The 10 Most Common Types of Door Locks

D.P. Taylor
Written by D.P. Taylor
Updated January 24, 2022
A woman’s hand opening a door
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Homeowners can choose from 10 basic types of household door locks designed for both exterior and interior doors

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Your home is your castle, and it’s not much of a castle without locks. There are many different door locks to choose from, and sometimes it’s not immediately obvious which is right for which type of door.

This guide breaks down some of the most common types of locks, what their attributes are, what parts of the house they’re best for, and everything else you need to know.

1. Entry Door Knobs

Close-up of a door knob on a red door
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A doorknob lock is one of the most common ones you'll find. As the name implies, it's simply the knob that attaches to the door with a keyhole in the middle. You insert the key into this keyhole and turn in order to unlock the door. You'll often see them used in combination with a deadbolt or chain lock for extra layers of security. 

Best for: Exterior doors, or any other primary point of entry

2. Hand Levers

A hand lever of a bathroom door
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A hand lever functions in a similar way as a doorknob, but with a lever that you push down instead of a knob that you turn. Similarly, it has a keyhole in the middle. However, you won't see this type of lock on exterior doors as much because they aren't as secure as knobs. It's better for interior rooms where you want quick and easy entry.

Best for: Sometimes exterior doors, but mostly for interior rooms you still want to keep secure, like an manager's office in an office building

3. Lever Handlesets

A lever handleset on a wooden blue front door
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Lever handlesets are a common choice for exterior front doors because of their elegant style and security. They feature a long handle and a thumb lever just above it that you press down and then push open the door after you unlock it. They typically include a deadbolt that works in tandem with it.

Best for: Exterior front entry doors

4. Deadbolts

A front door with a door knob, a mail slot and deadbolt lock
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Deadbolts are not usually the primary lock on the door since they don't feature a handle you can use to open the door once it's unlocked. Instead, they offer an extra layer of security by putting a metal bar into the door frame when locked, making it extremely difficult for the door to be broken into even if the burglar can get the knob unlocked. As a result, these are almost always used on exterior doors. Installing deadbolts is relatively inexpensive.

Best for: Exterior doors that already use a knob or hand lever

5. Electronic Door Locks/Smart Locks

A man’s hand opening a door using a smart lock
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Electronic door locks and "smart" locks are either keyed or keyless locks that are less mechanical and more technological. They may have a keyhole, a numbered keypad for an entry code, or even a scanner so you can swipe and enter. It's a good option for homeowners who desire convenience, or if you just want to be able to grant access to relatives, guests, or contractors without having to leave a key under the mat.

Best for: Exterior doors, particularly ones that are often used by outsiders

6. Cam Locks

A man’s hand unlocking his mailbox
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Cam locks are very simple locks you'll often see used in cabinets or U.S. Postal Service mailboxes. Using a small key, you turn a metal piece within the lock so that it blocks a door or drawer from being opened.

Best for: Small doors and drawers with low security, like cabinets and mailboxes

7. Sliding Door Locks

A white color sliding door lock
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As the name implies, this type of lock is exclusively to secure sliding doors. It's a simple lock that you simply push to the side to secure the door. This causes a latch to come up and hold the door in place at the frame. It doesn't provide much security, but it will keep your sliding doors as secure as they can be.

Best for: Exterior sliding doors

8. Barrel Bolt

A barrels bolt behind a closed white door
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A barrel bolt or sliding bolt can be found on the inside of doors adding an additional layer of security, like a deadbolt. However, a barrel bolt is not as sturdy as a deadbolt and could more easily be broken by brute force. It uses a cylindrical lock that you slide into place from the inside after closing the door.

Best for: Exterior doors as a second layer of security

9. Chain Lock

A metal chain lock behind a closed door
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A chain lock is often found on the inside of hotel rooms or apartments. It slides into place like a barrel bolt but instead of using a bolt, it has a chain that stops the door from being opened even if the door knob and deadbolt are unlocked. This is usually used as a third layer of security after a door knob and deadbolt. It can't be undone by a key and must be unlatched from inside.

Best for: Exterior doors as a third layer of security

10. Padlock

A padlock securing a grey door
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A simple padlock is rarely used on doors. Instead, they're used for securing lockers and storage unit doors. Padlocks aren't physically attached to what they're latching, and so you can take them anywhere. They work by closing a loop around a solid object. Some are very small and some can be quite large depending on what objects it needs to secure.

Best for: Lockers, storage units, sheds, fences, bicycles, and anything else without an installed lock that needs to be secured

A Locksmith Can Help You Settle on a Solution

You can install locks on your own, but they can be complex mechanisms that may require a professional for installation. That's especially true if you're getting something sophisticated like an electronic or smart lock.

You should also consult with a professional locksmith near you if you are considering which locks to install in which parts of the house. They can break down the various types of locks, the differences between the brands, the benefits and drawbacks they have, and how much you can expect to pay for each.

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