The Most Comprehensive Guide On Rim Locks

Key Takeaway

  • Rim locks are surface-mounted locks that offer a straightforward installation process without requiring complex recesses in the door.
  • Components of a Rim Lock include a latch, keyhole with escutcheon, door knobs, lock mechanism, and a durable body typically made of cast iron, nickel, or brass.
  • Their biggest drawback is the limited security that they provide.

Rim locks have been around for quite some time, acting as a convenient and straightforward locking solution for doors. As a surface-mounted lock, a rim lock is attached directly to the door’s surface, usually with screws. Though this type of locking mechanism is commonly found in older buildings, but it is also suitable for interior doors in modern homes. In-fact, we had a rim lock installed as well.

In this article, we will learn more about rim locks, how do they work, what are their advantages and disadvantages. We will also compare them with new locking mechanisms like deadbolts and mortise.

What is a Rim Lock?

What is a Rim Lock?
Sliding latch rim lock that was installed on my door

A rim lock is a surface mounted locking mechanism that contains a lever and a bolt in its simplest form. The bolt is activated either by a lever or a key.

The biggest advantage of a rim lock is its easy installation since no mortise needs to be cut (for mortise locks) or holes need to be bored (for deadbolts).

However, they are not as secure as other locks that limits their use to being additional security devices rather than a standalone ones.

Brief History

Rim locks have a long history, dating back to the early 19th century. They originated in England and later became popular in the United States. These locks were primarily used for interior doors due to their simple and efficient design.

However, their popularity declined in the 20th century as modern locking mechanisms emerged. Today, rim locks are mainly found on historic properties or as decorative elements in interior design.

Parts of a Rim Lock

Rim locks are fairly primitive in design and it is easy to understand their different components.

Parts of a rim lock
Parts of a rim lock
  • Latch: Rim locks typically feature a simple latch that can be easily retracted with a handle or thumb-turn. This element contributes to the user-friendly nature of these locks.
  • Keyhole: The keyhole is an essential component, covered by an escutcheon on the opposite side of the door. This design not only conceals the keyhole aesthetically but also enhances security.
  • Door Knobs: Rim locks often come as part of a rim set, complete with door knobs. These knobs add a touch of style and functionality to the overall design of the lock.
  • Lock Mechanism: The heart of the rim lock lies in its lock mechanism, which comprises a spring-loaded latch and deadbolt (or latch). This combination ensures a reliable and effective locking system.
  • Body: The body of a rim lock is typically made of durable materials such as cast iron, nickel, or brass. These materials not only contribute to the lock’s longevity but also add a sense of craftsmanship and elegance.

How Does a Rim Lock Work?

Inside of a rim lock showing its working

As shown in the video above, rim locks are nothing but a play of spring loaded latch and a lever. When the thumb-turn is rotated, it creates tension on the lever thereby retracting the latch from the keeper.

Since the latch is spring loaded, you can lock the lock by closing the door. There is no need of a key to lock the door as in the case of a deadbolt.

Types of Rim Locks

There are two main types of rim locks:

  1. Sliding Latch Rim Locks: These locks use a sliding latch as the locking mechanism. They are surface-mounted and can be locked and unlocked with a key or a thumb turn, depending on the design. This type of rim lock is suitable for interior doors where a high level of security is not required.
  2. Deadbolt Rim Locks: Deadbolt rim locks provide better security compared to sliding latch rim locks. They use a deadbolt mechanism instead of a latch, making them more difficult to force open. However, they are still surface-mounted and don’t offer the same level of security as modern mortise locks. Deadbolt rim locks may be found on exterior doors of older homes but are typically not suitable for main entry doors.

Advantages of Rim Locks

As a surface-mounted lock, rim locks offer several advantages that make them worth considering for your security needs.

  • Firstly, they are relatively easy to install, as they are mounted on the door’s surface rather than being mortise-set into the edge. This is particularly convenient for older doors or in situations where it is difficult to modify the door structure.
  • Another advantage lies in their versatility. Given their ease of installation, they can be used on a variety of door types including wooden, metal, or even glass doors.
  • Rim locks are often more cost-effective than some other types of locks, making them a budget-friendly option.
  • From an aesthetic perspective, they provide an old world charm that is hard to get these days.

Disadvantages of Rim Locks

The biggest drawback of rim locks is the limited security that they provide. Since rim locks are typically surface-mounted and can be unfastened more easily compared to their mortise lock counterparts, they are more susceptible to unauthorized entry. That’s why it is recommended to always use them as additional security devices rather than standalone.

Additionally, rim locks often lack the resistance to excessive force. This means that an intruder could potentially damage the lock and disengage it using brute force.

How to Install a Rim Lock

Installing a rim lock is a relatively easy and straightforward process with minimal tools.

Tools Required

  • A drill
  • Rim lock set
  • Screws
  • Measuring tape

Steps to Install a Rim Lock

Installing a rim lock should not take more than 10 mins if you follow the steps mentioned below-

  • Measure the door’s thickness and mark the door edge at the desired lock location.
  • Outline the lock’s back plate on the door surface
  • Drill holes for screws as per the manual. Ensure that the drill goes straight through the door otherwise it will result in lock misalignment.
  • Once the holes are drilled, position the rim lock on the door, aligning the spindle hole with the drilled opening. Insert the spindle through the lock mechanism to connect with the door handle.
  • Tighten the screws to fix the lock body.
  • Attach the keeper on the door jamb with screws.
  • Test if the lock is working fine by turning the knob/lever or using a key.

If you are installing a rim lock that is meant purely for interior door without a keyway, then installation is even simpler. All you have to do is drill the holes for screws and tighten the body to the door surface.

Rim Locks vs Mortise Locks

As mentioned above, rim locks are surface mounted on doors, typically on the inner side of the door. However, Mortise locks are inserted into the door by creating a pocket known as a Mortise.

From security standpoint, mortise locks offer much more security than rim locks. In-fact it is not uncommon to find only mortise locks manning the front doors. However, rim locks should never be used as a standalone security devices.

Having said that, rim locks score over mortise locks in their versatility. Installing a mortise lock requires the door to be minimum 45-50 mm thick. In case your door is thinner than that, you will have no option but to install a rim lock.


Rim locks are surface mounted lock mechanism that provide a touch of old world charm and can accentuate your door’s aesthetics. They are very simple to install and can be attached to any kind of door (wood, metal or glass).

However, they lack in security and should never be used as standalone security devices.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the typical cost of a rim lock?

The cost of a rim lock can vary greatly depending on the brand, materials, and level of security it offers. You can expect to pay anywhere from $20 to over $100 for a rim lock. Higher-priced models often provide increased durability, more intricate designs, or enhanced security features.

Can a rim lock be used on sliding doors?

Rim locks are not typically designed for use on sliding doors, as they are primarily meant for hinged doors. However, there are specialized surface-mounted locks available that are specifically designed for sliding doors, which can provide similar functionality to rim locks.

What are some popular brands that manufacture rim locks?

Some popular brands that manufacture rim locks include Yale, Schlage, Baldwin, and Emtek. These brands offer a variety of styles, materials, and security levels, catering to different needs and design preferences of homeowners and professionals alike.

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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.