Door Locks Demystified: A Simple Guide to Choosing the Right One


As a central security component of our apartments and houses, we use door locks every day. Here we present the 8 most common door lock types with their respective functions in detail.

door latch types

Which door lock for which door?

Door locks are an important part of security in apartments and houses and are used by us almost every day. There are many different types of door locks, some of which differ greatly in their construction and functionality.

Some of the most common types of door locks are mortise locks, tubular frame locks, and padlocks. Mortise locks are the most commonly used locks for house, apartment and room doors. Tubular frame locks are mainly used for gates and wickets, while padlocks are suitable for shed doors or cupboard doors.

But digital identification media are also playing an increasingly important role in the age of digitalization, as they have numerous advantages over manual locks. It is clear that the variety of lock types is just as large as their functionality and appearance.

In order to get a better overview of the different types of door locks, we would like to explain the eight most common models as well as their specific advantages and areas of application in more detail.

The 8 most common door lock types at a glance

1. Mortise lock

The mortise lock is a common lock model that is installed in stub, rebate or tubular frame doors and, depending on the design, uses different locking mechanisms, including tumbler locking mechanisms, guard locking mechanisms or profile cylinder locking mechanisms.

The lock is embedded in the door leaf via a lock pocket and consists of several components, including the lock case, the lock cover and the latch. With this type of door lock, only the lock latch (also called catch) and the bolt block are externally visible. The locks are screwed to the door using the so-called faceplate, a vertical metal strip. Locking is done by closing the door or turning the key in the lock case, although this mechanism is often found in combination with door handles or door handles. The lock is embedded in the door leaf and requires a recess, which can result in weak material in the lock pocket area.

The mortise lock is particularly often used as an uncomplicated locking device in house and apartment doors, but they are also used outdoors.

In addition to being easy to install, they also offer the advantage of a relatively high level of burglary protection as they cannot be easily unscrewed. On some models, multiple locking is also possible, in which several bolts engage in the striking plate, making it more difficult to pry open and drill open the door. It is also possible to install anti-picking or anti-drilling protection.

However, the disadvantage of a mortise lock is the loss of keys, as the entire lock has to be replaced in an emergency and it can also be manipulated and opened with simple tools.
Mortise lock

2. Tubular frame lock

With a similar structure to the aforementioned mortise lock, the tubular frame lock offers a significantly more robust design and is primarily used in metal frame doors and gates, but also in fire doors and doors that generally have high security requirements.

Basically, a tubular frame lock is a mortise lock that is installed in the profile tube of the frame and was designed specifically for installation on tubular frame doors. It also consists of a lock case, latch, bolt and strike plate, but in contrast to the mortise lock it has a much smaller overall depth and makes do with the space in the tubular frame.

Tubular frame locks are widespread in Germany and are usually used in apartments, offices and public buildings. Their advantages are the space-saving design, the very high level of security against burglary and the flexibility of possible uses, including fire protection and soundproof doors. As with a mortise lock, losing a key also means a complete replacement of the lock. Installing a tubular frame lock is also very time-consuming and requires special tools and know-how.

Tubular frame latch

3. Profile cylinder lock

A profile cylinder lock is the most common type of locking cylinder, which is usually used in front doors, apartment doors and office doors, but also offers other possible uses.

In addition to the housing with a rotating cylinder core inside, a profile cylinder lock consists of a lock bit, core pins and pin springs. There are small metal pins in the rotating cylinder core, which are pressed by springs from bottom to top into the locking gear, thus blocking it. This can only be turned if a key with the appropriate profile is inserted. The locking lug, a lever on the cylinder core, rotates and engages with the lock mechanism so that the latch and bolt are pulled back.

The profile cylinder includes a certain number of keys, all of which have the same locking mechanism. Profile cylinders also enable the lock and locking mechanism to function. While the lock does the actual locking, the locking cylinder takes over the function of driving the bolt and securing the locking mechanism against unauthorized opening attempts or foreign keys.

In addition, they have a wide range of advantages, which makes them successful. Profile cylinder locks offer various levels of security, ranging from conventional security cylinders to those with electronic security elements and armour. This means you can easily ensure a high level of security against break-in attempts. In addition, they are easily interchangeable and can be replaced with a new cylinder without any problems (e.g. if a key is lost) without having to replace the entire lock.

Profile cylinder lock

4. padlock

A padlock is a lock that is used for simple locks and does not require installation. It is simply attached to a union latch using a U-shaped bracket that covers its own mounting screw heads.

Broadly speaking, the lock consists of a shackle, the locking cylinder and the housing, whereby the shackle represents the movable member of the lock and is inserted into the housing for locking. The lock cylinder is the part of the lock in which the key is inserted to unlock the shackle again. The housing surrounds the locking mechanism and protects it from damage, tampering and the effects of the weather. As an alternative to the typical serrated key, there are also designs that are designed as a combination lock or as a digital padlock variant.

Padlocks are available in different sizes and strengths, and their design also offers a high degree of flexibility and ease of use. They are therefore used in various places, including cellar doors, lockers, toolboxes, garden fences, chests and many more.

However, the comparatively simple design results in a number of disadvantages, which particularly concern safety. In contrast to a permanently installed lock, a padlock can be cracked relatively easily using tools such as pliers or bolt cutters and therefore only offers limited protection against break-ins and theft. Losing a key can also become a significant problem because the profile cylinder cannot be replaced. In addition, you should always pay attention to good quality when purchasing, as cheaper locks are usually not weather-resistant and rust. A padlock can also be bulky and therefore difficult to handle.
padlock latch

5. Screw-on lock

The screw-on lock is a type of lock that screws onto the back of a door or drawer rather than being installed into a recess. It is often used for smaller doors, drawers, garden gates and furniture as it is easy to install and requires no special tools.

It consists of a strike plate, a latch and a lock cylinder, whereby the latch is operated by turning the appropriate key in the lock cylinder and engages the strike plate to lock the door. The mechanics are covered by a lock case. In contrast to the mortise lock already mentioned, the screw-on lock does not require a recess in the door and is also much easier to install. Screw-on locks are usually made of galvanized metal and are suitable for outdoor doors and gates as they are resistant to weather influences.

However, they do have some disadvantages that should not be ignored. They offer less security than other types of locks and are more susceptible to tampering and break-ins. The attachment is also not suitable for all doors as they require a strong material and also damage the surface of the door as holes are required for attachment.
Screw-on lock

6. Circle bolt lock

A circular deadbolt lock is a special lock specifically for use on sliding doors and includes three available variants, the cambolt lock, profile cylinder lock and WC circular deadbolt lock. Since the straight bolt of a standard lock would not close a sliding door correctly, a curved compass or hook bolt is necessary. In addition, the circular bolt lock can be equipped with a suitable spring handle, which is suitable for sliding doors that open into the wall.

Sliding doors with their associated locks are particularly advantageous in living rooms and offices because they save space, are easy to handle and visually enlarge the given space. The variety of possible uses is therefore large; the door can disappear on or into the wall and offers visual elegance.

However, they only have a low level of burglary resistance, are completely unsuitable for house entrances and, with sliding doors on the wall, the door leaf has to run onto a stop post in order to be lockable at all. This can disrupt the overall picture.

Circle bolt lock

7. Buntbeard Castle

A popular door lock with a simple design is the beard lock, which is primarily used in interior doors. The associated keys have a high variety of (“colorful” or “versatile”) key shapes, which gives this type of lock its name. Both the key shape and the keyhole are intended to be visually reminiscent of a wavy beard.

The central component of the warded lock is the lock cylinder. This consists of various parts, such as the housing, the core and pin tumblers. In order to be able to close the door, there is an additional latch inside, which extends when the lock is pressed and engages in the striking plate. With the appropriate key, the pin tumblers inside can be unlocked or locked by turning.

The lock has a barrier in the form of a plate in front of the locking channel, which only allows the key with the appropriate profile to pass. In total there are 64 different profiles for beard locks in Germany.

Caution is advised when it comes to security. Beard locks can be opened relatively easily with a locking hook and are therefore only suitable for interior doors without security requirements.
Buntbeard Castle

8. Toilet lock/bathroom lock

A lock with the most common use that everyone has used at some point is the simple toilet or bathroom lock, which stands out unmistakably with the display “vacant”, “occupied” “green”, or “red”. The toilet lock is used to lock the door of a public or private toilet cubicle from the inside and is intended to provide privacy to users. The lock is equipped with a toilet set, i.e. with a rotary knob on the inside and a small knob with a recess on the outside. Depending on the model, a turning or sliding rule can be used here.

Overall, the lock is quite simple, it is single-turn, i.e. it is closed by turning it once and does not require an associated key.

The bolt is closed by activating the turner, known in technical jargon as the “olive”, and moving a square pin. The bolt finally snaps into the recess provided or in the strike plate on the door frame. In an emergency, it can also be opened from outside using a small notch and the appropriate tool.

The name may suggest that it is intended exclusively for toilet facilities. Because they are easy to use and practical, they are also used in changing rooms, for example, as no high safety standards are required here.

bathroom lock

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