Installing Door Hardware

By Brian Rhodes, Published Oct 23, 2013, 12:00am EDT

Most access installers find themselves in this sticky situation at some point: they need to install or reinstall a door lock. The problem? Door lock installation is a whole world unto itself, and seemingly is fraught with hundreds of different problems to address. When it comes to securing doors, the lock must work perfectly, or security and even life-safety could be at risk.

In this note, we walk though the installation of a lock on our test door. While it is specific to our door and our lock, the general installation process is helpful in many situations. We document that process below.

Installation Process

Our example will install a Mortise Lockset into our Test Door, but these same principles apply to the installation of every lock type. The steps to follow are:

  • Door/Frame Alignment
  • Lock Prep
  • Lock Installation
  • Function Checks and Final Adjustments

Performing the steps in order will result in locks installed with a high degree of reliability in the field. 

Lock Prep

The first step is to configure the lock for use in the door. This process varies according to specific locks, but the general procedure for every type is listed below:

  • Fixing Latch Position
  • Fine Tuning Lock Function
  • Handing

Fixing Latch Position: Because door swing differs in the field, the latchbolt frequently needs to be reoriented. This means the tapered side of the latch faces the strike, so the latch automatically retracts when the door closes. If not faced properly, the door likely will not close properly due to the latch interfering with the strike. Most locks feature a latch that can be twisted or installed to fit either direction.

To facilitate this situation, our mortise lock (like many) features a pivoting latch that was adjustable with a screwdriver. The image below reveals the importance of this step:

Fine Tuning Lock Function: Locks are available in over 30 different functions according to how/where they are used. For example, some locks automatically relock after they have been opened, for other the handle may retract the latch but NOT the bolt, and still others may keep one or both of the handles rigid when locked. This behavior can encompass up to twenty different settings configurable on the lock itself. The image below is an example of the settings available on our mortise lock, however there is no 'standard mix' of settings available on every lock:

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The field reconfigurability of the lock depends largely on the specific model being installed, but mortise types usually are the most configurable while deadbolts and cylinder locksets have one default behavior.

Handing: This step determines which direction the handles must turn in order to unlock the door. (Catch our Door Swing Primer for more detail.) This direction changes based on the swing of the door, and it is an unnatural action to pull 'up' on a handle to open the door. 'Field handing' means that this direction can be reversed during installation, usually through toggling a restriction plate or changing out a spring. No special tools are required to perform this step, and the example below can be done with a screwdriver:

Lock Installation

Once the door has been checked, and the lock has been configured, it is ready to place into the door. Most types of locks are installed from the latch out - meaning that attention is first paid to the piece that interface between the door and frame that actually perform the locking. After those components are installed, the lockbody (the internal mechanism that retracts the bolts is installed onto the latch. From there, trim details like escutcheon plates or handles are added, finally culminating in the actual keyed lock body (if separate).

  • Latch Insertion
  • Lockbody Installation
  • Handles
  • Lock

While the installation details of our Mortise Lock differ from other types, the distributor's installation video of a cylindrical leverset is very similar:

Function Checks and Final Adjustments

The culmination of the install is confirming the lock works like it is designed: both lock/unlock the door, the latches fully retract, and there is no mechanical binding or interference between the door, frame, strike, and lock. The final function checks generally include:

  • The Door latches and opens properly
  • Deadbolt operation is crisp and positively secures door to frame
  • Key access works
  • The door gap is uniform and ~1/8” after lock installation.
  • The auxiliary deadlatch is held inside the case when the door is closed.

In most cases, if the lock is adjusted properly during installation, it will not drift in function during use. Periodic realignment of the hardware may be required after heavy use, but the door locks will behave mechanically the same if properly configured.

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