Guide to the best locks for your doors and front door

man opening a door with a lever handle and key lock


Posted April 22, 2024

Keeping your doors securely locked is key to improving your home security. Find out which types of door locks are the best, safest and most secure for your home.

With home security top of mind for many, homeowners are looking into different security solutions to help protect their home. If you’re looking into upgrading your home’s security, don’t forget the humble door lock.

“Doors locks are your first defence when it comes to unwanted ‘visitors’ in your home, office or vehicle,” says Shane McBride from Casey Locksmiths, a provider for RACV Trades. “If locks are installed and used correctly, they can stop an intruder entering your space. But if locks are not used correctly, then you have just made the intruder’s job easier to steal your possessions.”

Remember to secure all doors on your property, as burglars will often break in through side, rear and garage doors.

Best types of locks and latches for your home doors and front door

Knob or lever handle lock

Conventional locks feature a keyed lock fitted into the door’s knob or lever handle. These are lock-and-barrel mechanisms that can be opened by a key that fits its internal pin tumblers. Once you insert the correct key, the internal pins are raised, and the door is unlocked.

While convenient and easy to use, these locks should not be used as your primary door lock. For starters, since the lock is located on the handle, a burglar can simply break off the knob and twist the latch to access your property. Otherwise, firm downward pressure on a locked lever handle can usually open the lock from the inside – which is why these types of locks are best used on internal doors in commercial properties, or residential homes inhabited by elderly or disabled people.


man unlocking a key in knob door

Knob handle locks are susceptible to break-ins. Image: Getty


Deadbolt lock

“Deadbolts or deadlocks on front doors are certainly a great first line of defence from intruders,” McBride says. These are strong, heavy-duty locks commonly used on exterior doors for security against breaking-and-entering. It uses solid metal cylinders that locks the door to its frame by protruding through the door jamb and into a hole in the wall. 

Unlike conventional spring bolt locks, which use a spring to hold the bolt in place, deadlocks have no springs. They require much more force to pry back, preventing would-be burglars from prying the door open. Deadbolts are also more time-consuming to lockpick than other keyed locks, which is a big deterrent to potential burglars, who don’t want to be caught in the act. “If a particular door/window takes an intruder longer to gain entry, most likely they will either give up or be deterred from even trying,” McBride says.

Deadbolts come in single- or double-barrelled varieties to allow for keyed entry on one or both sides of the door. Double-barrelled deadbolts may be a fire risk if the door needs to be used as an emergency exit. Single-barrelled deadlocks feature a twist knob on the inside of the door that can simply be turned by hand to disengage the bolt. Many keyless (digital or smart) locks use deadbolt cylinders too.


man installing a deadlock on a door

Deadlocks can be installed onto many doors by qualified locksmiths. Image: Getty


Smart lock

Smart locks (sometimes called keyless locks) are becoming more common as technology progresses. Once they were used only in hi-tech security facilities, but now they are being installed in Australian homes that value additional safety.

Magnetic sensors, RFID chips, radio remote controls and number pads are the most popular options, although particularly hi-tech locks may use thumbprint or retinal scanners, voice recognition or biometric imaging. Most electronic keyless entry locks rely on battery power rather than mains power, so they still work in blackouts and power outages.

Smart locks treat the correct data input – whether that’s a PIN typed in or a successful fingerprint scan – like a key and automatically slide back the bolt to allow entry. Since there is no traditional lock, it is impossible for burglars to pick the lock: they would have to possess the right data. PIN smart locks are ideal for business and rental properties, since the code can easily be changed with new tenants rather than new keys needing to be cut.

“We will likely see more smart locks in the future, but also the traditional key-and-lock mechanism will still be around for many years to come, as most smart locks will require a back-up operation in case of power failure or internet connectivity issues,” McBride says. “Their software technology is getting better every day and people like convenience, so smart locks will continue to grow in the market.”


woman unlocking a digital lock with keypad

Smart locks often use PIN codes. Image: Getty


How to prevent forced entry into your home

Choose doors made of solid materials

Solid wood, fibreglass, UPVC or steel doors are your best bet for security, although steel doors can be heavy and expensive. Stay away from wooden composite doors, especially ones with hollow cores, which can crack under enough force (like a burglar kicking).

Installing a security door that adheres to Australian Standards in front of your main door is a fantastic secondary security measure. “Security doors are also great as another line of defence, as that creates another barrier to intruders – not to mention, you can leave your main door open to allow for breeze on a nice day,” McBride says.

Install steel door frames

Even deadbolts can be defeated if they lock a door to a flimsy frame. If a burglar can kick the door’s hinges out of the frame, the lock won’t be much use. Sturdy steel door frames are becoming more popular in new homes and can even be equipped onto existing wooden frames.

Just make sure that the type of lock you want works with your frame. “Some locks are designed to work on some door frames and not others,” McBride explains. “For example, some new homes have metal door frames, while most ‘standard’ locks you see from retail outlets offer locks to suit timber frames only.”


security screen door

Security screen doors provide an extra level of protection against burglars. Image: Getty


Use deadbolts wherever possible

“We are finding that in eight out of ten homes that we attend where a break-in has occurred, there was no deadlock installed on the forced door,” McBride reveals. “Had the correct deadlock been installed by a professional locksmith, it would have certainly made it a lot harder for an intruder to gain entry into the home.”

“While I’ve learnt early in my career as a locksmith that we can never guarantee that your house is 100% secure, fitting deadlocks, window locks and showing customers the way a lock works most effectively is the best deterrent we can provide a customer.”

Get locks installed by a professional

RACV Senior Product Manager for RACV Trades, Nathan Tayeh recommends choosing professional lock installation over trying to do it yourself.

“Some new doors and door hardware are not cheap and installing them is not as easy as it sounds,” says Tayeh. “The professionals make it look easy and it’s taken them years of experience to get to that point. Aligning the door correctly, notching out hinges and installing the right hardware is difficult to get right. These are the types of jobs you want a professional to do, so you get a professional finish on your investment.”

Talk to your locksmith

Remember that not all locks suit all doors, and you might have particular requirements for your property.

“Locks come in some different styles, colours and functions. When you’re obtaining a quote from your locksmith, ask them what the best option for your door is,” McBride advises. “Questions to ask should include, what brand of lock do you suggest? Are there any other options? Why do you think that lock is the best for me?”


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