I’ve received several photos lately of restroom doors with non-code-compliant deadbolts.  Some examples of this problem could be:

  • A deadbolt with a blank plate (or nothing) inside and a key cylinder outside – an occupant could be locked in the bathroom by someone using a key.
  • A deadbolt with a key cylinder both sides – a key cylinder on the egress side of a door is only permitted in very limited situations and a bathroom would not be one of the acceptable locations.
  • A lever handle latchset with a separate deadbolt – the door will not unlatch with one operation if the deadbolt is thrown.


Restroom Door  Deadbolt with Blank Plate

I was also at a meeting with code experts (not hardware experts) recently where we were talking about deadbolts; several people checked out the deadbolt on the bathroom door and reported that it was broken.  Without even going to look at it I knew that it was a classroom function deadbolt.  With this function, the interior thumbturn will retract the bolt if someone locks the door from the outside using the key when someone is inside the room.  The interior thumbturn will not project the bolt, so if the door is not locked the interior thumbturn appears to be broken even though it’s working as designed.

Here are my own personal rules for using deadbolts:

  • On a multi-stall bathroom, I use a classroom deadbolt (inside thumbturn retracts bolt but will not project it), unless the facility wants to use the bathrooms as a safe haven during a lockdown and then I use a classroom deadbolt with a key cylinder inside and outside (staff with a key can lock themselves into the bathroom during the lockdown, anyone can retract the bolt with the thumbturn or key).
  • The deadbolt must be the only locking/latching hardware on the door – no separate latchset.
  • The deadbolt must be mounted between 34 inches and 48 inches above the floor.
  • The thumbturn must be operable with no tight grasping, tight pinching, or twisting of the wrist, and no key, tool, special knowledge or effort.
  • A deadbolt with a key cylinder on the egress side (and no thumbturn) is only allowed in very limited applications, and a restroom is not one of them.
  • If the door is a fire door, the door must have a positive latch and if a deadbolt is desired it must be an integral part of the latchset so turning the lever will retract the deadbolt and latchbolt.
  • On a single occupancy toilet I use either a privacy set or a locking function with an occupancy indicator – not a separate deadbolt as this is not compliant with the requirement for hardware to unlatch with one operation.


Questions for you:

  • Do you have any additional rules I should add to my list?

  • If you saw a non-code-compliant deadbolt in a restroom at a rest area, what would you do about it?

  • How do we inform locksmiths who are installing deadbolts on existing doors and may not understand the code requirements?

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