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Home Security--How ‘Bout Them Doorknobs

When is a doorknob not a doorknob?

First, let’s establish the vocabulary.

The doorknob, or handset, is usually round, oval or tulip-shaped, and throws a latch that slides into a hole in the doorjamb to keep a door closed. The rounded shape can be difficult for children or older folks to maneuver, so a door handle—usually a lever—does the same job.  A lever also makes a door easier to open with an elbow when both hands are occupied, akin to a lever at the kitchen sink faucet to turn on or off with a wrist.

Regardless of shape, a handset is utilized for four functions:

• Entrance: used on exterior doors, and usually include keyed cylinders.

• Privacy: used for bedrooms and bathrooms. They usually have a manual lock on the inside of the room, but do not use a key.

• Passage: used to a hall or closet, and do not lock.

• Dummy: used for ball-catch doors for a consistent design aesthetic with other doors, but when the latch mechanism is not required. 

A keyed knob offers the absolute minimum security, but like a cheap deadbolt, makes malicious access too easy. Only a pack of trained, resident Rottweilers could sway me from nearly insisting that a customer use a deadbolt, too.  And on a door with glass, that deadbolt should be a double cylinder, meaning it takes a key to open it from either side.  Hanging the inside key beside the door keeps it handy when you need to get out in a hurry, but out of sight and reach if someone breaks a glass pane, hoping to throw the thumb knob on a single cylinder deadbolt.

Common practice is to use more decorative hardware at the front or main entrance, and simpler knobs at side or rear doors. Even if the locks are from different manufacturers, they can be “keyed alike,” so that you only need one key to get into any and every door. Better yet, the handsets can be keyed in concert with your deadbolts. 

Duncan Cottrell, The Entry Enforcer, is a home improvement technician specializing in Home Intrusion Prevention.  He offers door and window reinforcing, free home security assessments, and answers questions at Duncan@EntryEnforcer.com.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Jamie April 23, 2012 at 04:56 PM
I was told the double cylinder deadbolts were illegal now due to fire code. I tried to find one for a glass back door that I have and haven't been successful
Duncan Cottrell, The Entry Enforcer April 25, 2012 at 02:11 AM
I am researching the definitive answer to the double cylinder deadbolt question. Meanwhile, it is my assumption that a homeowner may do whatever they choose in this regard. Stay tuned for what I find out from the fire marshall and the building inspector.
Duncan Cottrell, The Entry Enforcer April 26, 2012 at 02:56 AM
Double cylinder deadbolts are often used on doors with glass to prevent an intruder from breaking the glass and turning the thumb latch to open the door. An alternative is window security film on the glass which keeps broken glass from falling out. The International Residential Code as adopted by the State of Georgia prohibits the use of double cylinder deadbolts on residential egress doors (paragraph R311.2) in order to allow easy escape from a fire. A remodeling job done under a building permit will not pass inspection with a double cylinder deadbolt on a door. In practice, a homeowner who is willing to accept the risk can install a double cylinder deadbolt (which is readily available) and keep a key nearby. Upon offering the house for sale, the lock should be changed back to one with a thumb turn instead of a key on the inside.

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