Mortise Locks vs Tubular Locks: Which One is Better for Home Security?

Key Takeaway

  • Mortise locks are more durable and provide better security than tubular locks. However, they are more expensive and will require special door preparation that will demand a professional.
  • Tubular locks have replaced mortise locks in recent years.

I have been a fan of mortise locks all my life. I can’t place the exact reason, but they have always fascinated me. In order to install the lock, a pocket (mortise) must be cut into the door, which unites the door and the lock as one. This is a titanic romance for someone who is obsessed with locks.

However, in the past few decades, mortise locks have given way to tubular locks for their ease of installation. Nowadays, more often than not, one would find tubular locks on their home doors. And it surely kills me inside.

So in this article, I am going to cover mortise lock assembly and tubular lock assembly and how they compare in terms of security, working, design options, ease of installation, etc. I will wrap up the article by giving some pointers on how to choose between the two. 

Mortise Lock Assembly

Mortise locks have been in use for over a century now however, they saw a decline after the 1950s when tubular locks were introduced for residential use. 

Mortise locking mechanism looks like this –

Mortise Lock Anatomy: Parts of a mortise lock

This locking mechanism goes into the door by cutting a rectangular pocket in it. This rectangular pocket is called mortise and hence the name. Typically the pocket will be 5-8 inches deep into the door.

Mortise lock assembly includes 4 parts –

Mortise lock assembly
  1. The locking mechanism that goes into the door pocket (leftmost image)
  2. Door knob, handle or thumb turn to open the latch from the inside (center image)
  3. Strike plate where the bolt will slide in
  4. A skeleton key to operate the lock from the outside (or/and inside)

Tubular Lock Assembly

Tubular Lock Assembly

Tubular locks (also known as cylindrical locks or circle locks) gained prominence since the 1950s. Initially introduced for residential use, they are now commonly found in industrial and office spaces as well. Above picture is an example of a cylindrical lock installed on one of my office doors. 

The tubular latch looks like this –

The tubular latch

To install a tubular lock, one needs to do cross bores on either side of the door to fit in the doorknob and a small bore at the edge of the door to house the latch. Typically the cross bore is 2 – 2.25 inches in diameter, and the edge bore is around 1 inch.

While the lock is operated with a key from the outside, a knob or lever is used for the inside.

A Detailed Comparison: Mortise Lock Vs Tubular Lock

Let’s understand the comparison between the two types of locks now.


Mortise locks require a rectangular mortise to be cut into the edge of the door, which is not an easy task for DIYers, given the fact that the pocket is typically 5-8 inches. Tubular locks, on the other hand, are easy to install as standard boreholes are to be done. 


Mortise locks are considered to be more secure than tubular locks, as they have more complex locking mechanisms and are more resistant to picking, drilling, and other forms of manipulation. However, high-quality tubular locks can also provide a good level of security.

Keying mechanism:

Mortise locks use a pin-tumbler keying mechanism, which involves a series of pins that must be aligned in order to turn the key and unlock the door. Tubular locks use a circular keying mechanism, which rotates a series of pins inside the cylinder to align them with the shear line and unlock the door.

Key control:

Mortise locks provide greater key control as they have a more advanced keying system which requires professional assistance for key duplication. Tubular locks, on the other hand, can easily have duplicate keys made at local hardware stores.


Mortise locks are typically more expensive than tubular locks due to their complex design and installation requirements. Tubular locks are generally affordable and a good option for those on a budget.


Mortise locks are more durable than tubular locks, as they are made of stronger materials and have a more robust design. However, both types of locks can last for many years with proper maintenance.


Mortise locks are often considered to be more aesthetically pleasing than tubular locks, as they have a more classic and elegant design, whereas Tubular locks are modern and minimalist in their appearance. Besides, mortise locks have a lot of options to choose from when it comes to levers, thumb turns, or knobs.

Tubular vs Mortise Lock: Which One Should You Choose?

Overall, the choice between a mortise lock and a tubular lock will depend on your specific needs and preferences. However few factors like ease of installation, available design options, and security are to be kept in mind.

If security is your main concern, I recommend mortise locks.

If you want the installation to be easy, my recommendation is a tubular lock.

If you want to get spoiled for choices, then mortise locks are the best choice.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. Can a mortise lock be installed on a door that currently has a tubular lock?

Answer – Yes, a mortise lock can be installed on a door that currently has a tubular lock, but it will require modifications to the door and surrounding hardware.

Q2. How are mortise locks different from deadbolts?

Answer – Mortise locks require a pocket to be cut into the door, while deadbolts are installed on the surface of the door. Mortise locks are generally considered to be more secure but are more expensive and require a more involved installation process. Deadbolts are simpler and more affordable but less secure. To read a detailed comparison of mortise locks vs deadbolts, you may refer to one of my past articles.


In conclusion, both mortise locks and tubular locks are popular options for securing homes and businesses. Mortise locks are more secure and durable, offering a wide range of styles to match various decor preferences. However, they are more expensive and require professional installation. On the other hand, tubular locks are easier to install and affordable but are less secure and offer limited style options. Ultimately, the choice between a mortise lock and a tubular lock will depend on the user’s need and budget. It is important to consider the level of security required and the overall style and functionality of the lock before making a decision

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Hey! I am Mark. Though I am not a locksmith by profession, but locks have always fascinated me since my teens. And it all started when I got locked out of my house and I had to pick the lock. Since then it has become my hobby to learn more about different kinds of locks, understand their working and methods to pick them up. In due course of time, I have also become better aware of how installing the right lock goes a long way in ensuring iron clad security. I aim to share my passion (about locks) through this blog. If you are also passionate about picking locks or are just looking to beef up the security, hop on the ride.