How to install new door knobs

March 15, 2011

Well…it only took a year. And I’m still not completely done. But nearly all of our doors are rid of their look-away-or-the-shiny-will-blind-you brassiness.

I’m finally getting the last of the new oil rubbed bronze knobs installed. I’ve been meaning to show you this process forever, so here we go!

Here’s a before shot of the brass knobs on my son’s bathroom doors:

white door with brass door knob

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**Wow, see how that bathroom looks now! 😄

There are a few tools you’ll need, depending on your knobs. I needed a pencil, hammer, chisel, Phillips screwdriver and a drill (last two not pictured):

tools for changing out knobs

You may not need the chisel, but more on that in a bit. 

I've been slowly replacing the shiny brass knobs with pretty oil rubbed bronze door knobs. They make such a big impact for such a little thing. 

I start with the hinges – so easy! Use your drill to take the old ones off:


You don’t need to take the door off – just replace one hinge at a time. Take one old one off, put a new one on.

You may need the hammer to dislodge the old hinge. It’s most likely been there for a while, and it will need a little push to get it off. (I knock it from below the hinge a few times and it works great.)

So once your hinges are on, you’ll be squealing because it already looks so good, but it’s time to move on.

There’s three kinds of knobs – you’ll want to be sure to get the right ones. Privacy knobs are for bathrooms and bedrooms and they lock. Passage knobs don’t have a lock and turn freely – so for closets, etc. Dummy knobs are for spots like double doors – remember you’ll probably need two, one for each side of the door.

This was the door to the bathroom, so it took a privacy knob:

privacy knob

It’s so simple to take the old knob off – just use a Phillips screwdriver to take out the two screws:

changing out brass door knobs

Take them out, and the two knobs will come easily apart:

replacing door knobs

Here’s where it got a little dicey with our doors.

Our previous hardware had a small round hole for the latch:

round latch hole door knobs

The new hardware did not. :) It had a plate the latch was installed in. I thought this was going to be a major pain to deal with when I first realized this, but it’s not a problem.

Place the new latch in the hole, and hold it in the right spot. Then trace around it:

make rectangle latch work for round latch hole

Then, bust out your chisel and your Tool Man grunt and get to it. (This is similar to mine, and this set has different sizes that may be helpful.) 

First, place your chisel along your lines, and use a hammer to tap the chisel into the wood, going around your tracing. Then take the chisel and angle it so you can start chipping away at it, again using the hammer as you go:

how to mortise a door latch

You want to mortise out that area so the latch will fit flush, or almost flush. It doesn’t have to be exactly right – just check it as you go. You’ll think you’re taking off a ton of wood, but it would be hard to make it too deep. Just keep checking here and there.

I gotta tell you…using a chisel is fun. :) I like it. The instant gratification with each tap of the hammer is great.

Once you get the depth right, just screw the latch in:

oil rubbed bronze door latch

It’s time to get your new knob installed! It will look something like this:

oil rubbed bronze knob

Just take them apart, and put the part with the long pole into the latch. There’s a curved part on the pole that you’ll want to match up with the curved part inside the door:

how to install door knobs

It won’t go in if you have it wrong, so no worries. You just have to match those up. Then place the other side on the back, and put your new screws in:

installing door knob

I use a Phillips for this as well, with towel or rag up against the knob. I didn’t want to chance messing up the finish on the knobs.

Here’s an important tidbit…most times the part of the knob with the screws will go on the inside of the room or the closet. With passage knobs, it doesn’t matter where you put them, but I like having them on the inside of the door.

The important part – ALWAYS, always have a screwdriver with you and stay on the side of the door with the screws while installing. You’ll need to test the door here and there, and once and a while there may be a little something off. Sometimes, not often, but sometimes the door can latch just so in the process and may get jammed. You need to be able to take the knob off (with your screwdriver) if the door gets stuck.

I had a few sweaty moments over the course of changing out all of the knobs in our house. And one of my friends may or may not have locked herself in when this happened. Not just the bathroom – her little bitty potty closet. We (I?) laugh about it now, but she says it was so scary to be stuck in there, with no way out. (She busted the knob to get herself out.)

So anyway…keep the screwdriver, stay on the screws side, or at least have someone at home while you’re doing it. ;)

OK…we’re almost done! The only little bit left is the strike that’s in the door frame:

replacing strike plate

The new strike comes with the knob. You’ll just remove the old one, and install the new one like you did the hinges.

This is where you want to heed my earlier advice – you’ll need to test the door with the strike – sometimes things get a bit off in the process and they don’t fit perfectly together anymore.

No biggie – just move the strike around a little, or chisel out a little from behind it, and you’ll be good to go!:

Isn’t she lovely? Isn’t she beautiful? :)

I love the contrast of the white doors and dark hardware:

oil rubbed bronze knob on white door

So there you go…even with the mortising, it doesn’t take that long once you get the hang of it. Now I can get the whole door changed out in about 20 minutes. I’ve had a lot of practice over the past year though. :) Only two more to go…and I’m DONE.

If you don’t have to chisel, you could change out these in ten minutes easy. 

Here’s the before and after, side by side:

brass knobs to dark knobs on white door

I also used the chisel to mortise out the hinges for our new pantry door last fall. It’s the same idea – just trace the hinge, then chisel it out. It doesn’t have to be perfect – it’s covered in the end!

If you don't want to change out your knobs, you can try spray painting your door knobs. It doesn't always work out well, so check out that post for helpful information.

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  1. Good job! Door knobs get easier each time you do it! But they make the BIGGEST impact on a home!

  2. Well worth the efforts of your labor! Great tutorial. Thanks!

  3. Oh MY! Much better, like a breath of fresh air! Funny how something so small can make such a big difference!

  4. Oh man this is so inspiring! I have brass everywhere! I just try to ignore it because I feel like it will take a million years to change them all out! :) I need to just get 'er done- this looks so great!

  5. LOVE(or LURVE) the new knobs!! So much prettier! Now I am sitting here giving my shiny brass knobs on my doors the evil eye....urggh! I don't know that I have ever really noticed them before! Thanks Sarah! LOL! Just kidding! I seriously love the new knobs though!

  6. Very pretty. It certainly seems to add a touch of history. Thanks for the tutorial!

    Christina @ The Scrappy Housewife

  7. Great job, it's amazing what a little tiny bit of updating does for the room! We updated a whole house of brass-i-ness about a year ago before selling it. I believe we got the hinges and door knobs from ebay. WAAAAAAY cheaper than a store!

  8. Love how you covered the door knob while you screwed in the screws to avoid scratching it...sounds like common sense, buut lemme tell you I probably wouldn't have thought of for the inspiration :)

  9. Wait, when I replaced my knobs the kit came with a little round conversion thingy that you could use for doors like your with just the hole so you wouldn't have to use the plate or hack into your doors (especially if they are hollow doors). I used those. But otherwise it is super simple. I didn't bother with the hinges. You never really see them? maybe yours were extra shiny? Love the look of your knobs...but I just can't justify the spendiness of new knobs...I love my brass!

  10. Love the new look!!

    I also hopped on the no brass bandwagon last summer and am soooooooo pleased with the results.

  11. Nice job!
    I was reading somewhere last week that brass is starting to make a comeback--I am NOT a fan of that!

  12. They look gorgeous! You are inspiring to us gals :) I also don't do thing you might not like about the new hinges is you will have grease to clean. For some reason it's only on some doors and usually only on the bottom hinge area. I use the Basic-H degreaser and it comes right off.

  13. Those look great! Thankfully all my doors have white hinges (whew) so if I ever decide to do this that's one last step. Thanks for the step by step.

  14. They look so great! Our last house had matte black hardware throughout that I adored but this house is all yucky brass. It's a project i want to work on, but haven't gotten around to it yet. Now I'm inspired!! :)

  15. oh wow, this looks amazing. definitely something i've been wanting to do in my house since we moved in!!! we may go the oil rubbed bronze spraypaint route though. still weighing the options!

  16. Sarah,
    Could you use a metal primer and a can of ORB? I have been itching to do this but am too chicken and I want to do the el cheapo route (we are still snowballing)!

  17. Gosh you are handy! I hate the knobs in my house but would have to get my husband to change them out and that would be a 4 mth ordeal.... Thanks for the inspiration to do it on my own!

  18. Looks great! We are slowly, one-by-one changing our cheap flat interior doors with brass knobs and hinges to new six panel doors and ORB knobs and hinges. We picked up our first two doors and the hardware on Monday and I noticed they don't come pre-drilled with holes for the knobs and recessed spots for hinges, etc. I'm hoping it won't be too much of a pain to do that. Can't wait for all my new doors to be in! Oh and we have ugly metal bi-fold doors on all our closets too! Can you imagine?? Those are getting replaced as well...Finally!

  19. I love the contrasting too! Its amazing the difference it makes. I'd be one of the people who'd get myself locked in the room w/ no way out. Lol! :-)

  20. Love the knobs...but I'm right there with ya on that shiny brass. Our house is packed full of 'em, and I am in the midst of spray painting all of mine Rustoleum's Oil Rubbed Bronze. So far so good, but if they don't hold up, i'll be springing for new ones too. I forgot about a couple of hinges will have to back track.

  21. I love them!...finished all my door this past summer...what a difference! I purchased mine from the website cheaper...little more shipping. Love reading your are one funny girl!

  22. Isn't it amazing how such a little thing as a door knob can make such a big difference?? :) The doors look great!

  23. Looks great! I have been changing out shiny gold knobs for brushed nickel ones this past year. Luckily, I didn't need the chisel step. I also decided to skip the expense of new hinges by spray painting the old ones, and they seem to be holding up just fine!

  24. This is what we spent the weekend working on at our house, too! It's amazing what a difference new doorknobs can make. Yours look fab-u-lous! :)

  25. Ya... I remember when all new homes had those bright gold doorknobs. Love the dark ones you chose. You're right... great contrast with the white.


  26. Oh look a butterfly! LOL!
    I need to do this exact project - ughghghghgh. Thanks for inspiring...your afters DO look wonderful and are inspiring me to just get this done!

  27. Wow - that seems like a much more simple process than I thought it would be. You may even have convinced me to give it a try.

  28. Oh - such a true designer! So much effort, emotion and expense dedicated to something so many people don't think twice about. I've done a lot of projects, large and small, in the 4 years I've been in my home but my "door and hardware" project gives me some of the greatest pleasure. I changed hollow core, painted luan-covered doors and polished (faux) brass knobs and hinges to solid core, arched panel doors in fresh white semi-gloss with brushed nickel LEVERS and hinges throughout! Every single time I enter the upstairs hallway I appreciate the effort and result. They are clean, fresh and give the place that slightly modern look I LOVE! Are we crazy? I think I'll post my favorite before/after pictures ( Once again - thanks for the inspiration TDC!

  29. Love the new look! Changing the front door handleset was the first handy thing I did in our new home. I was SO proud when I did it myself with no help at all from my hubby. I hope your post will inspire more women to do the same. I was surprised that you ordered new hinges instead of spray painting! But I suppose this way everything will match perfectly, which we know you love.

  30. Seriously to get the door to stop sticking all I need is a chisel?

    Apparently, I have a date with my front door. Uhhm with chisel in hand that is....

    If this works, I will be thanking you every night that I don't need two hands to open the door!

  31. Would LOVE to undertake this task in my house. Our doors could also stand a fresh coat of paint so may need to hit them one at a time.

    Looks lovely!

  32. what a simple easy switch! i have to be honest, had i not read this post and tried to change out the hardware on my doors and had the "latch problem" i probaly would have stared, dumbfounded for a few minutes and then given up and put the old hardware back on! im so glad (in a good way of course) that you ran into this problem so you could show us all how easy it is to fix! thanks sarah! hope you have a great day! :)

  33. I can't wait to replace all of the door knobs in our house. I can't stand the brass. I'm thinking brushed nickel to coordinate with the other hardware in our home. Thanks for the tutorial.

  34. I am loving your channel and I love the new knobs, your channel gives me ideas for my house!!!

  35. i think i was the one who recommended Your Home Supply to you (unless there were two of us!) and i'm so sorry the ordering process was such a hassle! i have placed two orders with them (in our old house and now our new house) and my order was delivered perfectly (and quickly) both times, and i've even recommended them to a friend and she had no problems either! i totally would have told you if i knew it was going to be that bad! glad you love the knobs, though. such a small price to pay for huge impact!

  36. My husband thought I was insane when I switched out all the handles in our old house. But, it makes such a difference! Not only the look, but the feel of a nice, weighty handle conveys to a visitor! I swear this is a trick that adds perceived value virtually overnight.

  37. Your knobs are beautiful! Okay, that just doesn't sound appropriate. ;)
    I wanted to change all of ours but couldn't find what I was looking for. I ended up using the trusty ORB spray paint and I love it.

  38. Sooooooo jealous! We have brass knobs throughout our entire home. Not only are the brass but they are extremely worn. I can't wait to replace them but it will be awhile before that happens. I've contemplated spray paint but I'm nervous about how they'll hold up and I'm not sure the hubby would go for it. Anyways, I have bigger projects right now that trump knob replacements. Oh well, a girl can dream! Thanks for sharing!

  39. This is one of the best tutorials I have ever read! Thank you for posting it. I am filing it away for when I start my knob changing project. I have been putting it off forever but that shiny brass is just killing me! You made the process sound pretty easy and will save me the hassle (and money!) of hiring someone to do it. I love the way your door turned out!

  40. Love it! We did the same thing back in '06 when we moved in here. Thankfully, the hinges are painted the white of the door and molding, so we only had the expense of the door knobs - which I replaced with nickel levers. LOVE the contrast of your antique bronze knobs! It looks wonderful and totally suits your beautiful home =)


  41. We're doing the same thing in our house, changing out all the yucky brass knobs for brushed nickel levers, but we skip the chisel step. Instead, we use the Dremel Multi-Max with the 3/4" Wood & Metal Flush cut blade on to do the work for us. I don't understand how I lived without that tool before, we've changed out 9 of the 16 knobs that need replacing and use it every time! Love it!

  42. The change looks awesome! It really transformed the space and brought it to the 21st century. Do you think using oil-rubbed bronze spray paint would make the same difference? I've got a lot of brass happening here and it seems like painting would be another option. Thoughts?

  43. We just did this at our house. It has made all the difference, and fairly inexpensive. We used the same brand as well and I have been really pleased. I felt like our house looked so outdated..but not now!!!

  44. Love the bronze knobs!

    Question: Do you match all your metal finishes in the bathroom - knob, cabinet pulls, towel bars, faucets, etc? We are redoing a bathroom and I'm not sure if I can put the broze stuff in there with the shiny nickel sink faucet.

    Michelle (lemonadegal)

  45. Hey- love the new door knobs- next time you are looking for hardware, try they have tons of sellers and you can usually find things a LOT cheaper there! We are looking for all that stuff and will probably buy from Amazon...

  46. Oh thanks so much for sharing this and documenting and photographing it so well! I had been staring at my own brass doorknobs here recently, wistfully thinking of updating them--but then thought, "that's looks complicated." You made it look manageable. (And I'm sure by the 20th door, it really DOES get easier!) :-) Only started following your blog a month or so ago, but LOVE LOVE LOVE getting my "fix" from your posts. Who knew a can of ORB could go so far? I am dangerously more courageous now! Keep 'em coming!

  47. I just did the same thing, but I used the lever handles I think they ae called. It is in a oldies bronze color. I have a very small house that needed updating. It was worth the money. Later down the road I will do doors. I am enjoying your web page. thanks

  48. I hear you about getting distracted! I have the same lovely brass knobs too! We (hubby and I) purchased the same dark beauties, dare I say, 2 years ago. Installed? Nope! They have been sitting in their box (all 10 of them) waiting to be installed. Thanks to your website I have found the courage to take this on. I would wait for hubby to do but you see where I'm at with that!

  49. Bought replacement door knobs for several upstair rooms several years ago...haven't done it yet! GREAT JOB!

  50. This exact project has been on my to-do list for about three years! I'm glad you showed how simple it really is, because aside from cost, worrying about how hard it might be was my main concern. Yea!!

  51. They look great, and make such a difference! I just did my whole house also (had the shiny brass, too) and it also took me a loooong time to get er' done. The task of changing the hinges was a little too daunting for me, so I spray painted them with the oil bronze spray paint that you lurve. I just made a template for the hinges, covered them up, and then touched up a little here and there afterwords with some white paint. They look great, and you would never know that they were spray painted!

  52. The new look is very nice. And thanks for the great tutorial. I myself am thinking of glass knobs. I know most people will probably think I'm nuts. I have old fashioned taste, what can I say.

  53. What a transformation! It really is a nice finishing touch.

  54. I have been wanting to do the same thing in my home for years now. I have picked out the perfect knobs and priced them so many times but I never follow thru. I did however change out the sink faucet (thanks to my hubby) to the oil rubbed bronze and the cabinet knobs and I love it. Its amazing the difference something so small can make. Thanks for sharing.

  55. Loving it!! I just finished the EXACT same project (except I went from brass to the ORB paddle knobs). However, for my hinges I sanded them and spray painted them rather than spend the extra money on all new hinges. It's been about 3 weeks now and not one single problem. Just wanted to pass on the tip for anyone wanting to tackle this project :)!

  56. I replaced all my shiny brass knobs with ORB too. The outside doors and deadbolts where more difficult - ugh! But they looked beautiful. I didnt bother with the hinges though...

  57. I'mm holding out! We have a six year old home and put in brass because I am totally traditional! Not that I don't love the rubbed oil bronze, I am a bettin' girl that in a few more years, the dark look will be out and my brass will be Haute again!! Great tutorial though!

  58. Fabulous tutorial! They make such a difference. I just did a post about how my spray painted doorknobs DID NOT hold up:

    Love ya, girl!

  59. WOW! What a difference a knob can make :) Great way to add value to your home in an inexpensive way!

  60. I really need to do that in our 40 year old house! I really do! Thanks for sharing

  61. For those of you considering painting your door knobs, you might want to check out 320 Sycamore.

    Here's the link...

  62. (Hi! I'm your newest "subscriber..?" can't find a "follow" button but anyways...) great tutorial! I've watched my fiance do it a few times so I 'knew' how to do it theoretically, but now I feel confident I could do it on my own! I also wanted to add an additional tip (that may or may not be relative..) but, if the doorknob has a key you HAVE to make sure it is right side up. my MIL forgot this lovely little part when installing nee doorknobs on both exterior doors! You should see us try to get in every time not being able to figure out why the key fits but it won't let you in! Plus, it feels wonky to turn your hand toward the house hitting yourself on the frame. So if you don't want all these complications, check periodically as you go just like you said! :)


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