives to the Standard Deadbolt Design

If you're still concerned about someone being able to pry the door open and bypass the deadbolt, a vertical deadbolt is your solution. Also called a surface-mounted deadbolt, this lock comes in two pieces. The first part mounts on the door and has two horizontal slots. The second part is a bracket that mounts on the wall and has two rings that slip into the slots when the door is closed. Enabling the lock pushes the bolt up into the two rings. With this lock, prying the door away from the frame cannot disengage the bolt.

If your door has glass panes that allow someone to break the glass, reach in and unlock the door, you can install a double-cylinder deadbolt. This requires you to use a key on both sides of the lock. There is no lever or knob with which an intruder can unlock the door. Before considering this lock, check with your locksmith about local building codes. Some locations prohibit this type of lock because it would require a key to get out of the house in an emergency