Mortise Locks 101: How to Select the Perfect Security Solution for Your Home

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Mortise locks

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Ensuring the safety of our homes is a top priority, and choosing the right door lock plays a crucial role. In this guide, we’ll explore mortise locks, which offer both reliability and style. Learn about mortise locksets, how to select the best one for your door thickness, and why the Schlage L Series is a popular choice for heavy-duty mortise locks.

What is a Mortise Lock?

mortise lockset

Mortise locks have been a favored security option for centuries. These locks feature a rectangular pocket, known as a mortise, which is cut into the door to house the lock mechanism. Mortise locksets provide increased security and durability, making them ideal for exterior doors.

A mortise lock consists of several components, including the lock body, faceplate, key cylinder, and handle. The lock body is installed within the door, while the faceplate is visible on the door’s edge. The separate key cylinder and handle allow for greater design flexibility and functionality. One key advantage of mortise locks is their robust construction, which offers enhanced resistance against forced entry.

Types of Mortise Locks

Mortise locks are available in various styles and functions, catering to different needs. Based on their intended use, mortise locksets can be classified as follows:


Privacy locks are designed for rooms where privacy is needed, such as bathrooms and bedrooms. These locks typically have a thumb-turn or push-button mechanism on the inside and can be unlocked from the outside using a small tool during emergencies.


Passage locks are used for interior doors that don’t require locking, like hallways or closets. They permit free access from both sides of the door and generally don’t have a key cylinder.


Entry locks provide high-level security for exterior doors. They can be locked and unlocked using a key from the outside, while the inside typically features a thumb-turn or button mechanism.


Storeroom locks are meant for storage areas or rooms that should always be locked when closed. They can only be unlocked using a key, ensuring secure access.


Classroom locks are popular in educational settings. They allow the door to be locked and unlocked from the outside with a key, while the inside permits free egress.

In addition to their functions, mortise locks come in a variety of designs. From traditional to modern, there’s a mortise lockset to match your home’s aesthetic.

How to Choose the Right Mortise Lock

Mortise lock components diagram
Installation of mortise lock using a template

When selecting a mortise lock, consider the type and material of your door. Some doors may require modifications to accommodate a mortise lock, while others may not be suitable. If you’re unsure, consult a professional locksmith.

Assess your security needs based on factors such as door location, the value of items inside the room, and potential threats. For high-security applications, opt for a mortise lock with additional security features like a deadbolt or reinforced strike plate.

Your design preferences and your home’s overall aesthetic should also influence your decision. Mortise locksets are available in various styles, materials, and finishes, allowing you to find one that complements your decor.

Consider the ease of installation and maintenance when choosing a mortise lock. Some models are designed for simpler DIY installation, while others may require professional assistance. Regular cleaning and lubrication can prolong the lifespan of your lock and ensure optimal performance.

Lastly, keep your budget in mind. Prices for mortise locks can vary significantly based on factors such as brand, materials, and security features. Determine your budget and look for options that provide the best value.

Schlage L series heavy-duty mortise lock

Several well-known brands offer mortise locks with a range of features, durability, and price points. Some of the top brands to consider include:

  • Schlage: Renowned for its high-quality locks and security products, Schlage provides a variety of lock options, such as the Schlage L Series, which is popular for heavy-duty mortise locks.
  • Baldwin: Offering elegant and luxurious designs, Baldwin’s mortise locks are perfect for homeowners seeking an upscale appearance.
  • Yale: As one of the oldest lock manufacturers, Yale delivers reliable and durable mortise locksets in various styles and finishes.
  • Emtek: Known for its customizable options, Emtek allows you to create a unique mortise lock that perfectly suits your home.

Comparing the features, durability, and pricing of these popular brands can help you make an informed decision when selecting the best mortise lock for your home.

Ensuring Proper Door Thickness for Mortise Lock Installation

When installing a mortise lock, it’s essential to ensure that your door’s thickness is suitable for the lock you’ve chosen. Most mortise locks are designed for doors with a standard thickness of 1-3/4 inches, but some models can accommodate thicker or thinner doors.

Check the manufacturer’s specifications for the minimum and maximum door thickness compatible with the lock. If your door doesn’t meet these requirements, consult a professional locksmith for guidance on suitable options or modifications needed to accommodate the lock.

How to Install a Mortise Lock

While professional installation is generally recommended for mortise locks, confident DIY enthusiasts with the necessary tools may be able to handle the installation themselves. Before beginning, gather the required tools and materials, such as a mortise lock template, chisel, drill, screwdriver, and tape measure.

  1. Mark the lock’s position on your door using the provided template, ensuring it is properly aligned and level.
  2. Carefully chisel out the mortise cavity for the lock body, following the template’s guidelines.
  3. Drill holes for the lock cylinder and handle spindle, as indicated by the template.
  4. Install the lock body into the mortise cavity and secure it with the provided screws.
  5. Attach the faceplate to the door’s edge, ensuring a snug fit.
  6. Install the key cylinder and handle on both sides of the door, following the manufacturer’s instructions.
  7. Test the lock to ensure smooth operation and proper alignment.

If you encounter any issues during the installation process or are unsure about any of the steps, it’s best to consult a professional locksmith for assistance.

Maintaining Your Mortise Lock

Cleaning and lubricating mortise lock components

To keep your mortise lock functioning smoothly and reliably, perform regular maintenance. This includes cleaning the lock components, lubricating the moving parts, and addressing any minor issues that may arise.

Clean your mortise lock by removing dust, dirt, and debris from the keyhole, handle spindle, and other exposed parts. Use a mild soap and water solution for cleaning, followed by a soft cloth to dry the components.

Lubricate your mortise lock using a graphite-based lubricant or a silicone-based lubricant specifically designed for locks. Avoid using oil-based lubricants, as they can attract dust and debris, leading to operational issues.

Experience problems with your mortise lock? These can include difficulty turning the key or a loose handle. Address these issues quickly. This will help prevent further damage or security vulnerabilities. In some cases, you may be able to troubleshoot and resolve the issue yourself by tightening loose screws or adjusting the strike plate.

However, if the issue persists or you’re unsure how to proceed, it’s best to consult a professional locksmith. They can diagnose and repair the problem, ensuring that your mortise lock remains in optimal working condition.


Investing in a high-quality mortise lock is essential for ensuring the security of your home. By understanding the various types of mortise locksets, considering important factors when choosing a lock, and maintaining your lock properly, you can enjoy the peace of mind that comes with a secure and stylish entryway.

Ready to find the perfect mortise lock for your home? Consult a professional locksmith or browse recommended products from top brands to make a well-informed decision that suits your specific needs and preferences.

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