replacing modern doorknobsfeatured

As a renter, there are three things that I try to replace immediately when I move into an apartment: the switch plate covers, the doorknobs, and the toilet seat. All three are super easy, and your local hardware store has pretty much everything you need. The toilet seat is self-explanatory, and the switch plate covers can range from fancy

to porcelain you can find for $7 at the hardware store (which I actually prefer most of the time).

The doorknob is a little tricker if you want something special. Most apartments built after 1945 – mine included – have these standard-issue hollow, thin metal doorknobs that look and are cheap. To combat this, and to add a nice subtle quality detail, you have a few options. First, you can buy a new crystal doorknob at the hardware store and call it a day. You could also buy a new fancy doorknob at Anthropologie, or you can buy a fancy old one at an antique shop or flea market. It’s not that I condone buying things from Anthropologie, it’s just that sometimes their hardware is so beautiful that I can completely understand why one might do it (see switch plate above). So I can totally forgive myself the indiscretion of looking on their site at this amazingly beautiful black and white checkered doorknob (no longer available) and seeing that there was a sad little one star review at the bottom. Investigating further, it appeared that the sad reviewer had purchased the doorknob, only to realize she had one of those modern doors and that it didn’t fit. So she gave this particular doorknob one star, saying something along the lines of “this didn’t fit, you need special hardware and someone who knows what they are doing.” I’ll give you the special hardware bit, but girl, let me empower you to be that person.

I don’t know exactly when doorknobs went from square to whatever that shape is. I found the piece on the right attached to a plastic doorknob, probably from the 50’s, but they are much easier to come by at my local hardware store for about $6, and they come with the plate that goes on the door frame. Because your modern door probably has a round hole drilled through it to accommodate the modern doorknob, and your old/fancy new doorknob is just a little spindle with handles, you’ll also need something to cover that hole. These come in round or rectangular styles, the latter with a cute fake keyhole. I’m choosing round for no particular reason. So here is all the special hardware I need to replace my doorknob:

  • Rosettes or plate to cover the 2 1/4 inch hole that your current doorknob would leave
  • Doorknob with spindle
  • Part that goes in the door with a square hole (that there is probably a better name for)
  • Phillips screwdriver
  • Door frame plate (included with doorknob conversion kit)

When choosing a doorknob – especially an antique – be aware that the spindle comes in a couple different forms, the screw type and the hole type (not the actual names, I assume).

Screw type:

Holey type:

If you can, choose a screw type, because it’s pretty much guaranteed to fit your door no matter which rosette or plate you choose. If you choose one of these holey types, you might have to flatten your rosette a bit to fit the width of your door. Okay, here we go!

First, take off the old knob:

Then, put in the new hardware inside the door:

Replace the plate on the door frame:

And install the new doorknob:

Like I mentioned earlier, you might have to flatten the plates that cover the hole in the door if you get a spindle with holes – that’s what happened here, and I had to install a different rosette to make the antique knob fit. But the finished product is lovely, isn’t it? I found my doorknob at Liz’s Antique Harware on La Brea near 6th, which is usually way out of my budget. This hollow brass knob was only $24, which is arguably better than Anthropologie’s $32-$68 range (note that they also provide the rosette for the door).

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