Maglocks Vs Electric Strikes: A Matter of Public Safety

All modern access control systems rely on doors being locked and unlocked electronically. The two most common devices used to do this are magnetic locks (Maglocks) and electric strikes.

Unfortunately, these two methods are often confused or incorrectly believed to be interchangeable. In Toronto, it’s not uncommon for companies to mistakenly recommend maglocks based on a lack of information.

In reality, maglocks should only be used in rare cases for very specific applications. This is not just based on our opinion; it’s also a matter of public safety, and the law!

 We’ve put together this brief guide on the differences between electric strikes and maglocks to help prevent you from unintentionally creating a life-risking safety hazard, and from being held liable for it.

Functional & Safety Differences

We’ll start with how the two devices operate differently, to better illustrate the reasons for the legal and safety differences.


  • Maglock stands for electromagnetic lock. As the name suggests it is essentially a huge magnet holding the door shut.
  • What makes the maglock different for the user is that it needs to be released to not only enter, but also released to exit a room or building.
  • This may not seem like a big deal, but as you will see below, the risk of being locked into a building can be very serious in a fire or other emergencies.
  • That is why it is so crucial that you follow the proper regulations should you need to use a maglock. In all cases, maglocks require permits in Toronto, among other rules, to prevent danger (more on these rules later).

 Electric Strikes:

  • Electric strikes work with the latch on the door, electronically opening allowing the door to be pushed or pulled open.
  • Their purpose is to lock from the outside (for those entering a building or room) and not from the inside. When exiting, turn the door handle, and the latch will mechanically allow you to safely leave.
  • This works great for general security as most buildings are only concerned with keeping bad actors out, not keeping anyone inside.
  • An electric strike can be installed on any door without a permit, as long as one can exit freely through a standard door handle, as explained above.

Confusion Around Price and Difficulty:

What adds to the problem is the confused belief that maglocks are easier to install and less costly than electric strikes. Safety factors aside, this is also usually incorrect.

It does not take into account the strict regulations required to operate a maglock door legally. Often these companies will naively bypass these regulations, and this is where the safety and liability concerns come in.

These companies mistakenly believe that maglocks are easier because electric strikes require the expertise to specify and install:

  1. Compatible hardware for the door.
  2. A “storeroom function” door handle to be installed by a locksmith (“storeroom function” refers to the ability of the door to be freely opened from the inside, while requiring credentials to be unlocked from the outside).
  3. The correct type of electronic strike to match the door hardware and door frame.

At first glance, changing door hardware and specifying the correct electric strikes can appear to be more complicated and costly compared to a maglock (a giant magnet with one half fastened on the door frame and the other half on the door itself). Therefore, we often see companies unaware of the risks of proposing maglocks.

However, installing a maglock without a permit is:

  1. Illegal.
  2. A hazard to everyone who enters the building (for the reasons mentioned above). 

This permit requires many regulations and precautions are followed. When these are taken into consideration, an adequately installed maglock is exponentially more expensive than an electric strike.

Maglock Requirements:

The Ontario Building Code Section covers the requirements for maglocks and can be referenced for full specifications. To briefly summarize, maglocks require:

  • A dedicated building permit with the city of Toronto (or the municipality of your building).
  • Building floor plans and an engineered schematic of the proposed system.
  • The building must have a fire alarm system, and a manual fire alarm pull station located near the door that provides a redundant connection to the maglock.
  • The maglock must be tied to the fire panel and released immediately if activated.
  • There must be signage on the door stating the door will unlock and emergency lighting at the door.
  • The maglock must release immediately upon power loss to the fire panel, maglock power supply or a fault in the electrical circuit
  • After a fire alarm, the doors need to manually reset to lock (require building operator intervention to secure your doors)
  • Finally, maglocks are not allowed at all in specific building types like elementary schools or high hazard workplaces.

If your maglock is not installed in accordance with OBC or without a permit from the City of Toronto (or the municipality your building is in), the door should be considered a life-threatening safety hazard to everyone in the building.

Should you currently have a maglock without following these specifications, it should be immediately powered off then with the assistance of a professional engineer brought up to appropriate code or replaced with an electric strike.

Maglocks Can Also Be Less Secure:

In addition to all the negatives listed above, maglocks can also be less secure than electric strikes. If you review the requirements in the building code for maglocks, they require that the maglock:

  • Release upon fire alarm activation – whenever the fire alarm goes off your door is unlocked
  • Is within 600 mm of a fire alarm pull station – making it extra easy to pull the fire alarm and walk through the now unlocked door
  • Release upon a power outage – again leaving your building and sensitive areas wide open

When Should a Maglock Be Installed?

Presumably, there must be some correct applications of the maglock, right? In almost all cases, properly installed electric strikes will be a better and safer option. We only recommend installing maglocks (with a permit of course) under the following circumstances: 

  1. An architecturally aesthetic door that does not have latching hardware. For example, an all-glass door where latching hardware or a door frame would take away from the overall aesthetics of the space.
  2. You have the need to secure both entry and exit through a doorway. For example, in high-security spaces, a valid card would be required for both entrance and exit from the space.

Next Steps:

If you are unsure what’s needed to secure your door reach out to Square Security by scheduling a free consultation here or calling 416-460-7218. 

In the case that your door falls into a category where a maglock should be installed, we are also here to assist with a licensed engineered, professional drawings, permit submission, and maglock installation.

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