Tricks of the Trade

5 tips for choosing the best door locks for multifamily properties

Mallory Moore, a Ferguson author

by Mallory Moore


Door locks serve two basic purposes: allowing the right people to enter a room, and keeping the wrong people out of a room. In multifamily properties, such as in apartments, condos and retirement communities, door locks are critical for ensuring the safety of residents because of the volume of people coming and going. To say that most people don’t think about door lock technology as often as they use their door lock is almost certainly an understatement, so how do you know what makes a good door lock? We did the technical research to find out what makes one lock different from the next, and what to look for when door lock shopping. Here are five tips to help you find the best door locks for your multifamily property.

1. Inspect the door

The first step in finding the right door lock is to take a look at the door itself. Specifically, inspect the part of the door where the lock will go. If there is a hollowed out square compartment in the edge of the door, then the door requires a mortise lock. A mortise lock is a square lock designed specifically to slide into the pocket in the edge of a door. If the door has a hole bored through it, however, then a cylindrical or tubular lock must be used. If your door requires a cylindrical lock or tubular lock as opposed to a mortise lock, then you must also find the backset of the door hole. The backset is the measurement between the edge of the door and the center of the drilled door hole. Backsets sizes come in 2 ⅜” or 2 ¾” as a standard, so be sure to check the lock measurements to make sure it fits the backset before you buy it.

2. Give it a grade

When it comes to security, not all door locks are created equal. The American National Standard Institute, or ANSI, has set specifications to grade how well an entry door lock will stand up under pressure. Door locks are put to the test and are pushed, pulled, smashed and hammered with varying degrees of force to determine their security rating. Locks are given an ANSI rating of Grade 1 through Grade 3, with Grade 1 being able to withstand the most force. Entry door locks will typically have their ANSI grade listed in their specifications or on their packaging. An ANSI Grade 3 door lock is a safe choice for standard residential use, but if the multifamily property is located in a neighborhood with a higher crime rate you might consider opting for Grade 2 or Grade 3 door locks.

3. Bump-proof it

Lock bumping is a lock picking method that is sometimes used by burglars in an attempt to break into a building or a room. The term gets its name from a special key, known as a bump key, that is designed to literally bump open the pins inside of a door lock. While lock bumping has legitimate applications, such as when used by professional locksmiths, this lock picking method is appealing to some burglars because it leaves virtually no trace of forced entry. Additionally, bump keys can be bought and sold freely by the general public. Because of their criminal appeal and ease of access, it’s important to choose a lock that can withstand a bump key attack. Look for labels when lock shopping that indicate whether or not a door lock is resistant to lock bumping.

4. Add some accessories

Safety in numbers is true for people and also true for door locks. Consider incorporating a number of latches and door accessories to maximize the safety of a door. The more door locks there are, the longer it will take for a burglar to break in and the more time they will have to get caught. Some burglars will attempt to break in by shimmying a piece of thin plastic, like a credit card, in a door jamb to make certain door locks with a beveled edge release. Deadbolts add an extra level of security when used in combination with other door handle locks because they are resistant to this type of break-in method. You can also install swing bars and door viewers that will offer your tenants an extra level of protection from intrusion.

5. Go keyless

Instead of trying to determine which key to use with which lock, consider taking the key out of the lock completely. Keypad door locks boast a number of advantages over their keyed counterparts. Tenants who frequently lose their keys might find it more convenient to simply enter a code instead of keeping track of a physical set of keys. A keypad would also eliminate the necessity to hunt down a set of keys after a tenant moves out. As an added bonus, keyless door lock technology has stepped into the digital age with some models featuring the ability to sync to mobile devices. Tenants can unlock their door with the tap of a button on their smartphone, and can even keep a log of when the door is opened and closed as an added security measure.

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Mallory Moore, a Ferguson author

Mallory Moore

Mallory offers useful insights in her role as website content coordinator. She is intrinsically motivated, hard working and enthusiastic about providing Ferguson customers with a world-class online experience by offering content related to their industry.