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How to Replace Exterior Door Knobs

Tuesday May 19th, 2020
If you are in the process of redecorating or remodeling your home, you might have an exterior door knob that needs to be replaced. Don’t worry—it might seem like a daunting process, but the steps are simple.

How to Replace Exterior Door Knobs

  1. Learn from Your Existing Door Knob 
  2. Choose Your New Exterior Door Hardware 
  3. Gather Your Materials
  4. Remove Existing Door Knob and Hardware 
  5. Prepare Door for the New Knob 
  6. Line up New Knob to Existing Screw Holes
  7. Attach the New Knob
  8. Test Your New Exterior Door Knob
There are many reasons you might want to replace an exterior door knob, from adding unique curb appeal to upgrading functionality. What you might not have considered is how much time and money you’ll save by doing it yourself. Replacing an exterior door knob isn’t as complicated as you might think.

1. Learn from Your Existing Door Knob

Take a look at your existing door hardware to get a sense of what you’ll need to replace. To start, which type of door knob do you currently have?

Dummy Knobs: While rarely found on exterior doors, dummy knobs are ubiquitous on interior doors and hallway doors. Screwed directly into the interior door itself, these types of knobs are easily removed and replaced by loosening a few screws.
Exterior Door Knobs with Deadbolt Lock: This is the most typical of external door knob sets. Exterior door knobs are a little more complicated than dummy knobs or interior door knobs but they offer more security and stability in the long run.
Entry Door Knobs with Door Handles: Particularly for front and back doors, handles are a common piece of hardware. The general principles for replacing them are the same—however, you’ll likely need a few more screws.
Interior Door Knobs, Passage Knobs, or Privacy Knob: While this article refers mainly to exterior door knobs and locksets, similar procedures are used to change interior and exterior door hardware—including these simpler types of door knobs.

If you’re uncertain as to which type of door knob you may have, you can snap a photo and head to your local hardware store. The home improvement specialists on staff should be able to help you identify the specific style of your interior and exterior door knobs and deadbolts.

What Style, Hardware, and Finish Should you Choose? 

Look at the dimensions of your door to get an idea for what kind of door knob hardware you need. It will only take a moment if you know how to measure an exterior door. Also, take into account the type of door you may have—for example, a sliding barn door, a beautiful wooden antique door, or one with a more modern, streamlined facade. Take all of this information with you to the store, or keep it in mind while you’re shopping online—it’ll help you pick the right new door knob set for an artistic and elevated look.

Which Color Exterior Door Knob Should I Buy? 

When choosing new exterior door knobs, one of the most important questions to ask yourself is what color door knob you should purchase. If you already love the current look of your satin nickel, polished brass, satin stainless steel, polished chrome, bronze, or brass knob, then you can stick with the same finish. It’s always good to stick with the current finish if you’re only swapping out the door knob and you’re not changing door or house colors.

However, if you plan on updating your door with one of the best front door colors or you’re getting a new door, then you’ll want to determine which color door knob looks best with the door color. Before purchasing a new door knob, spend some time comparing the new door lock with your new door or paint color. Choose door knobs with finishes that complement the paint or door color, as well as the look of the exterior of your home.

2. Choose Your New Exterior Door Hardware 

It’s time to purchase a new door knob and hardware. First, narrow down your search by thinking about the functionality you need. Are you looking for an electronic deadbolt? A keyed entry or keyless entry? From a simple latch all the way to a mortise lock, you can add as much or as little security, technology, or other accessories as you desire. However, if this is for your front door, a simple knob isn’t enough—you should invest in a high-quality locking mechanism.

The next step is to incorporate the design. Refer back to the research you did in assessing your current door hardware. Details in your current door and doorknob can help you choose the right door knob. For example, you might want to look among knob sets to match the finish of your current door hinges.
Popular finishes and styles to consider might include rubbed bronze, satin brass, stainless steel, matte black, or crystal knobs. There are no rules when it comes to finding a great design—think about what would go well with the door itself to help make a stunning visual statement.

Where to Buy Exterior Door Knobs? 

For the best exterior door knobs and handles, browse the high-quality front door hardware from a specialty store like Rustica. You might find adequate hardware from your local hardware store as well. If you have French doors, don’t forget you will need twice the amount of hardware.

Are Exterior Door Knobs Universal? 

There are several types of exterior door knobs, including a knob lock, stainless steel door keyed entry, ANSI grade lock, door handle with a lock, and exterior door knobs with deadbolt locks, among others. Each of these lock types functions differently and requires a slightly different setup to work properly for an exterior door.

If you only have a doorknob on your entry door with no deadbolt, then you only need the knob bore hole. If you have a handle set, then you’ll need the bore hole for the doorknob and the matching deadbolt lock. 

It’s also important that your knob is strictly for front entry doors. It should go without saying, but privacy door knobs, interior door cabinet hardware, antique brass interior door knobs, passage knobs, and dummy knobs should not be used on an exterior door. While these options may make opening and closing interior doors and cabinets easy, they don’t provide the appropriate amount of security that an entry door requires.

What Size Exterior Door Knob Do I Need?

There are several factors that go into determining the size of your door hardware, including your entry door knobs, hinges, door handles, door plate, and deadbolt. First, if you’re replacing an existing handle and lock with a new one, then your current setup determines the size of the replacement set. You should stay within the same size range to make installation simple and to ensure the lock and handle fit properly.

If you’re starting from scratch, then you’ll need to determine several things, including the door thickness, the overall size of the door, and whether you need a lock setup for single or double doors. It’s important to match the overall entry door style with the knob or latch and deadbolt set. You don’t want a stainless steel door lever if you have an old farmhouse or antique style door. Similarly, you shouldn’t install an antique brass knob on a slick, modern door.

Once you’ve got an idea of the style you want, measure the door’s thickness and keep those measurements in mind when you’re shopping. This measurement is one of the most important pieces of the puzzle and will determine which knob and locking mechanism size you can purchase. All locks come with a door width range, so make sure you’re only looking at options that can be installed on your door.

3. Gather Your Materials

It’s certainly tempting to jump headlong into the project. After all, the sooner you start, the sooner you finish. However, it will expedite the process and reduce your frustration later if you take the time now to get everything together.
What you’ll need:
  • Your new exterior door knob components and associated hardware
  • Screwdriver
  • Paint, if needed (chip some paint from your door and bring it to the hardware store for a perfect match!) 
  • Painter’s Tape
  • Bowls to keep hardware organized
  • A camera for taking pictures of the process
  • A vacuum or a brush

4. Remove Existing Door Knob and Hardware

It’s the moment you’ve been waiting for: time to take the old knob off to make room for the new! You’ve gotten everything together; simply loosening a few screws should do it. Remove each piece carefully, place it on a table in the order you removed it, and use painter’s tape to attach screws to the pieces they go with.

How to Remove an Exterior Door Knob

While the exact method for removing your door knob will vary depending on the specific model and pieces involved, there is a general procedure that you should follow. Start by removing all visible screws with a screwdriver, setting them aside, and pulling out any loosened hardware (including the door knob, deadbolt (if applicable) and any face or latch plates that were flush against the wood). Then, use a vacuum or a brush to clean out the inside of the lock, and wipe down all surfaces for dust and grime.

5. Prepare Door for the New Knob 

If you want to make changes to your door, now is the time. Perhaps you want to paint your door a new color, or sand and putty over any screw holes that won’t be covered by your new front door hardware. If you are happy with your door, that’s great! Continue to the next step.

6. Line up New Knob to Existing Screw Holes

You can re-use the same screw holes and save yourself a lot of work (and put fewer holes in your door). Simply line up the new door knob so it fits into the existing screw holes.

Take the time and use a level to make sure that the latch plates, decorative faceplates, and the logo of your new door hardware are all completely straight and center. You’ll thank yourself later.

7. Attach the New Knob

This is the simplest and most rewarding part of the process! Specific steps may vary depending on the make and model of your new door hardware, but once the old knob has been removed and the area prepared, the installation process should be simple. Place the latch plates, decorative roses, deadbolts, and door knobs or handles on the door. Use a screwdriver to affix them, one by one.

8. Test Your New Exterior Door Knob

Lock the door, then unlock it, just to make sure everything works the way it should. Make sure that the lock aligns the way you want it to, that you positioned the new door hardware so that it’s properly centered, and that the screws feel tight and flush against your door. Then, congratulate yourself on a job well done—and know that if you ever need to know how to tighten an exterior door knob, now, you know how; it’s the same process.

How to Clean Exterior Door Knobs

Maybe you don’t need to replace your door knob—perhaps it just needs a good scrub. A dirty door knob may not function well and can become hard to use. Because door knobs and handles come into contact with our hands so often, they can regularly be teeming with invisible bacteria!
To clean an exterior door knob, determine the type of material. There are two main types to consider: solid brass and other metal-coated knobs, or knobs with a clear or glossy finish.

How to Restore the Luster on Exterior Metal Door Knobs

One of the reasons for installing metal exterior door handles and deadlocks is to enjoy their gentle sheen. However, if the shine on your oil-rubbed bronze or satin nickel door knob isn’t what it used to be, they can be easily cleaned by using warm soapy water. Fill a bucket with warm water, mix in a mild detergent, and use a soft sponge or cloth to wipe off your door knobs. For difficult dirt or grime, repeat as necessary.

The same procedure can be used for a crystal knob, as well as a variety of glass door knobs. Complete cleaning process with a glass cleaner and a microfiber cloth for a fingerprint-free finish.

Tips for Cleaning Door Knobs with a Glossy Finish

For knobs that have a clear lacquer, you may need to use something a little stronger, such as mineral spirits, to give them a good scrub-down. Re-apply a clear finish as necessary to make your door knobs look good as new.

Can You Paint Exterior Door Knobs? 

If you want to improve the look of your exterior door knobs or rustic exterior door knobs, but they’re still in good shape, painting them is an excellent way to add instant curb appeal. The one downside of painting your door knobs is that it’s difficult to remove the paint if you change your mind later.
Here are the basic steps to follow to successfully paint your door knobs:
  1. Remove the door knobs from the door. Sadly, there isn’t a high-quality way to paint the mechanism while it’s still attached. Put in the extra few minutes to remove all the door hardware you want to paint—the end result will look way better. Take pictures as you remove the knob to aid in replacing it after it’s painted!
  2. Clean, then sand the knob with light-grit sandpaper.
  3. Use painter’s tape around the key-hole, locking mechanism, and anything else that’s built into the door.
  4. Prop up the door knob with Styrofoam (floral foam, available at any hardware store, is perfect for this).
  5. Prime with metallic priming paint, then spray paint the knob. Follow the paint manufacturer’s directions for both.
  6. After letting the paint dry for about one day, apply a clear top coat or varnish. Let dry.
  7. Reinstall the door knob and all associated hardware, checking back in with the pictures you took earlier to help you do so.
And there you have it—a beautifully painted door knob!

Great Door Hardware Deserve Great Doors

Sometimes you’ll find that once you have a door handle you love that the door itself no longer really matches the new hardware. A whole door upgrade is in order, and one of the keys to improving curb appeal is to ensure that the entry knob—and the door—look fantastic. After all, a beautiful, sleek new door handle attached to a drab, boring door might not make the statement you want it to make.

There are numerous options for selecting a new entry door, and you’ll want to consider the overall style of your home’s exterior, as well as interior, when deciding on which door style will be best. Your front door can play a very important role in first impressions, so picking a high-quality door is also critical.

There are single doors and double doors made of wood or metal. Browse our selection of pulls and handles for barn doors, interior French doors, and a large selection of exterior doors for your front entryway or patio. There are any number of colors and finishes to complement your home’s exterior and the new front door hardware you want to use. You can select an entry door with many windows to let in the sunlight, or a solid door to make more of a bold statement. Select the glass that’s perfect for your light situation, from frosted to tinted to more specialized finishes.

If you are having trouble finding the right front door, or you just can’t settle on a style, then you’ll want to consider a custom door. A handcrafted entry door for your home is the best way to truly stand out in the neighborhood. A custom door can take your dream and make it a reality, and create the perfect exterior masterpiece.

How to Replace Exterior Door Knobs 

Are you ready to change your exterior door knob? Once you have selected new hardware, installing new door knobs on exterior and entry doors is a straightforward job.

Whether your door hardware needs to be replaced or merely cleaned and given a fresh coat of paint, you can do the job yourself and gain a few DIY points in the process. Good luck with your exterior door knob upgrade adventure!
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