Building Codes and Deadbolts

musicgalAugust 6, 2014

Just curious to see what standards exist across the continent for installing double dead bolt locks on exterior doors. We are not allowed to have them for inspection in our new house, which cost us some money and aggravation. It is ostensibly a fire safety concern not to be able to exit a threshold without a key from inside. We were allowed that configuration in a new house several years back, so just wondering if that was the case elsewhere.

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

If you mean a double keyed deadbolt lock that requires a key in order to exit the house, the oldest code I own that forbids it is the 1970 Uniform Building Code that covered all types of buildings.

As national consensus codes developed for public use buildings single family codes lagged behind until the mid 80's when a group of national code writers published the CABO One and Two Family Dwelling Code. Wording similar to the Uniform Building Code requirement was added to it in the mid 90's. The authors changed the name of their organization to the International Code Council in the late 90's and published the 2000 IRC.

The current IRC says, "Egress doors shall be readily openable from inside the dwelling without the use of a key or special knowledge or effort." This is now the requirement for virtually all of the US.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2014 at 10:32PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Anyone else. I know as recently as 2000, our semi-custom tract builder installed our front door with double deadbolt locks.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2014 at 10:36PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Not allowed in our location.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2014 at 11:09PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Sophie Wheeler

BIG safety issue and not allowed. For very good reason. In a fire, smaller kids, or older adults, or panicked fully able adults cannot exit the home.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 12:04AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

This is a good law. Fire safety is serious business.

I have deadbolts on my house, but while they require a key to lock /unlock from the outside . . . from the inside they're opened with the turn of a thumb-lock. No key necessary from the inside.

We replaced our lock about two years ago, so I know this type is still sold. My husband replaced it himself, but it seems to me that if it were illegal, that type of lock wouldn't be available at the hardware store.

This post was edited by MrsPete on Thu, Aug 7, 14 at 0:09

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 12:08AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

To keep toddlers from slipping out, an inconspicuous hook and eye is often used high up.

The only other rational use I can see for a door that cannot be opened from the inside is having a resident with dementia or Alzheimer's.

If a teen threatens to abscond with an unsuitable driver, a threat to report the driver as a kidnapper is usually sufficient to stop that.

If there is any other reason for such an impassable door, I would be interested in knowing what it is. It sounds dangerous to me.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 12:25AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

The thought of any door that requires a key to exit is terrifying.
I've never even heard of such a thing, thank God.
Our family experienced a house fire.
Not a good time to be fumbling around with keys.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 1:59AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Since the cylinder of a separate deadbolt can be changed easily personal safety is the relevant issue rather than the building code.

The use of cylindrical/tubular front door sets requires the latch and lock to be separate. The latching mechanisms are weak and don't last very long and lever handles tend to sag.

The standard for a front door should be a mortise "hotel lockset". The mechanism should outlive you and the deadbolt and latch retract with a turn of the interior knob so it is not necessary to find the thumb turn in a fire.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 4:36AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Double deadbolt configurations are very common in our area for a specific reason. Up to a few years ago, safety seminars were given by local law enforcement and security experts that actually ADVISED the use of keys on both sides of the lock? Why?

The growth in the popularity of mostly glass and heavily sidelighted doors. It was seen as a method to prevent an intruder from simply gaining access by breaking the glass.

But, the question was not whether the code was good, bad or otherwise. The question was, and is, what is the nature of the enforcement in different areas of North America, and if it is uniform. I am not questioning the existence of blue whales. I wish to know where they've been sighted. Thanks.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 8:19AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Musicgal - Double cylinder deadbolts are also common in my area. I have one on my back door right now. I have never thought twice about it. The keys are hanging on a key rack just a few feet away. I hadn't heard they were illegal but I've never asked either.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 8:29AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Annie Deighnaugh

At the old house, we had that on our cellar door as we had half glass in the door and for security, we didn't want a burglar to break the glass and gain entry.
We kept the key on a hook near the door but out of reach of someone on the outside.

Don't have it at the new house though.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 8:36AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thanks J and Annie- We had purchased a double lockset for one of our five egress doors... ironically the door farthest from the bedrooms, and then had to change it out because somewhere between the last house we "built" and this one... the code started to be enforced in our area for inspection. It was force of habit that caused us to choose a double, as we had been ingrained to do so since we were young homeowners.... a long time ago:-)

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 8:52AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I haven't seen a double deadbolt in years. I thought they had been outlawed years ago.

It always amazes me that we place so much importance on the security of doors while living in houses full of windows. Give me a rock, and I can get into most houses very quickly.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 5:53PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Old habits die hard even when they are obsolete.

The days of a thief quietly breaking one pane of glass in a multi-pane door and then unlocking the door are long gone. Modern large pieces of double-pane tempered glass are very difficult to break without a very large tool and that would probably make enough noise to wake the dead or at least the neighbors.

Today a thief would generally ignore glass in doors and test the locks and then the basement and first floor windows or possibly second floor windows above a porch roof. Short of locking those windows with a key (prohibited in a bedroom long before the door lock issue arose), the best protection is an alarm system.

At any rate, it is important for homeowners to recognize that Interior keyed door deadbolts are no longer the first line of defense against intruders and that other techniques should be considered.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 6:23PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

And MushCreek- conversely, I could just as easily escape a fire by climbing OUT of one of my windows without having a nanny state telling me how to run my life. And Ren8, I call BS on your statement that thieves don't break sidelights or leaded glass doors. I live in one of the largest metroplexes in the United States and the FRONT door is the preferred method of entry- by kicking it in (that's called home invasion... see, other people can be patronizing too:), and by breaking sidelight or door glass and reaching in to turn the little deadbolt switch.
Again, maybe some of the wiser folks here could contact the city of Houston police department and inform them of their silly website suggestions.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 7:33PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

First you said Just curious to see what standards exist across the continent for installing double dead bolt locks on exterior doors. We are not allowed to have them for inspection in our new house, which cost us some money and aggravation.

Then you said But, the question was not whether the code was good, bad or otherwise. The question was, and is, what is the nature of the enforcement in different areas of North America, and if it is uniform. Which was not true because you did not originally ask about enforcement of the code. You did not state that you knew that installing double dead bold locks was against the national building code. Your original question could have been interpreted to mean whether they are mentioned in the local code in different areas. I know in our area, local and national codes have differences.

The question about where the code is enforced is a tough one for most people to answer. Why? Because many are not interested in violating the code. And, due to the safety risk, many would not even think about installing a double dead bolt lock. So, whether it is enforced here or not, I have no idea, it was not something I was interested in having when we built our home.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2014 at 12:48PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Locking your kids or visitors into a smoke-filled burning house because they don't know where to look for or find a key seems like such an outrageously irresponsible act I can't even imagine how someone could consider it.

I'd wager that burglar with a prybar can open most locked doors in this country in a matter of seconds, the screws they use on most hinges and locksets won't resist even a minor assault with a tool. I've pulled enough of them off while doing demolition

    Bookmark   August 8, 2014 at 1:24PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

never mind, not with the effort or bother.....................

    Bookmark   August 8, 2014 at 3:15PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

millworkman... exactly what I think every time I read your tripe-

    Bookmark   August 8, 2014 at 3:22PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

FWIW, in our previous house we weren't allowed to have an ordinary dual cylinder deadbolt, but we were allowed to have a captive-key system. Normally, it looked like an ordinary thumb-turn, albeit a bit more angular and with a small but noticeable gap between it and the escutcheon. But put a key into the outside cylinder and turn it a bit, and then you could remove the thumb-turn, revealing it to be a key as well, and turning the lock into a double cylinder. The regular key would work on the inside cylinder as well, but unlike the thumb-turn-key, it wouldn't be held captive. We only removed the thumb-turn when we went on extended vacations. Ours was Medeco; I don't know if there are other brands on the market.

When we moved, we didn't bother. As others have said, burglars break in other ways. In the previous house, they just kicked in the front door. After that we got an alarm, but foolishly didn't put out signs. So we once had the screens cut, though they couldn't force the windows. Another time they did force the window, but fled when the alarm triggered, so nothing stolen. So an alarm system was the first thing added to the new house, along with sign stakes from the alarm company.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2014 at 9:58PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

If for some reason I could not get out the front door of my house, I would imagine, especially on the first floor, that I could go out a window, whether I had to open it and climb out or throw a chair through it first.


    Bookmark   August 8, 2014 at 10:33PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thank you Gary, for addressing the question. What part of the country were you in when you lived in the previous house?

palimpsest- you make a rational and salient point. Those who thrive on correcting the error of other's ways, would say such an expectation would put the children, infirmed, dogs, cats, gerbils and guinea pigs in great peril. Be careful with your logic or you might be labeled a child or animal hater. BTW, I am still the proud owner of the HW:) Thanks for your response on both threads- sincerely.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2014 at 8:50AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Doesn't specifically answer your question but thought I'd share that the double key deadbolts in my house were called out by the home inspector. This was last year.

I haven't changed them, just left a key in the inside locks. Will replace when I get rid of the (ugh) shiny brass which is rampant here.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2014 at 2:41PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

My experience with the Medeco captive key was in Massachusetts, as is my new home. Keep in mind that was over 25 years ago, so I can't even swear whether it was the building inspector, locksmith, or home inspector who told us that we couldn't use a simple dual cylinder, though I have no reason to doubt it. Also, MA tends to have lots of local variation.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2014 at 3:41PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thank you lucy and Gary-

Gary- the Medeco lock seems to be the perfect hybrid for those who want flexibility in their choices.

lucy- what part of Texas are you in?

    Bookmark   August 9, 2014 at 8:56PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Musicgal, I'm in Bryan. BTW, the home inspector's code reference was IRC code R311.4.4.

The Medeco lock interests me too. I checked it out and there is a dealer in Conroe, which is about an hour away.

Thanks, Gary.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2014 at 8:54AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Now Lucy- You have made me so happy ... because I pass right through Conroe every time I go to the new house! I will be able to see if the Medeco will work for us. Thanks.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2014 at 9:22AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Yes, thieves can drill through a deadbolt in a matter of minutes, BUT they're going to look a bit suspicious walking up to your door with a power tool, and they're likely to be overheard. If they want to break into your house, they're more likely to use a "bump key", which can be seen on You-Tube and purchased from eBay.

No, they're not so likely to break a window or sliding glass door. Those double-paned glass items are much more substantial than you might imagine, and they do make a big noise -- also, they leave a big, visible hole that people can see. In contrast, if they bust open your lock, they can still close the door and carry out their evil deeds in private.

So, pretty much, if a determined professional burglar has chosen your house, he's going to get in. What's the point, then, in having a lock at all? They keep out the casual burglar, the teenager who's roaming the neighborhood after school looking to score some beer and enough money to fill his gas tank -- and, speaking only for myself, I have never known anyone personally who's been the victim of anyone except a casual burglar. For those casual burglars, you don't have to do a whole lot to keep them out -- you pretty much just have to make it look tough to get into your house so that they'll go on down the road and choose a different target.

My personal thoughts on what's important:

- If you MUST have a pier glass next to your front door, make it a single glass and place it on the hinge side. The longest-armed burglar can't reach across your whole door to get to the doorknob.

- Make sure your back door isn't too private (so many plans these days feature a recessed back porch, providing burglars plenty of privacy).

- Avoid double French doors, which are pretty easy to kick in. Instead, choose sliding glass doors (which can look just like French doors) or French doors with only one operating side.

- Be sure your garage door is secure. Burglars love to get into the garage and then break into your garage-to-house door at their leisure. And don't skimp on the garage-to-house door. My in-laws bought a house that had only a simple little bedroom door in this spot! It provided essentially no protection from robbery, and they changed it before they slept in the house the first night.

- Plant holly or other thorn-y bushes under your low windows.

- Lots of thieves will go on down the road if a dog is present.

- I personally don't put any stock in alarm systems. They do nothing to prevent the burglar from breaking in, and since most burglars are in and out of a house in 5-10 minutes, it's unlikely that the police will arrive while the bad guys are still inside your house. Yeah, you might get a picture of the criminals, but they're unlikely to be as stupid as that guy on the TV commercial who so conveniently looks right at the camera and is wearing very distinctive clothing. Your real burglar is more likely to be wearing a hoodie or a hat to hide his face. What MAY help is having signs that say you have an alarm system; that may make the burglar move on to an easier target.

One final thought concerning fire and getting out of the house: Yes, if you couldn't use the door during a fire, you could absolutely break a window -- throw a chair through it or whatever -- but in a crisis situation, when you have less than a minute or two to escape, would you think of it? Maybe I would, maybe I wouldn't. I wouldn't want to count on it. I was once in a fire during the night at summer camp, and I remember another camper screaming, "Fire" . . . and then I was outside. I ran under my own power. I was literally outside before I was even awake, and I don't remember how I got there -- don't count on being rational in a fire.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2014 at 8:27PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

MrsPete- I want to thank you for your thoughtful and lengthy post, and as I have never seen you be discourteous in any fashion on these forums, I hope you accept what I am going to say in the gentle spirit which you deserve, as I know you are trying to be helpful.

My original post and question had and has nothing to do with how to make my house secure. It has to do with a building code pertinent to my replacement of a lock that is not permitted by that code. I was curious to know how widespread the enforcement of the code was and is. That is why I asked the question. By insisting that it remain On Topic, I have received some useful information- your post is Off Topic on this thread. This is not a discussion of home safety.

As your suggestions are very useful though, I suggest you start your own thread on the subject as there seems to be a lot of interest in the topic. All the best, MrsPete.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2014 at 9:16PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

music-my sis lives in Ohio and all 3 of the houses she has lived in have keyed dead bolt. I have to add while it surprised me as I'd never seen it before I never really thought about fire danger, etc.. She keeps the key in a nearby drawer. She does live in a larger city though which may play a part?

Just thought I'd add since I have seen it myself.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2014 at 6:08AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thanks Autumn- An on topic post:-) She probably installed them before the code was enforced or put them in after the fact- edit... or purchased them like that. Lol- I'm in such a "build a new house" mode right now, I didn't consider her buying a pre-exixting home!

This post was edited by musicgal on Mon, Aug 11, 14 at 8:01

    Bookmark   August 11, 2014 at 7:55AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Most definitely older homes - each one of them. Some of the interior doors have the knobs with those skeleton key holes? My kids think they are so cool. :D

    Bookmark   August 11, 2014 at 1:06PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
It's March 2015: How is your build progressing?
Zorro-anyone can start one. :) Link to It's February...
2 car vs 3 car attached garage price
We are in the beginning stages of trying to figure...
Frank Betz Kensington Park - opinions and any pictures please!
In the Air Force, thinking about building the Kensington...
Should I add a window in the dining room?
We are going to have a long narrow dining room, husband...
Bridget Howe
Spray Foam in Roof Rafters - Not Sure if it will Help
So my builder wants to spray foam all the rafters in...
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™