Are all interior door mortise locks created equally?

threeapplesApril 23, 2012

I'm trying to decide between Crown City Hardware and Charleston Hardware Company's brass interior mortise locksets. I love the look or Crown City's escutcheon plate and handle better, and their description of their mortise lock and skeleton key sounds like it's a very high quality product, but the mortise lock component alone is $99. For as many doors as we have I'm not sure this makes sense. I'm wondering two things: can I do the mortise lock from another company and use Crown City's knob and backplate together? And, are less expensive mortise lock sets decent quality? How do I know? I don't want to have to rip out the locks in a few years because I bought cheaper ones that don't function well. Thanks for any comments.

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"I'm wondering two things: can I do the mortise lock from another company and use Crown City's knob and backplate together?"

Generally yes.

The square knob shaft has been standard for a long time.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2012 at 3:51PM
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What about the quality of one company's mortise lock vs. another's? Crown City makes a point to discuss the quality in their craftsmanship and illustrate reasons on why theirs is superior. Is there such a difference or is this just marketing? thanks!

    Bookmark   April 23, 2012 at 5:02PM
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I am wondering why you are putting keyed locks on interior doors?

Fire codes prohibit installing keyed locks on bedroom doors.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2012 at 11:25PM
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I had no idea of this fire code. I like the look of these locks with skeleton keys better than doors with a push in button or turn to lock.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2012 at 8:13AM
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Mortise locks are not all of the same quality, the cheap locks generally are poor construction with no regard to tolerances. They will feel sloppy and loose and may not work smooth or properly. From my end you would be better off using a mid grade cylinder or tube lock than a cheap mortise lock. Mortise locks are available in bedroom functions the same as a tube lock so that should not be an issue.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2012 at 8:20AM
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"Fire codes prohibit installing keyed locks on bedroom doors."

And are routinely ignored since the fire department has no basis to enter end enforce the code.

Maybe if the government stuck to things they CAN enforce instead of things they believe are 'better' the world would function a little better.

I used to spend time restoring older mortise sets, but found more productive things to do.

The market and markup where not large enough.

The quality is not the same, and like many things you get what you pay for.

how much quality you are wiling to pay for is the big question.
The locks are rather simple, but even things like the spring quality (often flat leaf type springs) starts to show up after a few years on a heavily used door.

A good lock lasts a very very long time.
Sometimes far longer than the house they are even used in.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2012 at 8:34AM
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Better designs have things like springs that are trapped in the design without being acutely fastened to the box.

The sprig itself locks it into position.

Cheaper locks will often fasten them in place by hammering closed a groove the sprig is mounted into.
These are often much harder to repair if needed.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2012 at 8:36AM
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I would check with your inspector. Keyed locks on interior doors are probably a no no as are keyed deadbolts on exterior egress doors. We ended up putting cheap thumb switch deadbolts on our basement french doors and will switch them out with double cylinder dead bolts after we get our c.o. We have them now, and the key hangs on the door frame to the left of the door so it is readily available.

Frankly, I am more worried about someone kicking in my basement french doors than someone getting out of the basement in case of a fire (no bedrooms down there).

I would think that keyed locks wouldn't be allowed in bedrooms (or perhaps in any interior doors in new construction) but I may be wrong. Worth checking with the inspector though!

    Bookmark   April 24, 2012 at 8:58AM
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Brickeyee and Millworkman, does this lock (in the link) appear to be made well enough to justify its high price? As I mentioned, Charleston Hardware Co. has mortise locks that are much cheaper, but I have no idea whether they're decent or not. thanks!

Oh, on another note, is this what I order for each interior door, or do passage doors without locks use a tube mechanism instead of the mortise?

Here is a link that might be useful: lock detail

    Bookmark   April 24, 2012 at 9:22PM
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Coil springs instead of flat is a good sign.

The problem is you still cannot tell just by looking at a picture if the springs are designed correctly.

Are wear points smooth enough for long life and hard enough to last?

If the internals are steel even plating thickness comes into play for corrosion protection and long life.

I have seen oak doors eat into steel lock housings badly.
The high tannic acid level are an issue.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2012 at 12:10PM
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brickeyee, what should I do? how can I figure this out before ordering? I'd hate for my locks to not work properly and ruin my doors. half our doors will be stained cherry, the other half painted birch or poplar, i can't remember.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2012 at 8:51PM
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Have you double checked with the builder/building inspector that you can have keyed locks on a bedroom? I know you can't have them on exterior doors and would think bedrooms would be the same.

No idea about lock quality, except we ordered cabinet knobs by Crown City Hardware and they were super quality - solid brass, well made, and affordable.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2012 at 7:44AM
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Also, I think if there is a thumb latch on the interior, rather than a key, it is fine for bedrooms. Are these keyed on both sides or does the interior have a thumb latch?

    Bookmark   April 28, 2012 at 8:05AM
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Having locks mortised in individually is expensive and I would imagine they are not easy to replace. I would get the highest quality one since you want them to work well for the life of the house.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2012 at 8:08AM
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Make sure your GC and carpenters know about this if you decide to use mortised locksets. There are a lot of guys who've probably never seen one, let alone installed one.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2012 at 10:11AM
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They also take a special tool to install and are high labor items (I can't remember what we paid for the front door but it was 200.00 or so).

I would expect the labor on the individually mortised lock sets to match or exceed the cost of the interior lock sets - just based on my experience.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2012 at 12:35PM
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"how can I figure this out before ordering?"

you purchase one and see if it operates smoothly, then stop worrying about it.

It is just a lock

There area number of methods for installing mortise locks, none of them 'low cost' since they all take a certain amount of skilled labor and somewhat expensive tooling to not damage the door.

you can fit them with hand tools at a large price in labor

This is one of the reasons the newer locks are just bored round holes.

A couple hole saws, a small router, and some jigs and you can fit out the doors in about 15-20 minutes each.

Even bolt and strike plates often come with rounded corners to allow quick routing of the shallow recess in the edge of the door and the jamb 9and there are also small tools available to square the corners if you do not like the rounded ones or the lock needs square corners).

I have a hollow chisel mortiser (it 'drills' square holes) that can be used to bore for mortise locks, and have used it for this a number of times over the years.

It runs about $1,000 minimum for good one.

The small wood-shop ones are not adequate for the task since they do not move the chisel but force you to move the object being bored. OK fora small piece of wood for furniture making, not so good for a door.

As long as there s away to unlock the door from inside the room easily without a key (thumb latch) the AHJ should not have a complaint.

Privacy locks are standard for bedrooms and bathrooms, as opposed to passage knobs that cannot be secured at all.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2012 at 12:53PM
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=1 on all bricks points as he is spot on

    Bookmark   April 28, 2012 at 4:09PM
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One medium size city, which is also a college town, in NC has a zoning ordinance that declares that the presence of locks on interior doors makes it a "boarding house" per zoning regulations. That was after court challenges to boarding house rules based on the number of unrelated occupants in a dwelling.
In my house, I do have key locks on some of the rooms so that they can be instantly locked if children visit. Keeps them away from medications and firearms. No local laws prohibiting it.
Some of the interior mortise locks of the 1940s and 1950s were die cast zinc and are of really poor quality.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2012 at 9:26AM
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