Mortise Vs Cylindrical Locks: A Comparative Analysis

Mortise and cylindrical locks represent two of the most frequently utilized locking mechanisms, serving both commercial and residential purposes. Despite their apparent similarities, these locks differ significantly in terms of quality, security level, price, and operation. This comprehensive review aims to delineate their unique characteristics, advantages, and disadvantages, thereby assisting you in making an informed decision.

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Understanding Mortise Locks

A mortise lock is a specific type of lock that necessitates fitting into a door’s pocket. The installation process involves carving out a rectangular area from the door’s surface to accommodate the lock.

Despite the complexity of their installation, mortise locks significantly enhance a home’s overall security due to their resistance to picking, a common vulnerability of standard cylindrical locks. Consequently, mortise locks find extensive application in both commercial and residential settings.

Advantages of Mortise Locks

Mortise locks offer several advantages over cylindrical locks:

  • Superior Security: Mortise locks, constructed from high-strength steel, provide a superior level of security. They can withstand more force than any other type of lock, making them an attractive choice for security-conscious individuals.
  • Aesthetic Appeal: Mortise locks often exhibit a more aesthetically pleasing design than cylindrical locks. Their smooth surface seamlessly integrates with other interior design elements, eliminating any protruding components from the door jamb.
  • Minimal Maintenance: Mortise locks require less maintenance than standard cylindrical locks. Regular wiping with a soft cloth to remove dirt and debris suffices, with occasional oiling of the latch bolt due to frequent use.
  • Durability: Mortise locks, owing to their robust construction, are more durable than cylindrical locks. They can withstand heavy usage and extreme weather conditions. The deadbolt’s housing or faceplate, typically made from cast iron, is less prone to rusting when exposed to moisture or rainwater.
  • Versatility: Mortise locks come in two main types—faceplate and backset mortise—allowing you to choose based on your needs and preferences. Faceplate mortise locks offer better aesthetic appeal as they conceal most parts inside the door frame.
  • Heavy Usage: Mortise locks are designed for heavy use and are not prone to failure if professionally installed. In contrast to most cylindrical locks, which can handle up to 2,000 cycles in their lifetime, mortise locks can withstand up to 5,000 cycles before showing signs of wear and tear.
  • Separate Deadbolt and Latch: Mortise locks feature a deadbolt separate from their latch, facilitating control over access when you’re away from home or need quick access in an emergency.

Disadvantages of Mortise Locks

Despite their numerous advantages, mortise locks do present some disadvantages:

  • Cost: Mortise locks tend to be more expensive, with the cost of a new lock potentially exceeding that of replacing an entire door, particularly for high-security models.
  • Installation and Rekeying: Mortise locks require advanced carpentry skills for installation, making them less suitable for those uncomfortable with basic carpentry work. Additionally, they typically necessitate professional services for rekeying after installation or repair work.
  • Repair Difficulty: Mortise locks are more challenging to repair than cylindrical locks due to the latch and lock’s integrated function. If the latch breaks or bends, both pieces must be replaced, unlike cylindrical locks where only one piece needs replacement.
  • Lack of Automatic Locking: Unlike cylindrical locks, mortise locks do not offer an automatic locking option.

Understanding Cylindrical Locks

A cylindrical lock is designed to be installed through the door, with a knob or lever on either side that retracts the latch when manipulated. The cylinder, a critical component of the lock, is responsible for the locking and unlocking mechanism and allows for the lock’s removal from the door frame.

Cylindrical locks are prevalent due to their easy installation process on doors without the need for significant customization, as required by mortise locks. They can be conveniently fitted into existing doors without substantial alterations, making them a popular choice for those replacing existing doors or installing new ones.

Advantages of Cylindrical Locks

Cylindrical locks offer several benefits:

  • Ease of Installation and Rekeying: Cylindrical locks are straightforward to install and rekey, a significant advantage for many. However, depending on your specific situation, installation could be challenging, and you may require additional tools and professional assistance if you’re unfamiliar with this type of lock.
  • Cost-Effectiveness: Cylindrical locks are considerably less expensive than mortise locks, making them an economical option for those seeking a cost-effective solution.
  • Variety: Cylindrical locks are available in single and double cylinders, depending on the security level you’re seeking for your doors. They are also available in various finishes and key knob models for residential or commercial applications.
  • Easy Replacement: The parts of a cylindrical lock are modular, allowing for the replacement of specific components instead of the entire lock system, as would be required with a complete mortise lock system.

Disadvantages of Cylindrical Locks

Cylindrical locks, however, do have some drawbacks:

  • Unsuitable for Heavy-Duty Doors: Cylindrical locks are not suitable for heavy-duty doors. If the latch is not fully engaged, the door can be pushed open by applying pressure to one side or the other.
  • Lower Strength: Cylindrical locks are easier to pick and can be pushed open by hand when the latch is not fully engaged, making them unsuitable for heavy-duty doors and locking mechanisms that require locking from both sides of a door.
  • Vulnerability to Picking: Cylindrical locks can be easily picked with the right tools, posing a security risk for your home or business premises.

Key Differences Between Mortise and Cylinder Locks

Several key differences exist between these two types of locks:

Security Levels

Mortise locks offer superior security compared to cylindrical locks. A mortise lock is fitted into a pocket in the door, while a cylindrical lock sits on top of the door. This makes it harder to drill around or through the door to gain access. Mortise locks have a wider chassis and a thicker door frame than cylindrical locks, and they use a longer bolt assembly for added protection against forced entry.


Mortise locks are more challenging to install than cylindrical locks due to the need for precision in cutting the pocket in the door and drilling holes for the lock. In contrast, cylindrical locks can be installed by simply unscrewing some screws and inserting them into their corresponding holes in the lock’s faceplate.


Mortise locks, due to their robust construction, are more durable than cylindrical locks. They can withstand more abuse without failing over time.


Both locks are made from metal, but mortise locks have more parts and a thicker body, which means more metal can be used in their construction. Mortise locks also have a longer tongue, making them more secure than cylindrical locks.

Availability of Grades

Mortise locks are available in grades 1, 2, and 3, while cylindrical locks are not graded. The grade of a mortise lock determines its security level.


Mortise locks are more expensive than cylindricallocks due to their complex construction and the use of more costly materials. However, the investment may be worth it for those seeking a lock that will last longer and is easier to repair if something goes wrong.

Application and Security Level

Mortise locks are better suited for commercial applications due to their complex and high-security mechanism. Examples include hotel door locks and fingerprint door locks. On the other hand, cylindrical locks, with their simpler mechanism and lower security level, are better suited for residential applications.

Considerations Before Choosing a Mortise or Cylinder Lock

Before deciding between a mortise lock and a cylinder lock, consider the following factors:

  • Security Level: Determine the level of security you require. If it’s low, an easier-to-install cylindrical lock may be sufficient. However, if you require high levels of protection, a mortise lock would be a better choice.
  • Door Thickness: The thickness of your doors will determine the sturdiness of the lock. If your door is made from thin metal or plastic materials, you may have difficulty installing a mortise lock as it would not provide enough support for the locking mechanism.
  • Door Type (Swing Direction): Consider whether your door is hinged or sliding. Hinged doors open outward while sliding doors open inward — either type can accommodate either lock!
  • Door Size: Ensure the dimensions of your door match the requirements of the lock. Most locks require that their hardware fit within ¾” from each edge of the door, but some will accept larger diameters.
  • Door Material: The material of the door is a crucial factor to consider. A wooden door will require different locks than a metal door or one made of steel.
  • Price: Determine your budget for this purchase. Both cylinders and mortise locks come in all different price ranges.
  • Reliability: The reliability of a product is one of the most important factors to consider when buying security products. A reliable product will consistently perform its intended functions and protect against unauthorized entry.
  • Durability: A good quality product should be durable enough to last longer than expected.
  • Ease of Installation: Homeowners and renters need to install the lock easily by themselves. This can save them a lot of labor costs if they do not have to hire someone to install it.
  • Ease of Use: The ease with which someone can operate a lock should also be considered before making a purchase decision.
  • Ease of Maintenance: If you live in an apartment building that does not allow tenants to perform any maintenance, you will need an easy lock for someone else to maintain or repair if required.
  • Appearance: People tend to pay more attention to beauty than function when purchasing products such as home security systems.
  • Brand: Another critical factor when shopping for the best mortise lock is brand quality. Many brands offer excellent products at affordable prices.
  • Availability of Parts: If something breaks down or goes wrong with your lock system, it’s nice to know that replacement parts are available.


We hope this comprehensive review has clarified the differences between mortise and cylindrical locks, enabling you to make an informed decision. If you have any questions about locks, security systems, or any other aspect of your business’s safety, please don’t hesitate to contact us! We’d love to help.

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