Best Doors and Locks for Exterior Entrances
You may not want to think about it, but when you’re at home, your front door is all that separates you and your family from the outside world. And if you’ve ever experienced a break-in, you know how tenuous that barrier can feel.
When my home was broken into, I questioned everything in the house—the front door, the French doors that led to our backyard patio, every window in our sunroom, our lazy pups who didn’t make a sound—but the reality is that if someone wants to get into your home, they will find a way.
That being said, you don’t have to make it easy for them.
If you’ve ever wandered through the home remodeling department of your local home improvement store, you’ve probably seen countless front entry doors stacked together or arranged in demo units. All those choices can be a little overwhelming.
Fiberglass or solid wood? Steel or aluminum? Six-panel or sidelights? What about a storm door?
Once you’ve chosen a door, you’ll need to decide on a locking handle and deadbolt. It’s all a lot to consider, but keep reading for the information I’ve compiled to help you choose the best exterior entry door and lock set for your home.
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Lock Grades and Sets
While your door does provide some protection from intruders, the primary security comes from the door’s lock set and the grade of the lock.
For further security, your home’s front door—and any other exterior doors—should have a deadbolt to ensure that someone cannot gain access to the house by simply removing or breaking off the door handle.
Looking at the entry door handle sets at your local home improvement store is a great place to start, but a professional locksmith may be able to offer more guidance and a wider range of products, especially if you’re looking something heavy-duty.
Regardless of whether you consult a pro for advice or turn this into a DIY project, you’ll need to give some thought to the lock’s grade. we use a grading scale of 1, 2, or 3 to indicate the performance of a given piece of hardware:
- Grade 1: Grade 1 hardware and locks are considered commercial grade and are quite sturdy. Because they are costlier than Grade 2 and 3 options, few hardware stores stock them, but locksmiths often do.
- Grade 2: Most of what you’ll find in the lock and handleset section of the home improvement store will be Grade 2. Grade 2 locks are the common grade of lock found on residential exterior doors.
- Grade 3: The only place a grade 3 lock set should be is on an interior door. Grade 3 locks are typically handle locks only and are easily unlocked with a coin, screwdriver, or fingernail.
For residential purposes, a Grade 2 lock and handleset is your best bet. Be mindful when making your purchase, since some products advertise that they contain components that carry a Grade 1 rating or that the lock has Grade 1 features.
These claims are a gimmick. To get the highest quality residential lock, the entire set must carry a Grade 2 rating.
If you purchase an exterior entry door handle set, a deadbolt should be included. If you’re adding a deadbolt to an entry door that doesn’t already have one, however, you’ll need to keep some important pointers in mind.
Like the lock set you choose, the best deadbolt for residential use will carry an overall Grade 2 rating. While you’ll probably come across double-cylinder deadbolts as you shop around, it’s best to stick with a single-cylinder option.
Double-cylinder deadbolts must be opened with a key from both inside and outside the door—this is great for deterring intruders, but incredibly dangerous in an emergency. The more standard deadbolt that only requires a key on the outside is safer.
Here are some other features to look for in a deadbolt:
- Solid brass construction. These deadbolts are a little more expensive, but solid brass is a hard metal and therefore more secure.
- A bolt that extends one full inch into the door jamb. This provides more resistance if an intruder tries to force the door open.
- A bolt with a tamper-proof steel pin in its center. If an intruder tries to cut through the bolt with a power tool or blade, the steel pin in the center of the bolt will spin, making cutting all the way through it virtually impossible.
- A slightly inset housing. A secure deadbolt should sit in the door rather than simply bolting on to the surface. This ensures that a hard upward or downward hit from a blunt object won’t knock the deadbolt off the door.
In most cases, you’ll be able to install or replace a door lock, deadbolt, or handle set on your own. Kits typically include all the hardware you’ll need, and if you have a drill and a couple of screwdrivers, you’ll be in good shape.
If you don’t have the right tools, or if you’d rather leave a task as important as this one to the pros, there is absolutely no shame in calling a locksmith. He or she will be able to get you squared away with no problems.
The Bottom Line
Purchasing the right front entry door and lock set is important. Not only is it a significant financial investment, these parts of your home are vital to the security of you and your family. It’s not something you want to get wrong.
The front door you choose will depend on several factors, such as your budget, the climate, the style of your house, and any HOA restrictions you might encounter. In most cases, however, a fiberglass door is the ideal marriage of cost effectiveness, variety of styles and colors, and energy efficiency.
Choosing a door lock can be overwhelming, but try not to let esthetic factors get in the way of choosing the most secure option. Look for Grade 2 locks and deadbolts first, and then choose the style you like.
Locks and handle sets (and doors, too) are available in a wide range of styles and finishes, but when your security is concerned, prioritize function over form.