How to Replace a Doorknob - A Real Person’s Step by Step Guide
When you are trying to freshen up the look of a house, it is amazing the difference some of the smallest details can make. Freshening up your trim, replacing your light fixtures, or changing up old, tarnished, or flaking doorknobs can transform your house in just one afternoon, and with minimal cost.
Doorknobs are one of the most frequently used, and often unexamined, features in a home. When you are considering updating them, it is important to take into account functionality, as well as design.
Here are some questions to ask before you undertake the project:
- Will I need to childproof these doorknobs in the near future?
- What other metal elements are already in my house? Do I want to match my outlet covers, lamps, faucets, etc.?
- How do I use this doorway? Would a different shape doorknob be more functional?
- HOW MANY DOORS do I have in my house, and what kind of knobs do they have? (more on this below).
Most homes built in the 20th century were given standard, brass knobs. These knobs are durable and functional, and, for the contractor’s benefit, inexpensive. There have been several more options for door handles and knobs that have entered the market, as well as metallic finishes. The important thing when selecting knobs is to make sure your home is harmonious (unless you are intentionally breaking this rule), functional, and aesthetically pleasing!
Doorknobs of Today
In recent decades, doorknobs have become available in several new forms and finishes. You can choose from your standard brass, stainless steel, or oil-rubbed bronze, as well as several new finishes, such as rose gold, pewter, matte black, vintage crystal, or other funky, offbeat offerings.
The shapes of doorknobs have also diversified. For the most part, you have the choice of a spherical knob or a handle-like lever, but both styles come in endless varieties, shapes, and finishes. When you are choosing the shape and finish that works for you, take into consideration that this is usually a once-in-a-lifetime update, so err on styles and finishes that will age well and not go out of style quickly.
A standard, good-quality doorknob can be costly. Typically, one set will cost between $15-20, which is a price that increases exponentially when you add up all the doorknobs in your home! However, there are several shopping techniques that can cut costs. Manufacturers often sell knobs in “Contractor Packs” of 6-10 sets, at a substantially lower rate. You can also check local salvage or surplus stores for new knobs that are being sold overstock, for a fraction of their original price. Amazon Warehouse can also be a good place to snag a deal on knobs that have been purchased but returned unused for 40% or less of the retail price.
What types of knobs do I need?
When it comes to interior doors, you typically want the same shape and finish for knobs throughout your house. However, most knob types come in three different styles: Privacy, Passage, and Dummy.
Privacy Knobs are locking doorknobs, designed to be installed on bedroom and bathroom doors. These are not appropriate for exterior locks, and if you have a room that needs higher security, you would want to purchase a keyed locking door, which is not always available in every style or finish. Privacy knobs are often push buttons or turn locks that are simple to pick, but keep privacy from unintentional intrusion.
Passage Knobs are flat-faced knobs that do not lock, but open and shut like a functional doorknob. These are used for rooms that do not require locks, pantries, and walk-in closets where someone could be unintentionally closed inside.
Dummy Knobs are designed for rooms that only need a doorknob on one side, such as a small closet. These knobs do not turn and do not serve any function other than being a pull handle to open a door.
When ordering your new doorknobs, you will need to tally the amount of each style of doorknob you will need, so that you can complete the project efficiently.
This post focuses on interior doorknobs, not exterior, locking knobs. Often, manufacturers have their own line and designs for exterior knobs, so they may not match your interior doors exactly. I have found that matching metal finishes is sufficient. Much more important when considering exterior knobs? Make sure they are all keyed the same to save yourself headaches down the line!
Replacing your Knobs
Phillips and Flat Head Drill Bit
Drill Bit Extender (optional)
Door Knob Kit
When you open your new, boxed doorknob, you should see several components, including the inner and outer knob, the spindle. the latch, the strike, and a set of screws. You may also receive a plastic piece in the shape of a convex square, which fits inside your strike plate. (Save yourself a headache and just toss it in the trash).
DOOR KNOB PARTS:
The inner and outer knobs are distinguished in privacy knobs by the placement of the locking mechanism. In privacy knobs, they are identical, and dummy knobs only have one side. When installing a privacy knob, you want the lock to face TOWARDS the room where the person wants their privacy.
The spindle is the ‘guts’ of the doorknob. The spindle will come attached to either the inner or outer knob, with a matching place for the spindle to insert in the opposite knob. The spindle will feed through the latch to allow the knobs to engage the door’s opening mechanism. The door handle will also likely have two Phillips head screws threaded into the spindle, which need to be removed prior to inserting the doorknob into your door.
The latch is the metal piece that inserts into the doorframe to keep your door closed. It is mounted to a faceplate, which is screwed into the edge of your door.
The strike plate is the metal piece that attaches to your door jam, which the latch catches on when the door closes.
The first step in replacing doorknobs is to remove the old hardware from your door and doorjamb. To do this, you want to remove the strike plate from your doorjamb, which is typically attached with two screws drilled into the frame. Removing the strike plate isn’t necessary per se, but it is helpful to start fresh with a new, unscratched plate that matches your new finish.
Next, remove the screws from the latch of your door, which are located along the narrow edge of the door where it meets the doorjamb. Finally, there should be two screws on the top and bottom of one side of your door handle which need to be removed. Once these screws are detached, the knob should pull apart into two pieces on either side of the door, and the latch should come straight out from the narrow end of the door.
You will be left with a ditch in your doorjamb, a big hole in your door where the handles go, and a smaller hole where the latch fits.
The first step in replacing the doorknob is to fit in your new latch. Thread the hardware in through the hole in the side, until the plate is flush with your door. Make sure the curved side of the latch is oriented so that it is the part that first hits the doorjamb when the door is closed, so the straight side is able to hold the door closed when fully inserted. Then, secure the latch with the screws provided.
Next, make sure you remove the two screws from the inner spindle of your doorknob kit. After you have them in hand, thread the male side of the doorknob through the holes in the latch and press it flush with the door. Make sure that you have your doorknob positioned so the locking mechanism is on the correct side of the door and the door lever (if you are using one) is oriented in the right direction to not block the door. Fit the other side of the doorknob onto the opposite side of the door, and make sure each knob is flush with the wood. Insert and tighten the screws through the holes in the knob, usually on the interior side of the door.
Your doorknob kit may come with a cubical plastic piece that fits into the hole in your doorjamb to go under the strike plate. My advice is just to toss it. The cheap plastic doesn’t do much to improve the effectiveness of the closure, and many door jambs have their recess hand-chiseled, so it will not be an exact fit. Attach the strike plate with the two screws provided, and then open and close your door several times to make sure the door catches and closes securely. If it doesn’t fully catch, try moving your strike plate a bit further out towards the edge of the doorjamb, so that the latch can fully engage.
Before you finish working on your door, it’s helpful to make sure that all the screws on the door hinge are fully tightened, and that the doorway has not shifted in any way so the door isn’t square. Often raising or lowering your door just a centimeter or so can fix many problems with a tight or improper fit.
If you are working on a dummy doorknob, your replacement process couldn’t be easier! There is no latch or plate, so just screw your ornamental handle into the door and pat yourself on the back!
Once you have your materials organized and your system in place, replacing a doorknob is about a five-minute project. Therefore, you can give your whole home a makeover in less than one afternoon!