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How to install a deadbolt in 20 minutes


Installing a security deadbolt for your home is not a challenging undertaking as long as you have the right tools and the necessary knowledge. Indeed, being good with your hands can help but don’t get discouraged if you’re not as handy as Tim “The Toolman” Taylor from Home Improvement.

In this article, I will:

  1. Discuss the benefits of having a deadbolt on your exterior doors.
  2. Describe and demonstrate the tools needed for a professional installation.
  3. Provide you with essential, detailed knowledge of how to install a deadbolt all by yourself.

What Are The Benefits Of Having A Security Deadbolt Lock?

Deadbolt locks are vital for keeping your home safe and secure. Unlike your door-knob lock, considered to be the bottom lock, located roughly 38” from the finished floor, a deadbolt is the essential part of security hardware, which keeps the door locked rather than shut.

Level Of Security: Basics Of Door-Knobs Vs. Deadbolts

A doorknob lock acts as a latching device rather than a security lock. Upon closing the door, the latch located on the bevel side of the door will latch into a strike plate mounted on the door jamb, mainly keeping the door shut.

While your door may appear shut and requires physical action to open it (turning the knob or lever), it’s not very secure; opening it is as comfortable as turning the knob. I know what you’re thinking: “I have a keyed door knob and it locks when I turn the turn-knob”; nevertheless, this level security is not sufficient for the following reasons:

  1. Most latches have a throw on of just half an inch.
  2. Latches are spring loaded, which makes for an easy shimming target by burglars (a swift and silent tactic which allows access, with the use of a credit card – as seen on TV).

Deadbolts, on the other hand, have a one-inch throw and are secured into place with the use of a turn-knob or key, making shimming impossible which requires an actual key to gain entry. While there are numerous varieties of deadbolts on the market, with some superior to others, a deadbolt lock is the crucial piece of door hardware which allows the door to stay locked.

Homeowners Are In The Know

The awareness of having a deadbolt lock installed on the exterior doors of your home has increased over the past decade. The FBI reports the number of burglaries has decreased from the turn of the new millennium by an average annual rate of just under 7% (0.0689 to be exact). Consumers are more mindful of the necessity of having a deadbolt, as well as more understanding of the impact it can have on keeping their homes guarded.

Burglar rate in the United States by volume and rate per 100,000 inhabitants from 2000-2015

Before we begin, I would like to discuss the three different door material types and three common deadbolt types.

Door Types:

wooden doors with glass panels 3

When I teach my apprentices the art of locksmithing, I always begin by educating them about doors: door types, sizes, and so on. I will do the same here and break it down for simplicity.

Generally, doors are constructed from three types of materials. Wood, metal, and glass. While, technically, this isn’t true, in our case, this makes for ease of understanding the purpose of selecting and installing door hardware such as locks.

Wooden doors consist of all types and varieties of doors that resemble that wooden finish, such as fiberglass doors, compressed wood, and so on.

Metal doors consist of all steel, iron, galvanized steel, aluminum, etc.

Glass doors are essentially doors made entirely of glass, commonly seen in offices and storefronts. In our case, we will not consider glass paneled doors on wood or metal doors as glass doors. Why may you ask? The reason is that we are installing the hardware on the wood or metal surfaces rather than directly onto the glass.

Silver door handle with knob and tubular deadbolt on an opened wooden door

Deadbolt Types:

In the locksmith industry, we tend to categorize hardware by their installation. The most common type of deadbolt is the tubular deadbolt.

Tubular deadbolts are usually installed on wooden doors primarily used in interior applications but are not limited to exterior house doors.

The second type of installation is for surface mount locks. An example of a surface mount deadbolt is the Jimmy Proof Deadlock. In my experience, most surface mount deadbolts are installed on metal type doors and used for both commercial and residential applications.

Finally, we have the mortise locks, found on both wood and metal type doors. Most mortise locks consist of a latch-bolt and dead-bolt locking mechanisms.

For this article, I will explain how to install a tubular deadbolt on a wooden door, assuming there are no pre-drilled holes. If there are existing pre-drilled holes set up for a tubular installation, then the only tool you need is a #2 Philips head screwdriver, and you may skip over to the final part of the installation process “mounting the deadbolt.”

Tools Needed

To begin, you will need the following set of tools. Remember, having the right tools makes the task easy, and the outcome looking professional.

  • Measuring tape
  • Sharp pencil (no pens or markers, and certainly no crayons)
  • Small level or ruler
  • Hammer
  • ¾” sharp chisel
  • #2 Philips head screw driver
  • Power drill (Most locksmiths use no less than 18V)
  • 2-1/8” hole saw (preferably bi-metal)
  • 7/8” or 15/16” Speed bore (you can also use a hole saw of the same size up to 1” but getting the drilled wood out after is not much fun)
  • Eye protection – Please do not use sun glasses or reading glasses. When boring holes into the wood or metal, tiny particles tend to fly all over the place.


I like to start by protecting the floor. Remember, we are going to drill, so there will be debris which gets a bit messy. If you have a carpet, you will significantly benefit from covering the rug before drilling. You can use a garbage bag, newspapers, or a painter’s roller paper. Make sure to secure it well; you don’t want to accidentally while working.

Next, you will want to have all your tools and deadbolt by your side for easy access. Make sure to put on your eye protection before you begin.

  1. Lock placement height: Using your measuring tape, measure from the center of your bottom lock (the door-knob) approximately 8” and make a straight horizontal line to the edge of the door using your beautiful sharp pencil and a ruler and continue this straight line through the bevel side of the door.
  2. Know your backset: Find the backset specifications for your deadbolt (usually located on the back of the box). If you can’t find this, no worries, we can measure it. Hold the bolt mechanism horizontally and place the measuring tape on the edge of the rectangular plate. Measure to the very center of the tailpiece slot, which usually looks like a square, plus or minus symbol. You should either get 2-3/8”, which is more common for interior doors or 2-3/4”, the standard for exterior doors.
  3. Mark your backset: From the bevel side of the door, measure the required backset (2-3/8" or 2-3/4"). Go ahead and make a vertical line approximately one inch long. At this point, you should see a weird but straight looking “+” sign drawn out in pencil.
  4. Mark the door bevel: Go over to the bevel side of the door and measure the door thickness, commonly 1-3/8" for interior doors or 1-3/4" for exterior doors. Draw a small vertical line right in the center. Draw a horizontal line of the same hight as the horizontal line drawn on the door in step 1. You can do so more accurately when measuring from the finished floor.
  5. Marking the jamb: Using that measurement and same technique, make a horizontal marking on the door jamb. Make sure to account for any saddle or uneven surfaces. The objective is to get the same height marking on the door, as well as on the door jamb. Finally, use the half measurement of your door thickness and mark a vertical line on the frame. Make sure to account for molding and weather stripping. The objective is to get the same depth measurement as on the bevel side of the door, so the bolt is perfectly aligned to fit comfortably in the strike plate hole.


At this point, you should be able to pull out the heavy gear and begin the installation process. I will walk you through the installation process step by step, in detail.

How To Properly Bore A Hole In A Door

Before you start drilling, I'd like to make sure you're doing it right. First, put on your eye protection gear. Then, Stand firmly with your legs diagonally spread apart approximately one and a half to two feet (depending on your height), just think of a stance a boxer makes before throwing a right or left hook. Finally, hold your power drill with both hands, with your right elbow perpendicular to your body if you are right-handed, and vice versa for left-handed.

Boring A Hole To Fit The Deadbolt

Use your 2-1/8” hole saw, which should have a drill bit sticking out of the center. Place the tip of the drill bit in the middle of the plus sign that you’ve marked on your door. Drill roughly 2/3 into the door, slowly reverse the hole saw out and go over to the other side of the door. You will notice a small hole made by that drill bit. Go ahead and place the drill bit attached to the hole-saw in that small drilled hole, assume the position and fire away.

DDrilling The Hole For The Bolt Mechanism

Open the door halfway and place your speed bore at the center of that plus sign you drew on the bevel side of the door. Once again, assume the position and fire away until you’ve reached the greater 2-1/8” hole you have just made.

Drilling A Hole On The Door Jamb

Place your speed bore on the center of the plus sign located on the door jamb, one last time assume the position and fire away until you reach the depth of approximately one inch.

Making The Bolt And Strike Plate Flush To The Surface

Take the bolt mechanism and turn it to lock position using a small flat tool or flat head screwdriver. Place the solid bolt into the drilled holes of the bevel side of the door and door jamb. Mark the rectangle of the plate on the surface with your pencil.

Use the sharp chisel and a hammer, cut the rectangular marking you have just made by placing the blade directly over the pencil lines and hammering moderately.

Once you have made the rectangular cutout, place the chisel in the center of the bored hole and chisel out approximately 3/16” depth, both the bottom and top portions. Gently clean up the corners using your chisel. If you did this right, the bolt would be flush with the rest of the beveled surface.

Mounting The Deadbolt

Take the two small screws which came in the screws packet in the box and mount the bolt mechanism and strike plate accordingly.

From the deadbolt's exterior side first, insert the tailpiece into its respective slot. Then mount the interior part (the turn knob) into the tailpiece. Use the long machine threaded screws to attach the two pieces using your #2 Philips head screwdriver.

At this point, you should have a correctly installed deadbolt ready for use. To test that everything works as it should, have the door open, twist the interior turn-knob to make sure the bolt is extracting and retracting smoothly. Repeat the same steps now using your brand-new key.

Once you feel confident with the function of the lock, go ahead and test it with your door closed.

There you have it. You’re all set. Now, just a little bit of cleaning up and you can start benefiting from the security of your brand-new deadbolt.

For questions relating to door lock replacements, you may contact us and ask to speak to one of our professional locksmiths for guidance. We also provide this same service at a reasonable cost to you, so don't be shy and give us a call today to schedule an appointment.