Types of Locks

When looking at purchasing different types of locks for your home or business, the options can certainly be overwhelming. There are many different types of locks, and several different security factors to consider before purchasing. This page will try and cover some of the different types of locks and the many security features that should be considered between locks.

Understanding Different Types of Locks

When you are looking for different types of locks you are most likely looking for one of four types of locks: padlocks, deadbolts, knob locks, and levers although there are many other types.

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Padlocks are fairly straight forward and very popular when considering different types of locks. There are not a large quantity of options concerning padlocks. There are re-keyable and non-rekeyable padlocks. If a padlock is non-rekeyable, then you cannot change the key that opens the lock (for example to make it use the same key as your house). Padlocks can be key retaining or non-key retaining. A key retaining padlock means when the padlock is open, the key cannot be removed. Types of locks like padlocks can have a shrouded shackle. This is where the shoulders of the padlock raise up the sides of the shackle to make it far harder for bolt cutters to cut the padlock.


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Deadbolts have a few more options than padlocks but also very popular compared to other types of locks. All deadbolts that we sell are re-keyable. However, there may be some from other vendors that are harder to re-key. Types of locks like deadbolts come in three primary varieties. First there are standard single sided deadbolts. These deadbolts have a key cylinder on the outside, and a thumb-turn (rosary) on the inside. These deadbolts are found on most American homes and have one primary weakness in that if access to the inside is possible, the door can be opened. This includes a nearby window or even access through a peephole in the door using some simple tools. The second type of deadbolt is called a double deadbolt. It has a key cylinder on both the outside and inside. In order to lock or unlock it, one must always use a key. These have the clear disadvantage of requiring a key to open the door from the inside if it is locked. This can pose a significant problem when there is a fire or other emergency situation.

If used in a residential situation, it is strongly recommended that a key is left on the inside of a double deadbolt when people are in the house to ensure easy exit in case of an emergency. The final type of deadbolt is called a lockable thumb-turn. It is a hybrid between a standard and a double deadbolt. It does have a thumb-turn on the inside that works like a normal deadbolt.

However, it has the added feature that using the key, you can lock the inner thumb-turn, so it cannot lock or unlock the door until the key is used to unlock it. This means in a residential situation, the thumb-turn can be left in an unlocked position when people are inside the house, and it will operate exactly like a standard deadbolt. When everyone is leaving, especially for extended periods of time, the thumb-turn can be easily locked so that even if someone has access to the door from the inside, the deadbolt cannot be unlocked. This type of deadbolt provides the maximum flexibility and security out of the 3 types in most situations. Finally, deadbolts can be specific to certain door setups.



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Knob Locks

Knob locks are frequently installed in residential situations on outside doors in addition to deadbolts and are sometimes used as the primary source of security for doors. They are most the most common types of locks for homes and offices. First and foremost, it should be said that knob locks should virtually never be used for security on external doors. The problem lies in the fact that the lock cylinder is in the knob itself and not the door. In almost all setups, they can be broken off the door with a hammer, or bypassed using pliers or a wrench behind the knob, completely bypassing the locking cylinder. If you currently have knob locks, consider replacing them with simple passage knobs as it will provide almost as much security as long as you are using deadbolts on the same doors. If you are purchasing complete knob setups, then you only need to ensure the proper handedness and back-set as with deadbolts.

If you are looking to purchase only knob cylinders (sometimes called KIK cylinders) for retrofitting into current locks, there are several other items to be aware of. Because they come in several different subtle shapes, it is important that the form factor matches the correct style that you need. In addition to the different sizes/shapes of the locks, on the back of each cylinder is a piece called the cam or tailpiece. The cam is what interfaces with the lock itself, and you must ensure you have the proper piece to make sure the cylinder will work.




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Lever Handle Locks

Lever handle locks are frequently used for inner doors, specifically in commercial settings. They have a large push down style handle used to open the door. Lever locks are frequently used over knob locks and other types of locks as they are easier to open as they can be pushed down rather than having to turn a knob. Frequently when accessibility, particularly for handicap individuals, is important lever locks are used. Our lever handle locks can be changed between left and right handedness, however you must know the proper back-set.



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Cam Locks

Cam locks are used in various applications but are most frequently found in filing cabinets.   They come in a few different lengths, but the primary area in which they vary are on the metal piece on the back of them.   This part is frequently called a tailpiece or the “cam” (yes the same name as the lock), and it interfaces with the actual locking mechanism.   There is a very large variety of options for the cams.



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Rim/Mortise Locks

Rim and Mortise locks are frequently found on commercial doors, entry glass doors, and some apartment doors. These are popular types of locks because they are easy to install and have many uses. While rim locks are very similar to mortise locks (in fact many of our Abloy locks are rim/mortise combo locks) the actual hardware they are used on greatly differs. Rim locks are generally used in rim latch locks which are mounted on the inside of the door, rim locks always have a long metal piece extending out the back of the lock. Rim locks are held in place by two screws from the inside that screw into the back of the lock. Mortise locks are locks that are actually screwed into mortise hardware in the middle of the door. They are held in place by a set screw and have a variety of cams that mount on the back of them depending on the exact mortise hardware they are being used in. There is a large variety of options for the cams.



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Euro Profile Cylinders

Euro profile cylinders (sometimes called DIN cylinders) are frequently used in locking devices in Europe and other parts of the world. They are also used in North America in some sliding glass door locks and room dividing doors. They come in single cylinder (one sided), double cylinder (locking cylinder on each side), and single with thumb-turn (locking cylinder on one side and thumb-turn on the other).



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Wall Mounted Locks

Wall mounted locks are locks that are actually mounted in the wall. The most common type of wall mounted lock would be the Knox-Box or fireman’s box style lock found in many larger businesses as an emergency access to the buildings keys. Wall mounted types of locks can be used for more than just key storage, some act as small safes or item deposits. Installation is generally done at time of construction although some wall mounted locks can be easily installed into existing buildings. Most wall locks can be mounted in a variety of wall surfaces. Frequently wall locks will be mounted with covers or alarm sensors to allow networking into the buildings security system (to detect unauthorized access).



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Interchangeable Core (IC) Cylinders

Interchangeable Core Cylinders are frequently used in larger institutions and businesses and are known for their easy ability to re-key the lock by swapping out the core without taking the lock apart. I/C Locks have two types of keys that work in the lock, the standard operator key locks and unlocks the lock like normal while the control key, when used, pulls the entire core of the lock out without removing any screws. This is very useful when upgrading locks as the door hardware can be left alone and just the lock cores are replaced with new ones and doors can be upgraded in seconds. The most popular I/C Lock brands are Best, Yale, and Schlage with their figure-eight style cores are well known in the world and found many places. There are different types of locks like IC lock formats with the two most popular being Small Format Interchangeable Core (SFIC) and Large Format Interchangeable Core (LFIC).



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Furniture Locks

This category of locks actually covers a variety of locks including cabinet, desk, and sliding door locks.   The furniture types of locks are usually used in office desks or kitchen cabinets. There are two primary styles of furniture lock, bolt style and push button style. Bolt style furniture locks have an actual piece of flat metal that extends out the side of the lock to lock the device. Frequently bolt style locks are found on desks, cabinets, and drawers although they are also used in a wide variety of other devices. Push button style locks have a rod that comes out the back of the lock that is used to lock things in place. When the lock is unlocked it pops out retracting the rod into the lock body. The device is then re-locked by pushing the lock back into its shell. They are popular types of locks for filing cabinets and sliding doors to name a few of their common applications.



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Vending/T-Handle Locks

These locks are primarily found in vending machines and T-Handle locks although they are sometimes used in other applications.   T-Handle locks are frequently exceptionally easy type of locks to replace as when you open the device you are actually pulling the t-handle lock out of it and so you can simply put a new t-handle lock back in when closing and you have upgraded the device. They generally come in two variants, a spring latch that allows the device to be re-locked without needing a key, and a dead latch that requires a key to re-lock the device.



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Other Types of Locks

There are still additional types of locks like European locks, switch locks and deposit box locks to name a few. We have an assortment of knowledge on different types of locks. If you have questions about other types of locks, please let us know.