Lesson 2: Access Control Hardware

Introduction to the core access control hardware components, important concepts, and optional physical security hardware peripherals.

Reading Time: 8 min

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What is the access control hardware course about?

In this lesson, we’ll introduce you to core access control hardware components, important concepts, and optional physical security hardware peripherals.

A typical access control setup includes: doors, locks, readers, and optional access control hardware, as shown in the illustration below.

typical door access control hardware setup

Whether you’re implementing a new access control solution or replacing an existing door access system, understanding the various hardware components necessary to deploy will ensure you have accounted for every detail and set yourself up for success.

Topic 1: Door Types

Choosing doors that are aesthetic, functional, durable, and secure is an important undertaking. Lets review door composition and the difference between entry and interior doors for each material type. Commercial doors are commonly comprised of steel, wood, or glass.

Steel Doors

Steel doors are thick, sturdy, and highly durable. These doors may be fire rated for up to 3 hours, depending on the manufacturer. Cold-rolled steel doors make excellent Interior doors as the process strengthens the material, makes it more flexible, and eliminates surface defects. To prevent rusting, it is recommended that exterior steel doors are made from hot dipped galvanized steel.

steel door - door types

Wood Doors

Wood doors are not commonly used on the exteriors of a commercial building. These doors are susceptible to environmental damage and less secure than other materials. Wood doors come in a range of finishes and cores that are aesthetic while reducing sound transfer. These features make wood doors an excellent option for offices and meeting rooms.

door types- wooden door

Glass Doors

Glass doors, while highly aesthetic, have several limitations when compared to other materials. The structure of glass doors often limits the type of access control hardware that can be installed, including locks, sensors, and readers. Modern glass doors are often made with annealed glass. While annealed glass is more durable than older commercial glass options, it easily breaks under impact and poses a security risk when used as an exterior door. Glass doors that have been retrofitted with polycarbonate security glazing are virtually unbreakable and provide a high level of protection as an exterior door.

door types - glass door

Topic 2: Lock Types

Lock hardware is either mechanical or electronic. Mechanical locks secure an opening by keeping the door closed until a release mechanism is activated. The release mechanism could be a lever, knob, key, or thumbturn. Electronic locks require power to operate the locking and unlocking mechanism. Electronic locks are either fail safe (unlocks when power is removed) or fail secure (unlocks when power is applied). Learn more about fail safe and fail secure here.

different door lock types

Mechanical Locks

There are four types of mechanical locks; mortise, cylinder, spring bolt, and deadbolt. Mortise locks, while very common, are often hard to install and require a pocket to be drilled into the door. Cylinder locks, while also very common, are differentiated in their overall ease of installation, only taking around 15 - 30 minutes. Spring bolt, like the name suggests, is a spring loaded bolt that when compressed unlocks the bolt, and springs into a locked position when released. A dead bolt is a lock that is moved by turning a knob or key.

Electronic Locks

The primary difference between magnetic and electric strike locks is their power requirements. Magnetic locks are fail safe, while electric strike locks are typically fail secure.

When selecting lock hardware, it is important to consider function, location, safety, security, and budget. Learn more about different types of locks here.

Topic 3: Door Readers and Panels

For the access system to work, we, of course, also need door readers (which read access badges) and control panels that are wired to the electric door locks. Our guide to electronic access systems covers these and more components.

kisi access control reader pro

Topic 4: Optional Access Control Hardware

Optional hardware refers to the devices that add a layer of security or safety to your overall access control solution. These devices are not required for a successful deployment, but may add value in the long run by reducing unauthorized access or allowing users to safely exit a space.

Contact Sensors

Monitor your doors in real time with wired or wireless door contact sensors. Contact sensors communicate the status of your connected doors, providing you with more precise data on what happens in your spaces. Contact sensors allow you to create custom alert policies around specified events and send notifications to people you choose based on the triggered alert type.

Learn more about contact sensors here.

kisi access control contact sensor


Create more data-rich reporting by integrating camera hardware at ingress points. In addition to creating a visually rich audit trail, cameras are an effective crime deterrent. Cameras can expose incidences of tailgating and help administrators enforce proper credential usage.

Learn more about cameras here.

Fire Alarm Control Panels (FACP)

In addition to making sure our spaces are secure, we want to ensure that people are able to safely exit in the event of an emergency. When the fire alarm is triggered, it communicates to the backup controller, which in turn triggers the access control solution to unlock all the doors allowing people to safely exit a space. In larger buildings, FACPs are typically set up by the building operator and are not the responsibility of the tenants.

Learn more about how to integrate fire alarms with access control here.

Push to Exit

Push to Exit buttons, sometimes referred to as Request to Exit, allow users of a space to safely exit the space. It may be necessary to install this button in areas where the door’s handle isn’t suitable, or the user is not able to use the handle physically. In emergency situations, an illuminated Push to Exit button can guide people to egress points.

Learn more about Push to Exit buttons here.

additional access control hardware - push to exit button


Planning for your access control hardware requirements is both a necessary and exciting part of the journey. The hardware you choose will be the first impression you provide customers and employees. Choosing hardware that is aesthetically pleasing, functional, and secure will create an environment that is both inviting and safe for all who access your space.

Save time. Enhance security.

Modernize your access control with remote management and useful integrations.

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