How to Install a Deadbolt: Get Your Home Security on Lock in 6 Simple Steps

by Michael Franco
deadbolt door lock and handle

When it comes to home security, a little peace of mind goes a long way. Whether it’s keeping your family safe or protecting that valuable crystal unicorn collection, making your home more secure is always a smart move. But, let’s face it, at $100 to $250 for installation along with monthly service charges, putting in a home security system can get pretty expensive. However, you can take a step toward increasing your home’s safeguards against burglars yourself — without robbing your own bank account. If you don’t already have them, adding heavy-duty deadbolts to all of your exterior doors is one of the simplest, yet most effective ways of securing your sanctum against intruders.

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In just about an hour, you can install a deadbolt lock to your door and then rest easy knowing that both your loved ones and valuables are safe and sound.

Can You Install a Deadbolt Yourself?

If you don’t have a steel door, installing a deadbolt is a beginner-level project you can certainly tackle yourself. All you need is a bit of experience using power tools and a hankering for a heightened sense of security. Hiring a locksmith, or even a handyman, to install your deadbolt could cost around $70-$100, not including the price of materials, but you can significantly cut your costs by installing it yourself.

Single-cylinder deadbolts have key locks only on the outside, and will work fine in most scenarios. However, double-cylinder deadbolts, with locks on both sides of the door, are great for doors with large glass portions that someone might be able to break to gain access to the inside lock. If you choose to go with a double-cylinder lock, make sure that you keep a key near the door in a safe spot so you can exit your home quickly if you need to.

What Tools Do You Need to Install a Deadbolt?

As with any do-it-yourself project, make a list of the tools you’ll need before getting started and ensure that you have them available and accessible before you begin. It's frustrating to start a project and then have to stop to go purchase additional materials. This is especially true when you’re working on an exterior door, as you’ll want to finish the project in one go and return the door to functionality as quickly as possible.

Before beginning, make sure you have the following items on hand:

  • A tape measure
  • A carpenter’s square
  • A utility knife
  • A power drill and drill-bit set
  • A hole saw kit
  • A wood chisel

In addition to these tools, you’ll need to go ahead and purchase a deadbolt lockset. Most locksets include paper templates, which ensure that you’re making the proper measurements on your door. Depending on the quality, deadbolt locksets can cost anywhere from $10 to $50. While purchasing the most expensive lock doesn’t always mean it’ll be the most secure, it’s still a good idea to buy a quality product. Expect to spend around $30 for a decent deadbolt.

A worker is replacing a home s dead bolt lock -------------------------------------------

Installing Your Deadbolt

Follow these steps:

Step 1: Tape Your Template

Before you start cutting any holes in your door, unpack your deadbolt set, find the paper template and tape it to your door. Most deadbolts are located about 6 inches to a foot above the existing doorknob. If you need to, use a tape measure to get the template in the right place. The template is generally large enough to fit over both the side of the door and the edge of the door. Fold the template around the edge of the door and use some painter’s tape to secure it to the door.

Step 2: Saw Your Hole

After you’ve taped your template to the door, attach the hole saw to your power drill. Carefully drill a hole onto the face of the door as indicated by the template. You can leave your template attached to the door and saw through the paper.

What Size Hole Do You Need for a Deadbolt?

Generally speaking, most deadbolts require a 2 1/8-inch hole. However, this is hardly a universal measurement. Before cutting any hole, make sure you carefully examine the manufacturer’s instructions.

Step 3: Drill Your Latch Hole

On the edge of the door, make sure the rest of the template is still in place. You’ll need the second half to create the hole for the deadbolt latch. Most deadbolts need a 1-inch spade bit — but, again, make sure you confirm with the instructions, as this measurement is likely to vary. With the door held firmly in place, carefully drill through the paper and into the wood of the door. Keep drilling until the hole meets the hole you drilled in the first step.

A worker is replacing the dead bolt on a home entryway door

Step 4: Chisel Spot for Strike Plate and Bolt

After drilling your latch hole, you’ll need to chisel a space for your strike plate and bolt. Using the strike plate included in your deadbolt set, outline the inset area on your doorjamb and chisel out the area about one-eighth of an inch into the indicated area. Chisel deeper into the jamb to the depth of the bolt, which will be described in your instructions.

Step 6: Screw It Into Place

Install both halves of the deadbolt mechanism on the door. Ensure that the face of the deadbolt with the key section is on the exterior side of the door. If you need help here, find a partner to help hold both halves of the deadbolt while you screw into place the bolts that join them. Because you’ll be using long screws, it’ll really help to use an electric screwdriver, here, rather than a manual one. Either way, make sure you don’t overtighten your screws, as this can affect the performance of the deadbolt.

Now, test the bolt for a smoothness and accuracy, and make adjustments as needed. If the bolt seems like it's too hard to engage and disengage, try ever-so-slightly loosening the screws that joined the two halves together.

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Comfort in Added Security

Making your home more secure can do wonders for your nerves. The feeling you get knowing that you and your family are protected is certainly worth the extra effort of adding a deadbolt. Without splurging on expensive security systems, installing heavy-duty deadbolts to your exterior doors is a relatively quick, inexpensive and effective way to up your home’s safety game — in less time than it probably takes to dust those prized glass unicorns.

Another way to increase your peace of mind is knowing that your home is protected from a wide range of hazards with a plan from HomeServe. Once you have a plan in place and a covered issue arises, you can simply call the 24/7 repair hotline. A local, licensed and highly trained contractor will be sent out to you to get the job done to your satisfaction.