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Installing a door latch is really quite simple, if you have the right tools. Door latches come in various configurations; but the most common are a drive in tubular latch, or a latch with attached mortise plate. A latch with an attached mortise plate is generally more secure as it holds the latch securely with screws whereas a drive in latch is relying on the snug fit of the latch in the cross bore of the door. In this article we will address the installation of a door latch with an attached mortise plate onto a new door. The latch we are using is from a Nostalgic Warehouse door knob, which is very similar to the latches you will see from Emtek knobs and levers.

If you are installing a latch on a non-mortised door, as we are showing here in this article, you'll need the following tools: Hammer, a sharpened chisel, a pencil and a screw driver.

  1. First place the latch [or just the mortise plate] in place on the edge of the door. Make sure it is centered on the cross bore hole and mark the perimeter with a pencil. This will allow you know exactly where to chisel out the wood of the door so that the mortise plate fits nice and flush on the surface. You want the mortise plate to be flush. If it is not the door will likely not shut correctly, or may not close at all. Also, the finished look of a correctly set mortise plate is much better than a plate that protrudes from he surface. Be sure so use a sharp pencil so that your mark is right next to the edge of the plate. If it is not, you'll end up with a hole that is too big and it won't look as nice when complete.
  2. Once you have marked the location of the mortise plate you can begin working on cleaning out the center with a chisel. Be sure to use a sharpened chisel as the end result will be much cleaner, not to mention easier to do. First, score the perimeter of the area with the chisel. This basically boxes in the area that will be removed. If you skip this step, you will likely remove material past the marked area and the finished project will not look clean and professional.
  3. Now start cleaning out the interior of the perimeter with the chisel. Generally you will need to chisel out about an 1/8" of the door surface; but that will depend on the type or brand of latch that you are installing.
  4. When you have evenly removed door material from the area that the latch will be installed, you'll want to check and make sure the depth is correct. You may do this several times as you work on chiseling out the area. This particular latch that we are installing is a Nostalgic Warehouse latch which comes in two pieces, the latch itself and the decorative mortise plate. Combined the two pieces are about 1/8" thick so the mortise depth needs to be 1/8" for them to fit flush with the door edge surface.

5. Now that the the mortise depth is just right and you have verified that the mortise plate fits nice and flush with the door surface, you're ready to install the latch. Make sure that the curvature of the end of the latch is placed correctly so that the curved part strikes the jamb [or location of the strike plate]. This is a common mistake. Really not that big of deal except that you have to take everything apart and put it back together again.

So, once the latch is in place, all you have to do is grab the screws provided and secure the latch in place using a screw driver. Once this is complete you can move on to installing the hardware itself. Most brands of door hardware have very similar latch types so this article can be applied to the majority of applications.

NOTE: Some latches may be designed such that you need to put a certain side up. These notations should be on the latch themselves if required. You may check with the installation instructions provided in the door hardware packaging.

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