Locks guide

Choosing the right lock for your home.

Whether you own or rent your property, you’re going to want peace of mind that your home, and everything in it, is safe. That’s why making sure you fit your doors with a decent, reliable lock is important. But with so many options available, choosing one that suits your needs can be difficult.

1. Mortice locks

These locks tend to be some of the more common types you’re likely to see, and are set within the body of the door rather than being attached to the surface. The lock itself is visible at the edge of the door when opened. There are two types of mortice lock: 

Key in lock

The mortice sash lock

What is it? 

This lock combines a mortice lock with a door handle, enabling you to open and shut the door without having to use a key when you’re at home. You can then lock it with a key when you go out, and at night.

What’s good about it?

These locks come with different security levels. A 3-lever sash lock is considered a mid-level security lock and can be used on internal doors. A 5-lever sash lock offers high-level security and is more likely to be found on external wooden doors. They are also recommended by the police. These are all things worth considering when deciding which option best suits your security needs.

Key in lock

The mortice deadlock

What is it?

This type of lock features a bolt only, requires a key, and is lockable from both inside and out, offering greater security.

What’s good about it?

Commonly used on front doors, sitting at about waist height, they can also be combined with a night latch (see below).

2. Night latch

Couple opening door

What is it?

The night latch tends to be installed at around shoulder height on the inside of the door, and can be operated using a knob on the inside and a key on the outside.

What’s good about it?

These locks are largely used to secure front doors or other external entrances. One of the benefits of a night latch is that it locks automatically when the door closes.

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Recognisable by the circular rim cylinder lock, night latches are often referred to as Yale locks, but are in fact made by a number of different manufacturers.

3. Digital lock

Digital lock

What is it?

A digital lock features a keypad and is accessible by entering a four-digit code, rather than by using a key.

What’s good about it?

Digital locks are good for properties with a shared main entrance, such as flats and apartments, and are also common on business premises.

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Digital locks are sometimes referred to as ‘SecureFast’ because of a well-known manufacturer, but are actually available from various different lock makers.

4. Smart lock

Smart lock

What is it?

These locks work by connecting your smartphone or a special key fob via Bluetooth or WiFi.

What’s good about it?

They include a number of features designed to meet your individual needs, such as the ability to give ‘virtual’ keys to friends or family which only allow access at certain times of day. You also won’t have to carry keys around with you.

Top tip

Be careful if considering a smart lock - Wi-Fi locks in particular can be vulnerable to hacking as they’re always connected to the Internet, so make sure your connection is secure before installation.

Also, be sure to speak to your insurance provider to check if installing smart locks will affect your policy.

How might the lock I choose affect my home insurance?

Couple looking at laptop

As part of any insurance policy, you have a responsibility to take reasonable steps to avoid making a claim, and fitting the right lock is a key part of this.

Some insurers have minimum requirements to be aware of, which differ depending on the type of door or window lock you choose. For instance, your main external door should feature either a mortice deadlock with at least 5-levers, or a lock conforming to a British Standard of at least BS3621.

Meanwhile, a sliding patio door should be fitted with an anti-lift device to prevent the doors being removed from their running tracks, together with a multi-point locking system, and windows must be fitted with at least one key-operated lock.

Be sure to check with your insurer to ensure you’re compliant with their terms before fitting any locks in your home. 

Look out for the British Standard kitemark

Be sure to choose a lock which is made to the British Standard BS3621, and carries the British Standard kitemark - this information should be clearly visible on the packaging.

BS3621 means that the lock has to have the ability to be dead locked and the key taken away from both sides so no one can gain access or exit the door without a key. Locks bearing this kitemark are often recommended for all final exit doors.

Locks: 3 more things to bear in mind

Drilling a lock

1. Who should fit my locks?

Although many new locks come with easy-to-follow instructions, if you’re not convinced you’ve got the DIY skills to complete the work, it’s worth seeking the help of a licensed locksmith. They can help you choose the most suitable option for your needs, and can make sure that it’s fitted correctly.

You can find your nearest tradesperson by using the 'find a locksmith' search tool on the Master Locksmiths Association (MLA) website.

2. What should I do if I’ve lost my keys?

Some insurers cover loss of keys under their policies, so you should check with your insurer first.

If you’ve lost your keys and have no access to a spare set, one solution is to go to the Master Locksmiths Association (MLA), website and use their ‘find a locksmith’ search tool.

Your local licensed locksmith will be able to either change the locks on your property, or help you gain entry.

It’s a good idea to think about having some spare keys cut, and leaving them with a trusted friend or relative.

3. Can I change the locks in a rented home?

Always check the terms of your contract. Generally speaking, a tenancy agreement effectively means that you own a property for a certain amount of time, and with that comes the right to change the locks, provided you have the landlord’s permission.

The landlord might also ask for a set of keys for the new locks. 

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