How to Choose Entry Hardware
The right hardware complements your home’s exterior and sets the tone for your interior design style.
First impressions are important, and the front entry of your home is one of the first details you experience every day. The design of the front walkway, porch, and even the entry door hardware together present that first peek at the rest of the house, offering a stylish and secure way to greet your family and guests. Choose the best front door entry set to help accent the colors, lines, and even those year-round decorations on your patio. Before you rush out and change the front door lock, here are a few important considerations when looking for the right entry hardware for your home.
What Is Entry Hardware?
The entry door hardware is the lock and handleset installed on any exterior door that leads into the home, like those at the front door or even the inside garage or basement doors. To ensure basic functionality and style, entry set selections include different types of doorknobs, levers, and locks. These entry sets may vary from standard, keyed mortise locks, to the more modern keyless entry door hardware.
While some door hardware is not limited to specifically exterior or interior applications, only exterior door locks and hardware should be used at your home’s entry points. An exterior door lock is sturdier, though they come in standard sizes. Some require specific reinforcement on installation as a way of adding security and may require the help of a professional.
Deadbolts can be paired with door handlesets, knobs, or levers, to create a unique look that adds to the overall style of your home. To find the best entry hardware, there’s more to pay attention to than just the color of the finish metal (though that is certainly important!)
The door handle seen from the outside of the door should complement the rest of the porch with similar lines and shapes, and still open inward to complement the look of the foyer. The door hardware you choose should inspire impressions via the design elements of the entry way or front porch, comparing or contrasting with key features like the porch light, windows, or patio furniture.
The front door is a transition space that blends one area to another, so entry door hardware is versatile to allow the style to shift between different looks. The exterior entry hardware may look the same as the interior, or it may be a split-finish set, with a different color finish or detail designs to match the foyer or front hallway. This could be as simple as having the same matte finish on all metal fixtures in the room, from the doorknob to the wall sconces, or as detailed as a scrollwork pattern from the handleset that matches the scroll edging on the stair banister.
As you choose a door lock and handle for the front door, keep in mind that door hardware is often seen as the jewelry of the home. It is a carefully chosen design element capable of a polished shine, and it is easily switched out for a new style. One benefit of using door hardware as an accent piece is that it’s easy to change the front door handles as needed. Some deadbolts will allow you to keep the same keys and still swap out the door locks for something that matches the new door, or the new paint job, or the new porch light. But the best front door lock set is a timeless, versatile hardware that will match your home’s style for years to come.
Entry hardware features different types of door handles and knobs to allow you to find the best fit for your household’s lifestyle and neighborhood. A homeowner may need to choose a keyless entry system to allow multiple users, or they may opt for a lock that coordinates with voice command apps on a phone or smart home assistant.
Some thieves will “bump” a tumbler-equipped cylinder lock, tapping in a special key to loosen the tumbler placement enough to open the door. Bump-proof locks can resist such break-in efforts to help keep your family safe.
Look for ANSI/BHMA rated locks that have passed the American National Standards Institute security standards.
- Grade 3 locks provide basic residential security.
- Grade 2 locks provide high residential or light commercial security and are more difficult to pick.
- Grade 1 locks provide the highest security for residential or commercial standards and are considered bump-proof.
The rating of the locks you choose are up to your discretion. A grade 3 lock is a perfect solution for a quiet rural apartment complex, while a grade 1 might better stand up to the traffic near a store front on a busy city street. Every home, business, and neighborhood will have a unique set of circumstances that help guide your decision on what would make the best door lock at each entry. When in doubt, always consult a professional locksmith for their recommendations.
Types of Entry Door Lock Sets
Determining the right type of entry lock set for your home is more than just picking the one that looks best. Different types of entry sets have a variety of advantages and features that you can match up with your household’s habits and lifestyle. It’s important to make sure everyone can access the handles and use them effectively, even with an armful of groceries. Consider whether the handles are pet-friendly to avoid unexpected escapes. Read on to get the details on the types of entry door sets out there to find the best match for your home.
Handlesets typically include a type of deadbolt lock and an elongated handle. Choose the right handleset by being mindful of any decorative elements that may help to reinforce the overall style of the home in a sleek and classic way. Most sets require keyed entry for access to the home and can look elegant on both single- and double entry doors. In some cases, the two elements of the handleset are included in one continuous piece.
Knobs and Knobsets
Door knobs are round in shape and turn to unlatch and open the door. Their shape can vary greatly in design, from sleek and modern, to ornate and traditional, with an array of finishes and completing details. The handle can be any shape, from a perfect circle to a narrower oval, or even unique knobs with curved edges and half-moon dents for easier grasp.
- Keyed entry doorknobs include a lock in the doorknob and can be paired with a matching deadbolt set. Another option is to choose a keyless or electronic deadbolt lock type for a secure and customized front entry.
- Knobsets feature a traditional doorknob paired with a keyed deadbolt for security. The duo looks chic on front entry doors but also makes for a popular choice for doors that lead from the garage to the home.
The classic door knob styles have a characteristic, rounded handle to turn to release a latch between the door and the door jamb. The main drawback to choosing this entry hardware style is that they can be difficult to grasp and turn for those affected by arthritis or otherwise diminished hand strength or coordination.
Door levers provide a modern alternative to knobsets. Leversets feature a horizontal handle that pushes down to release the latch. The lever itself is very minimal in design but can be ornate in style, and the set is completed with a keyed deadbolt. They can also include tumbler locks to prevent the latch from releasing.
Stylish door levers are simple to operate, with only a 90-degree angle turn required to release the latch. The mechanics of a lever style door handle can be much easier for those who have difficulty grasping or turning a doorknob style or anyone with limited dexterity. The drawback of installing a lever handle is that, when the latch is unlocked, they can be very easy for pets and children to open as well.
Mortise Lock Sets
Some doors call for mortise locks, which feature a deep-pocket design that is cut into the edge of the door itself. The locking mechanism is entirely self-contained in a secure metal casing that is then embedded into the door. This type of door lock is a reinforced lock that is more difficult to pick or force open.
The detailed and precise requirements of a mortise lock set make professional installation highly recommended unless you have experience installing this type of door hardware. For more information on these specialty locks, check out our article on how to shop for mortise locks.
Keyed vs. Keyless Locks
The traditional locks built into doorknobs use hidden mechanics that prevent the bolt from turning without first fitting a unique key to move the tumblers into a line. The key can then turn and unlock the bolt. This is referred to as a keyed entry lock.
A keyless entry lock uses magnets rather than the tumbler system to move the bolt from inside the door to block into the jamb. Electronic locks activate or disable the magnets via the entry of a passcode or other secure access means, such as RFID or Bluetooth proximity sensors.
A big trend in home improvement is to opt for keyless door entry sets which utilize either smart technology or keypads, or a combination of both, that allow you to unlock your door with a code or smart phone. Installing a keyless lock provides added convenience by ensuring you don’t have to mess with your key in the dark or worry about whether or not you’ve forgotten it.
An electronic door lock is very handy for people who are forgetful with their keys, or anyone that wants to make it easy for guests to be able to come and go as needed. For security, it’s a good idea to change passcodes frequently, and some smart locks allow you to assign different codes for different people who access your home.
Keyless entry handlesets and deadbolts can also connect to home assistants or phone apps to respond to voice commands.
Smart locks are a subset of the keyless entry category and they’ve become a much bigger part of the market in recent years. This type of entry set is part of a larger connected home system and allows you to remotely control your lock with an app.
While keyless entry may rely on an entry pad to type a code, a smart look automatically unlocks the door when it detects your phone is within range, or with a simple tap of an app button on your phone screen. They rely on proximity sensors to offer much of the same convenience as other keyless entry options, but without having to worry about remembering a code.
You often have the option to choose a Wi-Fi enabled smart lock, which allows you to unlock or lock the door from anywhere. Some smart entry sets will even send you a text when certain codes are used to unlock the door and many more high-tech features to customize the door hardware to your household’s busy lifestyle. For more information on smart locks, check out our guide to keyless home entry locks.
7 Factors to Consider When Buying Door Hardware
Now that we know more about the different types of entry hardware sets, let’s take a closer look at some of the important factors that you will need to consider as you browse for the right fit for your home. To find the best hardware for your door, we would strongly recommend that you check each of these tips before you make any purchase.
Your exterior doors play an important role in keeping unwanted strangers out. Picking out the right door lock can determine how well your exterior doors hold up to the job of keeping your home secure. If you’re looking to buy a lock for your front door, safety and security should be paramount in your decision.
Many door entry sets include two different types of locks – a deadbolt and a thumbscrew lock – giving you two levels of protection. Mortise sets and deadbolt locks that are hard to pick are both recommended for exterior doors. The grade of the lock also plays an essential role when it comes to safety and security.
For most people buying entry sets for exterior doors, the priority is to find door hardware that is hard to tamper with. But don’t overlook the importance of finding a lock that works smoothly enough for every member of the household to consistently use correctly. A lock can only do the job when everyone is in the practice of using it, so make sure it’s one everyone is capable of using safely and effectively.
2) Ensure the Right Fit
With a few easy measurements, you can ensure that the entry door handleset or knob you choose makes a secure fit for the door. When shopping for your front door knobs and locks, narrow your search by both the door thickness and backset to ensure the options that appear in your search are designed to fit in your door.
First, take a precise measurement of the thickness of the door and have it handy for reference while you shop. Most standard doors measure 1 ¾ inch thick. As such, most exterior door lock sets will be sized to fit these dimensions.
The cross-bore measurement refers to the size of the bore hole drilled through the door that will house the knob or deadbolt lock type. Most doors feature a round bore hole of 2 1/8 inches, though the hole can be made larger for some designs.
Another important measurement is the backset. This is the term for the space from the edge of the door and the center of the hole. Most doors feature a backset of either 2 3/8 inches or 2 3/4 inches.
The door handing indicates which side of the door is attached to the door frame and determines which side the door hardware will be installed on (hint: it’s the opposite side). Make sure you check the handing of your door and that the door hardware you buy is compatible with it.
3) Where the Hardware will be Used
Different doors serve different purposes. The entry set for a living room or master bedroom doesn’t need to be as secure as a front door. As you browse through the options, make sure that you’re looking for hardware that matches the needs for the door you intend to install it on.
- Exterior Doors – You’ll want to have a lock that is secure and provides adequate protection. The best lock for this door will be a deadbolt, mortise handleset, or keyless entry.
- Interior Doors – You’ll want privacy, but don’t need a lock designed for Fort Knox. The best hardware for these doors will likely be either a privacy or passage set.
While safety is certainly important, when it comes to dealing with those door entry sets day after day, convenience is the main factor that will affect your everyday experience. If trying to find your keys, whether in a purse or backpack, or while juggling groceries, or keeping track of rambunctious pets or kids, is a regular challenge, then you’ll be happier buying a keyless entry set. Keyless entry makes it possible for you to unlock the door either with a code, a smartphone app, or by simply walking up with the keys in your bag.
These options are still strong on security, but can make getting in and out of your own home each day easier for you. And for those who are forgetful, some smart keyless entry set options will let you lock the door with your phone from anywhere. No more worrying if you left the garage side door unlocked all day while you sit at work.
Entry door sets come in a wide range of styles and finishes. Some are designed to be functional without drawing too much attention, while others are intended to be a beautiful addition to the overall look of the door.
In particular, handlesets are often ornate and decorative, while a knob or handle may be more simple by design. No matter what type of hardware you buy, there is a wide variety of styles available. Whether modern, rustic or traditional, you should have no problems finding the door hardware to match the decor in your home.
Take some time to browse your options. In addition to considering how much you like the look of the entry set itself, think about how it will look with the style of door you have, as well as the rest of the decor on the porch or in the entryway of the room it opens into. Make sure the finish and style will complement the overall visual look of the door, since the entry set will just be one part of the whole.
6) Lock Grade
If you’re worried about how secure an entry set you’re considering really is, you don’t have to trust in marketing promises provided by the manufacturer. The Builders Hardware Manufacturer’s Association (BHMA) and American National Standards Institute (ANSI) are third party organizations that test out most of the locks you’ll see on the market. These organizations provide locks with a grade based on how well they stand up to use over time and how hard they are to disable, with a grade 1 rating being the best, most reliable hardware. When security and durability are priorities for you, the grade of the lock is going to be an important factor in your decision.
7) Ease of Installation
Another important consideration when buying door hardware is how difficult it will be to install. Most homeowners with just a little bit of DIY experience will likely be able to take care of installation themselves. If you’re replacing one set with another, it probably won’t take very long.
It’s important to note, however, that some entry sets will be more difficult. Mortise handlesets, as an example, may require you to call a professional. If you’re hoping to do it yourself, then it’s important to have some idea of how complicated it will be.
Look to the customer reviews to see what people say about the installation process. If it’s difficult, some reviewers will probably warn you and potentially provide tips for what helped them get it done. If it’s easy, they’ll let you know so you can go into the purchase without worry.