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How to Change Locks on Exterior Doors

When people purchase a new home often one of the first things they do is change out the existing locks on exterior doors.

It’s a very good idea to provide this fresh start to your home. You have no idea who previously had a key to your front door, so changing out the locks is something you should accomplish as soon as possible.

locksmith changing exterior door locks

New homeowners may feel reluctant to attempt this feat on their own, particularly those that don’t consider themselves the handyman-type, yet changing exterior door locks is very straightforward.

Here’s your guide to changing door locks whether you just moved into a new place, or have lived there for a while yet the old mechanism is broken or ineffective.

Tools You Need to Complete the Job

The DIY project doesn’t require a ton of different tools or material. The budget is also low, as depending on what type of door lock and how many you need, it should not set you back more than $50 to $100 — unless you go with a premium lock.

You will need:

  • Set of screwdrivers (flathead and phillips)
  • Claw hammer
  • Tape measure
  • Powerless drill
  • Twist drill bits
  • Safety glasses

The only materials you need are new entry door knobs and a deadbolt for each exterior door that you’re replacing. If you just bought a new home, it’s a good idea to change out all exterior door locks and make them universal, so one key will open every single door.

Purchase a New Exterior Door Lock

There are a variety of different exterior door locks on the market. Though some premium solutions feature coded entry or some advanced locking mechanism you don’t need to spend a fortune on a brand new lock.

It is your exterior door — so you want to make it secure and guarantee safety for you and your family — but most exterior locks are more than efficient, especially when installed correctly.

Standard exterior door locks range from $15 to $50 per lock. If you’re replacing multiple exterior locks you may want to consider a set that usually is priced between $60 to $200. It widely depends on the quality and style of locks you would like to install.

The one knock on universal key locks (one key to open every door, or lock) is they’re priced a little higher for the added convenience. So if that’s not all that important you can save money by purchasing different locks that require their own unique key.

Still, investing in new locks and installing them yourself is far cheaper than hiring a locksmith. In addition to the cost for material, your average locksmith will charge a minimum fee of $40 to $100, plus another $20 to $30 in labor.

Therefore, you’re looking at $120 to $220 extra in costs if you hire someone else to install the exterior locks. Installing high-security ones like Medeco locks will set you back even further, potentially as much as $600 or more.

As a result, most homeowners decide to stop by a local hardware store, purchase their own locks, and install them as a new DIY project.

Components of a Door Lock Set

A standard door lock set features four basic components:

  • Two door knobs: One for the exterior side and one for interior side of the door.
  • Latch: The latch is fixed onto the door.
  • Strike Plate: A small piece that attaches to the door frame.
  • Nails: The set should contain its own nails used to drive in the strike plate. Often two or four depending on the setup. 

Tips to Save Time on Installation

You can reduce the amount of time needed to install new door locks if you buy the same brand and type of lock as the previous set.

It’s a good recommendation for those that may not consider themselves handy with tools yet want to give it a shot. Replacing the old lock with the same style won’t require you to create new holes in the door since it has the same setup.

how to change locks on exterior doors

The brand is usually located on the latch of the door. It never hurts to remove the old lock first and then take it with you to the hardware store to locate a match, or near match.

Installing a new exterior door lock should take less than 15 minutes, even for those that rarely do DIY home improvement projects. The instructions are fairly straightforward.

Step One: Remove the Old Door Lock

First, remove the old door lock. You may do this before or after you purchase a new set, but generally not long before you replace the unit to avoid keeping the exterior door unlocked and exposed for as little time as possible.

Remove the old door lock by unscrewing the doorknob on the inside of the door. Both door knobs should become loose when you remove the screws from the unit.

Once the door knobs are loosened, remove the latch at the side edge of the door by using a screwdriver to remove the nails/screws.

Step Two: Install the New Lock

  • First, grab the new latch piece and insert it into the hole along the side edge of the door. Make sure the latch is facing the right direction. You can verify it by checking to see if the tapered side faces the outside of the door.
  • Then, adjust the latch in place so the part that’ll attach to the doorknobs is in the center of the open, exposed hole of the door.
  • Fit the new doorknobs on the door and connect them to the latch. Use the nails/screws provided with the kit to secure the latch piece onto the door and to the knobs.
  • Then tighten the screws so that all parts are flush against the door surface.
  • The remaining nails or screws are used to attach the new strike plate to the frame of the door. If not already done so, remove the old strike plate.
  • The strike plate needs to sit flush with the latch in order to ensure a smooth working order. If using the same style lock as the previous one, there should be no major adjustments that need to get made.

NOTE: If you replace the door with a new type of lock you’ll need to take extra steps to measure the door and find a suitable lock beforehand. It’s recommended to just go with the same style lock if possible for those that don’t consider themselves handymen.

Step Three: Test the New Lock

Once the strike plate is secured to the frame test the door several times. Try opening it from the inside of the home. Then from the outside. Does it open smoothly?

The latch should meet the catch in the plate and not be a struggle to open or close. The doorknobs should also feel secure and not loose.

Finally, toss the old key associated with the door to make sure you don’t get it confused with the new lock. It is a good idea to get duplicates of the new key (if not already done so) in case the first one is lost.

Some door lock kits provide an extra spare key. It’ll save you from having to hire an expensive locksmith in the event you get locked out of your own home.

Changing Exterior Door Locks and Door Replacement

Exterior door locks are typically found in any hardware store. You’ll want to find something that can fit your door slab and provide you with all the security that you need. Most homeowners also opt to look for an exterior door replacement which comes with a brand new door lock installed into the door slab.

At Feldco, you’ll get exceptional hardware that comes with mechanical interlocks. All doors come with classic door lockets and deadbolts to provide the look and structural strength of high-quality doors. Speak to a product specialist and get a free quote online today.

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