The humble door latch is a chronically overlooked and vitally important piece of door furniture. Without one a door won’t often perform its most important job – staying closed. Yet most people don’t spare a lot of time choosing the right latch, they just grab the first one they see.
But getting the right one can affect both the look and function of your door, so it is important to make an informed decision – that includes knowing what type of latch you need.
In this guide, we’ll explore common types of door latches used for internal doors and door handles. We’ll cover the differences between dead locks, dead bolts and dead latches as well as a variety of other latch constructions.
What are door latches used for?
Door latches are a piece of door furniture that holds a door in a closed position. They usually involve fitting some kind of latch bolt into a hole, frame, catch or keep to stop the door from swinging open unintentionally. Most latches used on internal doors are attached to a door handle so they can be opened on both sides but this is not a requirement for all latch types.
Unlike door locks, latches do not tend to bring additional security to your door – they are an item of convenience. A latch mechanism may add a little privacy, but its main function is to keep your door closed when you want it to be. It makes it more complicated to push a door open, making sure it won’t happen unintentionally.
What is the difference between internal door latches and external door latches?
In many ways, the latches used on internal doors and external doors are actually very similar. The most common type in both cases is a tubular latch but the difference is that external doors usually feature the latch as part of a larger locking mechanism as they need that extra security.
What are the most common types of door latches?
Latches aren’t only used on internal and external doors. Technically everything from gates to oven doors to cupboards use latches to stay closed – and this wide range of applications means there is an equally wide range of latches in use.
Of course, not all are suitable for use on internal doors. In fact, the majority of internal doors will use a tubular latch mechanism even alongside internal locks. However, the majority is not all, so here is a rundown of other door latches you might want to pick from.
Most internal door latches are based on a deadlatch or dead lock mechanism. These come in three latch types: deadbolts, deadlatches and dead locks.
A dead bolt is a door latch that can only be opened or closed when you turn the door knob or use a key. Unlike tubular latches, there are no springs around the latch bolts to make them automatically extend again when the hand is released. The latch bolt won’t even move under direct pressure, as a tubular latch will. A deadbolt lock tends to be more robust and secure than deadlatches.
A dead latch is similar except it features two bolts. This means they have their own security latches and are able to automatically lock behind you once the door is closed. The convenience of a deadlatch is that you are never able to forget to lock the door – your front door locks itself. However, it also makes it a lot easier to lock yourself out if you forgot your keys.
Dead locks offer the highest possible level of security, as you need a key to unlock them on both sides of the door. Other than this they work like deadbolts. The benefit of dead locks is that increased security, but this can be a risk in emergencies as you can’t leave the door unlocked.
Tubular latch/mortice latch
As mentioned above, tubular latches are the most commonly used latch for internal doors. They can easily be paired with a door knob or lever handle, and can even be used in conjunction with privacy locks for bathroom doors.
They feature a latch bolt which protrudes out of the edge of the door and a strike plate hole in the door frame which accepts the latch when it is in a closed position. When the door opens, the latch bolt retracts inside the door to allow it to move.
A mortice latch works in a similar way to a tubular latch but it has a larger case, with a mortice lock often contained in the same mechanism.
Rim latches (used as part of a rim lock) are similar to a tubular latch but the whole latch mechanism is attached to the door’s surface rather than inside it.
Commonly associated with period doors, including Victorian and Edwardian styles, rim locks are often chosen for their elegant but eye-catching looks rather than any particular practical benefit. Though they do come with a key-operated locking system, they are not secure enough for external use so this is often decorative.
Roller catches and roller bolt latches are a type of sprung latch that will retract with a gentle push, rather than twisting a door knob or pushing a lever. This makes them a great choice for high-traffic doors where door handles or a traditional door latch would quickly wear.
Around the home, they are more commonly used on cupboard and wardrobe doors, while larger residential or industrial buildings tend to use them in corridors.
The latch mechanism on flat latches works in a similar way to one on a tubular latch, being actioned by the use of door handles. The main difference is that the latch mechanism is stronger, larger and more secure. They also tend to have a longer face plate as well, to provide even more stability.
Sliding Bolt latches
This type of latch isn’t actually used on internal doors very often anymore, but it is perhaps the most straightforward and recognisable latch type, if only because you can see the entirety of the latch and how it works.
It is, as it sounds, a long bolt that you move into a ‘keep’ to hold the door closed. You don’t need door handles to work traditional bolt latches, but this does mean you can only close and open your door from one side, making it a bad choice for most internal doors. It is more commonly seen on shed or cupboard doors, and other spaces that you only really access from one side.
A spring latch has a similar set-up as a bolt latch, except the bolt is housed in a spring. In fact, this latch type is also known as a spring bolt latch.
When you press or turn the handle, the spring is compressed and with the latch bolt from the box, allowing the door to move freely. Then when you release the handle, the spring pushes it back into place.
Night latches and slam latches can come in a variety of forms with either a dead latch, dead bolt or dead lock incorporated. They are commonly known as a ‘Yale lock’ though this is actually a brand name while the latch type is actually the night latch.
Night latches have a default setting where they engage automatically when closed, however, they also have a button that will disengage the latch or door lock to keep the door open to access if you wish. Though Yale door locks used to be a popular choice of front door lock, a night latch is not secure enough to be used on it is own. To meet building regulations around security it is better to use these latches in combination with mortice deadlocks or multi-point locks.
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