How to Change a Door Lock

Changing your locks is easy and only requires a few common hand tools. Before you call a handyman or locksmith, give this DIY a try.

Whether you're moving to a new place, you've parted ways with an old roommate, you're looking to boost the security of your home, or you simply want to shake up the look of your door, there are several potential reasons why you'd need to change out your front door lock.

While the process of changing a door lock is relatively simple, there are few tips and tricks that will ensure your new front door lock works like a charm for years to come. We've laid out a step-by-step guide to changing your door lock, with all the tools and materials you'll need to get the job done right.

secure dead bolt hardware onto door edge

How to Choose Your New Door Lock

When purchasing a replacement lock, make sure you choose one that matches the specifications of your current lock. If you have a custom door, a standard deadbolt lock might not fit. Most locks are rated for doors 1 3/8 inches to 1¾ inches thick, so a door that is thicker or thinner may require a custom solution.

Additionally, deadbolts have a specification known as backset, which is the distance of the center of the hole from the edge of the door. Standard backset is usually either 2 3/8 inches or 2 ¾ inches, and it's important to match up your door's backset with your replacement lock. Some locks can be adjusted to fit either backset.

If you're unable to find replacement locks that match your door's measurements, it may be more effective to have your current lock rekeyed.

Replacing vs. Rekeying

If you're looking to update your door locks for aesthetic reasons or swap them out for an electronic model, replacing is your best bet. For those who are content with their current hardware and simply want the locking mechanism changed for security or ease, rekeying may be the best option.

Many high-quality pin and tumbler locks can be rekeyed using a rekeying kit. These kits are made to match specific models of locks and include all the tools and instructions necessary to do the job. If you can't find a rekey kit for your lock, call your local hardware store or locksmith. While locksmiths will often offer to come to your home and do the job, you can save a considerable amount of money by removing the lock and taking it to the locksmith.

How to Change a Door Lock

Follow these steps to replace your existing deadbolt lock and hardware. If you've prepared and purchased the appropriate replacement lock to match your existing lock and door's specifications, the process should be quick and easy.

What You'll Need

  • Measuring tape
  • Screwdrivers or drill with screwdriver bits
  • Replacement deadbolt kit
  • 1-inch chisel
  • Hammer
  • Pencil

Step 1: Remove Existing Lock

Remove the screws on the interior side of the lock, then slide both the interior and exterior sides out of the door.

Step 2: Remove Deadbolt and Faceplate

Remove the two screws holding the faceplate to the edge of the door and pull the plate and the dead bolt from the door. If it doesn't budget, use a flat-head screwdriver to pry it away.

Step 3: Install New Deadbolt and Faceplate

Slide the new deadbolt and faceplate in place. If the new face doesn't fit in the old faceplate's slot, hold the new one in position and trace around it using a pencil. Use a chisel to carefully remove the excess material until the new faceplate will fit. Screw the faceplate to the door. If using a drill, be careful not to overtighten the screw.

Pro Tip: If at any point during the installation process you have a screw that fails to tighten due to the hole being too large or the wood fibers of the screw hole being stripped, you can simply slide a toothpick or a matchstick into the screw hole and break it off flush with the door's surface. Then, tighten the screw as normal.

Step 4: Install New Lock Hardware

Slide the exterior lock mechanism (key side) through the deadbolt inside the door. On the interior side, slide the interior mechanism in place. Thread the screws by hand to ensure the two pieces are lining up, then tighten the screws.

Step 5: Install New Strike Plates

Remove the old strike plate from the door jamb and install the new one. If the new one doesn't fit in the old slot, follow the same chiseling procedure as Step 3.

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