Home and Garden
On the home

How to select the proper door knob

By James and Morris Carey,
The Associated Press
Friday July 05, 2002

The announcer introduced the program as “On The House” and then us as “The Carey Brothers,” and soon the fate of our new Saturday morning home-improvement radio talk show would be on the line. 

We were new at broadcasting, but eager. We wanted to help. An early caller wanted to know how to install a doorknob. “Why did you bother calling us?” we said, “Anyone can change a doorknob!” Although the caller had been unfairly chastised for his good question, he did finally get an answer. We still rib each other about the stupid things that we did in our early radio days. 

How, you ask, could our history about talk radio have anything to do with a home-improvement newspaper column? Well, we decided to pick up where we left off 16 years ago, kick it up a notch and talk about selecting a doorknob. There’s a lot to know. 

Besides the old-fashioned deadbolt, there are four basic types of doorknobs:  

Passage hardware is primarily used where a lock is not needed. This could be on a hall door, the door between the kitchen and dining area or a secondary bedroom where it would be dangerous for a child to be locked in.  

Privacy hardware is the opposite of passage. It has a lock built in. We commonly see privacy hardware on the master bedroom door, on a bathroom door and on the side door of the garage. A privacy lock is designed to be unlocked from the inside of the room it protects, but also can be unlocked from outside the room with a small screwdriver.  

Keyed hardware is like privacy hardware except that it can only be unlocked from the outside with a key. Although we commonly see keyed doorknobs on exterior doors, they often are used on sheds and gates for added security, or on the inside of the home, on a closet for example, to prevent access to firearms and the like. Dummy hardware is the kind we personally use. Dummy hardware is there for looks. It doesn’t do anything. When you have double doors, chances are good the “inactive” door has a dummy on it to match the latch side. Dummy knobs also are used on doors where a latch exists at some location other than at the knob. 

All door hardware is bright and shiny when new. However, with less expensive doorknobs the finish doesn’t last. The key-lock system in cheaper locks can be opened by an adolescent with a hairpin. Key-lock systems are available in 5- and 6-pin configurations. A 6-pin lock is harder to pick than a 5-pin lock. Why make it easy for crooks? 

The building code requires deadbolts (with a 1-inch throw) at all exterior doors. Our uncle and aunt added a Florida room (glassed-in room addition) to their home. Uncle Omar added a deadbolt which operated with a key on both sides (double-cylinder deadbolt). He figured that even if someone broke the glass in the door they wouldn’t be able to get the door opened. When we last visited their home, we made sure that they knew that double-cylinder deadbolts have a disadvantage, too. We told them that a person could not escape with the bolt locked — without a key in hand. Then we posed the question. “Ever try putting a key into a lock with a fire raging behind you?” We also live by the philosophy that locks are for honest people. If a thief wants to get in, a glass door won’t keep him out. When is a double-cylinder lock safe? We don’t know. 

By the way, the answer to the question 16 years ago was: remove the two screws that hold in the latch bolt. Next, remove the two screws that hold the knobs together. Pull the knobs apart and then remove the latch-bolt assembly. Replace the new hardware in reverse order. The strike-plate (the metal plate on the door frame) can be reused or can be replaced by removing an additional pair of screws, replacing the plate and reinserting the removed screws. This process is the same for about 75 percent of doorknobs in the United States — regardless of whether the hardware has a knob or a lever. 

Note: When installing lever hardware, one must often lower the handle in order to easily access the screw to the inside of the door. 

For more home improvement tips and information visit our Web site at www.onthehouse.com. 

Readers can mail questions to: On the House, APNewsFeatures, 50 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10020, or e-mail Careybro(at)onthehouse.com. To receive a copy of On the House booklets on plumbing, painting, heating/cooling or decks/patios, send a check or money order payable to The Associated Press for $6.95 per booklet and mail to: On the House, P.O. Box 1562, New York, NY 10016-1562, or through these online sites: www.onthehouse.com or apbookstore.com.