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The Pros and Cons of Interchangeable Cores

Interchangeable core locks can be used in both commercial and residential settings, though rarely in owner-occupied residences. The key word is "interchangeable". If you rarely anticipate the need to change the cores in the locks, they are probably not worth the initial greater expense. But if you foresee the need to change locks often or as soon as possible, they may be just what you need.

Interchangeable core lock
Interchangeable core lock


Interchangeable core locks lend themselves to large masterkey systems because they are commonly available with six or seven pin cores, allowing more latitude than the five or six pin standard cylinder.

As long as the control key is readily available, they are quick and easy to service or rekey.

Most interchangeable core keyways make unauthorized duplication more difficult than standard keyways.


Interchangeable core locks cost about the same as standard cylinder locks, but the core is not included.

The keys for interchangeable core locks are typically more expensive.

If the core key is not available, the cost to service or rekey the lock may be significantly higher than a standard cylinder lock.

Interchangeable core and key
Interchangeable core and key



Interchangeable core locks may be recommended if they are part of a large masterkey system or if frequent rekeying is expected. Aside from the operating keys for the lock, a control key is required to remove the core for rekeying or service. The property owner should have someone who is responsible for maintaining the control key and tracking where each core is used.

In most cases, where the use of interchangeable core locks is indicated, more cores should be ordered than are necessary at first. This allows the property owner or manager to change cores when and as necessary. For instance, the owner of a retail strip mall may want to use interchangeable core locks for each unit in the mall. If each unit has a front and back keyed entrance, the owner can have additional pairs of cores on hand so that any unit's locks can be rekeyed without waiting for a locksmith to come out first. The used cores can then be returned to the locksmith to be rekeyed and made ready for the next time there is a need to change the locks.

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