Some older homes, often pre-World War II, have mortise locks, and even newer homes may have updated versions of these classic designs. While these pieces of hardware can be very attractive, the idea of removing one can be intimidating at first glance. However, many homeowners can’t easily manage the task with a few basic tools.
To manage this project yourself, just follow the steps below.
Remove The Hardware
To remove a mortise door lock, you need to have the door open. This exposes the long plate along the edge of the door, which should contain a door latch, deadbolt, and a few points that resemble buttons.
Now that the plate along the edge of the door is exposed, you can remove the screws. There should be one located at the top of the plate and one near the bottom.
Select an appropriate screwdriver based on the screws in use and turn the screws counterclockwise to loosen them. Once they have been loosed, you can remove the screws and set them aside.
After you’ve taken out the screws, you can pull the top plate off of the door edge. If it does not come off easily on its own, you may need to use a flathead screwdriver to pry it away from the door gently, taking care not to damage the door or the hardware as you proceed.
Remove The Handle Mechanism
Right above the deadbolt, you’ll see a small screw recessed into the door. Using a flathead screwdriver, loosen this screw by turning it counterclockwise. You should only rotate it up to five times, though fewer revolutions may be sufficient.
The door knob or level will also have a set screw that needs to be loosened. Using a flathead screwdriver, turn the screw counterclockwise a few rotations. Once the set screw has been loosened, guide the door handle off of the spindle by pulling it away from the door.
Take Off the Interior Trim Plate
After the handle is removed, you can take off the trim plate on the interior surface of the door. Typically, four screws hold the plate in place, with one being located on each corner. Select the proper screwdriver based on the screws used, and rotate them counterclockwise until they come out.
Once all our screws have been removed, the trim plate should easily come off of the door. If the trim has been painted over, and it is holding the paint in place, you will wait to cut through the paint film around the edge of the trim plate with a utility knife before you attempt to remove it. This ensures you don’t damage the hardware or the surface of the door, as can happen if you try and pry it off.
Remove the Cylinder
Below the space where the interior trim plate sat, there will be a small decorative screw cover. Remove it with your hand to expose the screw, and use a screwdriver to remove the screw along with the washer. Below the opening where the door handle was located, there will be a through bolt. Use a screwdriver to turn it counterclockwise, completely removing the bolt.
You may need to press against the exterior trim to help facilitate the removal of the bolt. Simply place your hand against the trim and press it towards the door.
Take the key that was associated with the lock and place it partially into the cylinder on the exterior side of the door. You don’t want to insert it all of the way, as this engages the locking mechanisms and will not help you take the cylinder out.
Once the key is in place, turn it counterclockwise. This will cause the entire cylinder to spin, allowing it to be worked out of the lock. After the cylinder has been removed, the trim plate can be easily pulled off and set aside. As before, if the trim plate has been painted over, it may be stuck to the door. Use a utility knife to cut through the paint before attempting to remove the trim.
On the opposite side of the door from the spindle, there will be a screw. Use a screwdriver to remove the screw by turning it counterclockwise. Then, pull the spindle away from the door.
At this point, the mortise door locking mechanisms have been fully removed. If the goal was to update from the original mortise door lock, you could now work toward replacing the door locks to your satisfaction.
Alternatively, you can consider having the original hardware restored if it has historical value and the mechanisms are generally in working order or, at least, complete. For older homes, keeping the original character can have a lot of appeal, especially for future buyers who may appreciate the charm of the original piece.