Tips on installing a mortise entry set myself?

slateberry51December 16, 2008

So, I've drooled over a new lockset for my front door. I showed my husband my favorite one. At $750, he hit the ceiling. After all, at that price it's cosmetic, not functional, right?

Fast forward a few months. The existing entry set, which appears to be the cheapest possible installed by the previous owner, is falling apart. Apparently time softens the edges, because my husband says, as long as we're going to get a new set, we might as well take a look at the one you like again. (!) At which point I announce to my family I will forego birthday, Christmas, and Mother's day presents for the next 5 years if we get it. This had the interesting side effect of really impressing my kids. They already think I'm kind of weird. I mean, can you imagine telling a kid, "Here sweetie, if you give up all presents for the next five years, you can have a really pretty doorknob for your bedroom." Not bloody likely. But, it works for me.

So, we look at it again, I swoon, again. He complains that it doesn't have egress. What's egress? The mate of egret? OK, it's the ability to lock the door from the inside, walk out, and shut it behind you, already locked, without having to stop, pull out your key, and lock it behind you. For $750 I agree it ought to be able to do that. Heck, some of the cheapest entry sets can. So, we call the company. It's a $400 upgrade (!). At this point, my husband is directed to the website of the upgrade mechanism, and he is impressed. Function reigns again. He is willing to fork out for the upgrade. Ah, to be married to an engineer...

Time passes and we wait for the quote from the hardware company. Finally, I get a call from the CSR that has taken "my case": turns out her boss is sick of having to special order the upgrade, egress version of the mechanism, and it is now the default, stock version. (wow, could there actually be more engineering suckers out there demanding the upgrade? Boggles me mind.) For some reason, the final price is now 1,030, which is happily less than the previous price plus custom upcharge. Even better, I have a 15% off discount code.

So, it's on the way, and I want to at least try to install it myself. I figure the service call from the local locksmith would normally be around $100, and when they see this set, they'll double it. The point is, I spent all my money on the lock, so I now have less money to pay them, not more. Sigh.

I've taken apart and repaired/restored some of the 100+ year old interior door hardware in our house, I figure, why not at least give this a try? So, are there any warnings/gotchas, or should I just jump in?

Oh, and here's what the guts of the entry set look like:

Here is a link that might be useful: Click on

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The link did not show the specific assembly you want.

I have a question. How secure is the door jamb/framework and in what kind of door will this assembly be installed?

If the door/door frame/framing are not made with sufficient strength, then if a thief wants to get through the door, they simply kick it in----and that $1000 door knob is a very expensive decoration.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2008 at 7:48PM
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The lock will come with paper templates to lay everything out.
The most common field method is to drill a series of overlapping holes in the edge of the door with a brace and the correct size bit.

This is actually NOT a place to use a power tool.

Before drilling the holes you may want to clamp some pieces of 2x lumber on each side of the door were the lock pocket will be drilled and chiseled.

The drilling needs to be very straight since the wood remaining on each side of the pocket is not very thick.

The wood clamped to the door helps reinforce the area when you use a chisel and mallet to clean up the bored holes for make the lock pocket.

If the door is old or hardwood it can be a real job to get everything drilled and cleaned up.

You may need a few different size of hole saws for the job also.
These can be used on a drill, but a lower speed 3/8 inch drill or larger is easier to use.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2008 at 8:32PM
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Hire a pro. If you can shell out that kind of dinero for a lockset, you can afford to have it professionally installed.
If you lack the experience, it would be like entering a demolition derby with a bently!

    Bookmark   December 16, 2008 at 8:50PM
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Go to this link, it will show how difficult Mortising is, I would hire a professional.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2008 at 9:31AM
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I have seen locksets mortised into a door on This Old House. It is NOT a DIY job hire it done. Tom Silva uses a jig specially made for mortising locksets. Find a carpenter that has done the work before or you risk screwing up the door.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2008 at 9:49AM
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I would use a jig or hire a professional. Very complicated process. Good Luck!

    Bookmark   December 17, 2008 at 11:24AM
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Hire a carpenter that has a jig like this

Here is a link that might be useful: mortising jig

    Bookmark   December 17, 2008 at 1:52PM
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At $1,030 for a pretty lock set, hire a licensed locksmith professional to install it.

From the link you sent did you read the Limited Warranty? Did you read

It pretty much says that if it breaks in one year, you better be able to prove it was installed by a professional because they will blame the installation.

Their limited warranty is written to cover the company and is against the consumer.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2008 at 8:05PM
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Mortise lock sets have been installed with nothing but hand tools for a very long time.
Most of the templates even show the drill locations for a brace and bit.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2008 at 8:10PM
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I echo the sentiments: hire a pro. No room for DIY screwups.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2008 at 9:52PM
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If you feel bold enough to try it yourself, I'd recommend you first cut a few mortises into the edge of a 2x8. It took me a bit of practice to come out with a good looking one.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2008 at 6:15PM
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"...cut a few mortises into the edge of a 2x8. It took me a bit of practice to come out with a good looking one."

Lock mortises are not nearly that hard to cut.
They are NOT like a mortise to hold a tenon with smooth sides required to make a good glue joint.

They are bored as a set of barely overlapping holes, then cleaned up enough to get the lock in.

I have worked on houses hundreds of years old with original doors and locks, and the holes are easily seen in the lock mortise.

You only clean out enough to get the lock in.

And a piece of 2x lumber is not thick enough to cut a lock mortise in.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2008 at 7:28PM
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A house I built a couple of years ago had 26 mortised sets.

A power drill and a few sharp chisels and you're home free.

I did clamp pieces of scrap poplar to each side of the door when rough drilling the overlapping holes and for the initial chiseling.

Let the sharp cutting edge of the tool do the work, forcing a drill bit or a dull chisel could cause the side of the mortise to blow out.

It's well within the realm of a DIYer.


    Bookmark   December 21, 2008 at 7:54AM
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I again will say hire a PRO, drilling into a door, to the depth required; may result into a drill out on the face of the door if itÂs not done correctly. And also a misalignment of the latch assembly and the handle will most likely cause a binding of the assembly. The drill needs to be held parallel with the edge if the door which is not easy. Using a chisel is an art. A DYI individual can do it if they are experienced so your level of using hand tools is critical. If you decide to do it your self practice first as previously suggested.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2008 at 9:41AM
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handymac, you're right about the link. Here is a better one to show the door (warning, pdf again). I'm getting the F20 flavor shown on page 8.

To answer your question about the door and the jamb, good point. The jamb appears to be a 2 x 6 set on end, so, pretty solid there. The door is solid wood as well; not as thick as I'd like (only 1 3/4"). I live in a neighborhood that's had only one break-in in 20 years, but still, I want this thing to perform. And times are a-changing. I'd give the door a B for security. Fortunately we have a locking porch door, so an intruder would have to kick in two doors; at least we'd have time to react. Frankly, the only thing worth stealing in this house would be the door set we're buying :-). I'm not a jewelry or electronics kind of person. We get our TV's off the curb--seriously. You'd be amazed how many functional tv's get put out in the trash. But I digress...

To the others, thanks for your honest and detailed opinions. It sounds like the main concern in this situation is for the integrity of the door where the mortise cavity is made. I agree, one wrong force and the door is cooked! In this case, the door is already mortised out, and it appears that the new lockset wants a slightly smaller cavity than what we've got. My husband wants to hire a pro too, because he feels they'll do a good job shimming out the cavity and getting a tight, even fit. He thinks that movement and vibration will stress the door and the lock, hurting the longevity of both. I think I can at least try to dry fit the shims and the lock set, and if I can't get a good fit, then call the pros in, nothing lost.

Many thanks to contributors, I was wondering what in this situation might come out and bite me from behind, and the consensus of concern around the door leads me to think that the biggest boogeyman has been flushed out. I will let you all know how it goes, in case any other suprises come up. I'm already thinking, when I'm fiddling with this in the 20 degree weather, I'll be wishing my door broke in the summertime!

sierraeast, I smiled at what you said: if I can afford to shell out for a lockset like this, I should be able to afford to hire a pro for the install. You're right; in any undertaking, first begin by counting the cost, including installation! But I'm sure I'm not the first g'wer on the home forums who has tried to do the most to their house for the least amount of money. I think the beauty of these forums is just how much value is added by the discussions. I have gained so much, and as I get more experience from working with my house, I hope to give back to the community. I wonder, if you took the dollar value of improved designs, longer-lasting repairs because they were done better, and bargains found through this community (yes I'm getting a ticor sink on ebay), how many millions of dollars of value have been created through exchanges on these forums? Pretty cool!

Here is a link...

    Bookmark   December 21, 2008 at 10:44AM
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The lock assembly is 1&1/4" wide---and the door 1&3/4" thick-----doing the math, that means 1/4" thick door material on either side of the assembly.

The second link shows a heavy duty commercial grade lock set. That is WAY overkill for your door.

You could get a better(Stronger) door AND heavy duty dead bolt for the same money.

Just my $.02

    Bookmark   December 21, 2008 at 11:05AM
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"...the door is already mortised out, and it appears that the new lockset wants a slightly smaller cavity than what we've got."

An oversize mortise is rarely an issue for the lock.
It is actually held by the screws in the door edge and the other hardware (knobs, turn latches, etc.).

You can have a problem if the new lock is not tall enough to span the existing area on the door edge.
If you have a table saw it is not a lot of work to make up the couple small pieces you need to reduce the mortise.

Glue then in with Titebond II (or III if you want).
If the door is painted you can fill in the edge with minwax high performance wood filler.

Sometimes you need to enlarge old screw holes (to 1/4 inch) and fill them with a section of glued in dowel also so that new screws can go in the same (or almost the same) spot.

The biggest issue with using wood chisels I see is folks fail to sharpen them adequately.
They really need to be razor sharp, as in you can test then by shaving hair from the back of your hand.

It takes surprisingly little force to cut with a correctly sharpened chisel.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2008 at 11:44AM
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handymac, you're right, the door thickness is pathetic. However it is original to the house and has architectural merit. I'll try to upload a photo; it's truly one of a kind. The only way I'd ever replace it would be to have a craftsman make a reproduction, or else pull a period door from an architectural salvage shop. But, for the sake of the thread, you're spot on.

Brickeyee, thanks for your tips on building out the door, especially the screw holes. That makes a lot of intuitive sense tho I'd never come across it before. Now I just gotta wait for the hardware to arrive and try it.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2008 at 1:00PM
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Let us know how it worked out. Good luck.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2008 at 1:16PM
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