Mortise Locks vs Cylindrical Locks: A Comprehensive Comparison

As a homeowner, security is always at the top of my mind. One decision I recently had to make was what type of lock to use on my front door. I weighed the pros and cons of a mortise lock versus a cylindrical lock and ultimately made my decision.

In this blog post, I’ll be sharing my experiences with both types of locks and the factors that influenced my decision. Whether you’re a homeowner looking to upgrade your locks or a builder searching for the best option for your new construction project, this post will provide valuable insights.

What is a Mortise Lock?

A mortise lock is a type of lock that requires a pocket—or mortise—to be cut into the door where the lock is to be fitted. It is commonly used in commercial applications. Also, it is more durable than cylindrical locks due to its design.

Mortise lock’s hardware’s also different from a cylindrical one. Because it has a chassis with a deadbolt and latches that fit into the door and door frame respectively.

That’s why it makes it more secure than cylinder locks. This type of lock has a return spring feature for an easy knob or handle a return. Moreover, it is usually Grade 1, meaning it is of a higher quality than most cylinder locks, making it worth its higher cost in the long run.

Mortise door lock
Mortise door lock

Some common types of locks are

Mortise DeadlocksThese locks are perfectly fitted to the external front, back doors, timber, and wooden doors. However, you can not use composite or uPVC doors.
Mortise Sash LocksIt consists of a deadlock and a latch. These locks are perfectly fitted to internal and external doors.
Mortise Night LatchesMortise night latches are fitted to the edge of the door.

What is a Cylindrical Lock?

Clindrical lock is the most common commercial lock. It takes the standard 161 lock prep, meaning you can fit it into any existing lock hole.

You can easily mount it on the surface of the door. However, the main drawback to cylindrical locks is their lack of security compared to mortise locks. Cylindrical locks are more susceptible to break-ins than mortise locks due to their design and construction.

Cylindrical door lock
Cylindrical door lock

Here are some common types of cylindrical locksets:

Mortise Cylinder.They are available in both replaceable core design and standard keyway.
Rim CylinderA rim cylinder is another common type of cylinder, and it is usually used in exit devices.
Deadbolt CylindersMortise night latches are fitted to the face of the door, and they are most commonly used. The single-cylinder deadbolts consist of a key to unlock and lock the door from the outside. At the same time, the double-cylinder deadbolts include a crucial cylinder on both sides of the door.    

Differences in Design

When it comes to design, there are key differences between mortise locks and cylindrical locks. Mortise locks have a chassis with a deadbolt that is fitted into a pocket in the door.

While a cylinder lock sits on top of the door. Cylindrical locksets require less time for installation since a mortise pocket doesn’t need to be drilled and chiseled out. The term mortise refers to a hole or recess cut that allows the lock to be inserted.

Mortise lock bodies look much different than cylindrical ones and have bigger bolts that make them more durable.

Note- The bored cylindrical lock was invented in 1923 by Walter Schlage, which is what the company Schlage is named after. Before then they had surface-mounted and multi-point locks.

Differences in Functions

Most mortise locks are Grade 1 and are therefore more durable than cylindrical locks due to their design. Additionally, mortise locks are more secure than cylinder locks and come with a keyed cylinder.

On the other hand, cylindrical locksets require less time for installation since a mortise pocket doesn’t need to be drilled and chiseled out.

Additionally, Schlage A51PD locks feature an innovative return spring feature that automatically locks the door after it’s been opened. This provides an extra layer of security and convenience that mortise locks can’t match.

Differences in Security

Mortise locks are more secure than cylinder locks because of their design and materials. They are fitted into a pocket in the door, which makes them harder to tamper with.

In addition, most mortise locks are Grade 1, meaning they meet higher security standards. On the other hand, Cylindrical locks can either be latch locks or deadbolt locks, so having only one of these types will provide much less security than a mortise lock.

Hardware Components

In addition to the differences in design and function, there is also a difference in the hardware components of both locks. A mortise lock requires a chassis with a latch, deadbolt, and strike plate that fit into a pocket in the door.

Whereas, a cylindrical lockset usually consists of just two components, the cylinder lock, and the latch. But both types of locks require additional hardware such as strike plates and door handles.

The hardware components of a mortise lock are more intricate than that of a cylindrical one, which makes installation more difficult and time-consuming. However, due to their design, mortise locks are much more durable than cylindrical locks.

Return Spring Feature

Mortise locks come with a return spring feature that helps keep the levers in their horizontal position. Also, it adds additional protection against slipping or drooping. On the other hand, this feature is not available in cylindrical locks, making them less secure and more prone to wear and tear.

Furthermore, the return spring feature also helps to increase the durability of mortise locks, making them suitable for areas with high use.

Mortise Lock Installation

Mortise locks need a mortise on the edge of the door for the lock body. Also, the face of the door requires holes for cylinders and trim, and all lock functions do not require the same holes in the front of the door.

Locks cannot swap out easily because latch bolt locations and face preps are not always universal. However, it may require some additional steps to install the lock function.

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Advantages of Mortise Lock

  • High Strength Security – Mortise locks feature high-quality and strength steel. So, they can easily withstand more force compared to other locks. Moreover, these locks provide high-strength security.
  • Durability and Heavy usage – Mortise locks have extended durability because of their heavy-duty design and solid construction. These locks can firmly hold out against adverse weather and heavy use. A mortise lock can handle up to 5,000 cycles.
  • Aesthetic Value – The smooth surface of mortise locks blends nicely with your interior, and they add more aesthetic value to your home or office interior design than cylinder locks.
  • Easy Access Control – They include a deadbolt detached from its latch. So, it is easier to control who has access.
  • Less Maintenance – These locks do not require high maintenance, and you need a soft cloth to wipe out the dirt and debris.

Disadvantages of Mortise Lock

  • Do not have an automatic locking option
  • A bit more expensive
  • Difficult to repair and rekey
  • Challenging to install.

Advantages of Cylindrical Lock

  • Easy to Install and Replace – The installation process of cylindrical locks is simple and uncomplicated. Also, they are easy to replace.
  • Available in Single And Double Cylinders – They are available in single and double cylinders. So, you can choose one based on the security level of the doors and your preference.
  • Simple to Rekey – Another advantage of a cylindrical lock is using the same key on different doors with different lock mechanisms.
  • Less Expensive – These locks are relatively less expensive than mortise locks. So, they can be an economical option.
  • Versatile Use – These locks come in multiple grades. So, they are used for both residential and commercial applications. Their cylinder inside or outside construction makes them versatile for most door designs and styles.

Disadvantages of Cylindrical Lock

  • Not suitable for heavy-duty doors
  • Not so strong
  • Easy to pick

Mortise Lock Vs Cylindrical Lock [At a Glance]

Let’s check out the main differences between mortise lock vs. cylindrical lock.

 Mortise LocksCylindrical Locks
MechanismComplex mechanismSimple mechanism
Installation ProcessRequires expert helpEasy to install
Availability of GradesDo not offer a customizable optionAvailable in 1,2 and 3 grades. So, you can select based on your security priorities and needs.
Security LevelHigh-security levelLower security level.
Availability of DeadboltCome with both a deadbolt and latch.Do not come with a deadbolt. Need to get that installed separately
ApplicationBetter for commercial applicationsBetter for residential applications

Price and Durability Comparison

Mortise locks offer the best of both worlds. They are more expensive than cylindrical locks but offer a higher level of security and durability.

You already know, Mortise locks are Grade 1 locks and can withstand heavy usage and extreme weather. Additionally, they have a multi-point locking mechanism and return spring feature which further adds to their security. That’s why the price is higher.

On the other hand, Cylindrical locks are only as secure as the latch or deadbolt locks you choose. They are not as durable and cannot stand up to wear and tear as well as a mortise lock can. So you can purchase for less price than the Mortise lock.

Multi-Point Locks vs. Mortise and Cylinder Locks

When it comes to door security, multi-point locks would be a great addition to mortise or cylinder locks. It offers many advantages over the latter two, such as only requiring one lock cylinder and multiple locking points that make the door more difficult to force open.

Additionally, Multi-Point lock comes with a return spring feature that allows the bolt to automatically lock after the door is closed. So, if you’re looking for an extra layer of security for your home or office, multi-point locks are certainly worth considering.


What amount does it cost to rekey a cylindrical lock?

The average cost to rekey a cylinder lock is $25 per cylinder.

How long does a mortise lock last?

According to most residential locksmiths – the average lifespan of the mortise lock is about seven years.

[Updated by Palash Talukder]

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