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Lock Blog

A resource for consumers, locksmiths, and security professionals

How To Change A Door Knob: Professional Insights And Processes

by Ralph May 31, 2021

Before you change door knobs, it is best to go over the particulars of the process and factors that affect best practices. You may be able to get away with just buying some off-the-shelf front door knob replacement and following the included instructions, but it will be beneficial to know more about the steps involved before starting.

The steps to change a door knob break down into:

  1. Buy Door Knobs
  2. Disassembly
  3. Installation

Before buying it is a good idea to review other options besides changing door knobs. You can reduce the price of replacing a front door handle or knob by looking into these alternatives. In some cases, only a door knob change will solve your problem, but it is best to check before committing to a more costly solution.

If you would like assistance with door knob replacement, calling a locksmith is the best professional solution. Your technician can perform the door lock change as well as give you alternative options, which may save you time and money. In the sections below, we will go over some of these insights so you will have better guidance.


How much does it cost to change door knobs?

When you change door knobs, you are paying for parts and labor. Parts may include a new door along with your new door knob hardware. You can reduce the cost of changing door knobs by doing the work yourself or by rekeying the locks instead of buying new door knobs.

What tools do you need to change a door knob?

In most cases, the only tool you will need to change door knobs will be a Phillips head screwdriver. A power drill with a Phillips head will make the overall door knob replacement process faster. If you are prepping a new door for locks, you will need the appropriate jig for your lock hardware and a cutting tool that can make the correct size holes.

How do you replace a broken door knob?

As long as the knob can be disassembled and removed, it can be replaced the same as any other lock. You have to make sure that your replacement door knob will fit the precut holes in your door, or you can replace the door as well. Rekeying the door knob will not be an option as this will not fix a broken door knob.

What do I do when my new door knob doesn’t fit the holes on my door?

Check to see if the latch hardware can extend or retract its length. If latch length is not your issue, chances are either the door knob or the door will have to change. In certain cases, you may be able to widen holes or add metal covers to interior doors to cover unsightly holes. Consult with a locksmith for the exact options you will have for your particular door.

Before You Change Door Knobs 

Prior to changing a door knob, check that you have made all the proper considerations. Reflecting on these factors increases the chances that you will get the most out of your door knob replacement. It is also the best way to assure that you are not overpaying or paying for what you don’t need.

There are many reasons to change door knobs, and each reason is likely to affect something about the process. For example, front door knob replacement will likely differ from changing the door knob on a bathroom door. Because door knobs do not offer much in the way of security, they are the wrong lock for doors where they are the sole lock for an exterior door.

1. Rekey

Changing door knobs is not the only option when you want to change which keys open a door or make it so several locks open with the same key. You will likely be able to do much of what you want while saving money by rekeying your locks. This process changes the internal components that correspond to a specific key while leaving the rest of the hardware intact.

Rekeying a door knob is not always an option. The main difference between rekeying and replacing locks being that sometimes full replacement of the hardware is necessary. And rekeying a lock will not fix a broken lock. Nor can two locks from different manufacturers both work with the same key.

Rekeying multiple locks to work with one shared key will require all hardware to use the same brand lock cylinder, so you may be able to blend these options. Instead of changing two door knobs, change one lock to the brand of the other and rekey the new to the old (or vice versa).

Key Takeaways:

  • Rekeying a lock changes which key will open it.
  • Door knobs can be rekeyed to use the same key as an existing lock.
  • If the door knob is broken, rekeying is unlikely to fix the issue.
  • Lock cylinders must be the same brand and model to be rekeyed the same.

2. Keyed Alike

Most mass-market residential door knobs will have a key code somewhere on the packaging. In the image above, you will see the Kwikset deadbolt and knob pack displaying this code with a highlighter yellow sticker. The locks you can buy from Home Depot and other big-box stores are rarely high-quality, but they do offer this convenience.

Besides retail chains, other locations where you can buy locks should provide some information about keyed alike options. If you are buying specialty handles or door knobs directly from a manufacturer, or online they may not give you the code outright, as this creates a security vulnerability. But they should provide you the explicit choice of having your hardware all work with one key.

If you want to change door knobs without changing deadbolts, or other locks, you are unlikely to be able to match new and existing codes unless you kept all of the locks’ documentation. Mixing and matching new door knobs and old door knobs is better suited to rekeying. Just remember that all door knobs must use the same brand lock cylinder.

Key Takeaways:

  • Door knobs can be purchased keyed alike.
  • Key codes should be prominently displayed on purchasing info.
  • When all locks are not new, turn to rekeying instead.

3. Security Upgrades

The main security upgrades when you change door knobs include security pins, drill protection, and blunt force protection. Security pins make lock picking more difficult, and due to the more pressing vulnerabilities of a door knob, are a low priority. However, if you have reason to believe your property will be targeted by criminals using covert entry methods, this is a good option.

Drill protection for door knobs comes down to the installation of hardened steel pins. At least the front pins should use hardened steel, which will cause most drill bits to glance off and prevent successful destructive entry. A locksmith can still drill the lock, but criminals will have an extremely difficult time figuring out what is going wrong.

Blunt force attacks focus on striking or prying the door with enough power to break the door open. You can add a metal slipcover around your door knob to strengthen the door around the pre-drilled hardware holes. It is also a good idea to use three-inch set screws for strike plates, so pressuring the door does not cause the latch to break through the frame.

Key Takeaways:

  • Security pins protect against covert entry attacks such as lock picking and bump keys.
  • Drill protection requires hardened metal inserts to keep drill bits from penetrating.
  • Add metal inserts and use longer set screws for your strike plate to protect against brute force.

How To Change A Door Knob

To change a door knob there are three main processes. You begin by buying a new door knob based on your needs. Then you can remove the existing door knob. And finally, you install the new door knob. That is the gist of the process, but there is more to know about the more specific generalities involved with each.

1. Buying New Door Knobs

In order to change a door knob, you need to purchase your replacement hardware. Based on the considerations above you will have figured out what you need in terms of brand and key code. These things may not matter, or they could be the most important aspect of buying depending on your goals with your door knob replacement.

Perhaps the door knob you change doesn’t need to be keyed. This is the case with bathroom door locks, which only need to provide privacy. Bedroom door knobs can go either way, but interior doors provide very little security due to their construction. And door knobs have spring-loaded latches, which have inherent security vulnerabilities.

In the case of front door knob replacement, your door knob should be keyed. However, if your door uses a euro cylinder or mortise lock it is more common that an unkeyed handle will fit the door. And the fit is extremely important. If you want to change a door knob and lockset, and your existing door does not have the properly sized pre-cut holes, you likely need a new door.

Key Takeaways:

  • Brand and key code are important considerations if you are looking to rekey or get locks keyed alike.
  • Door knobs come with keyed cylinders, privacy locks, or without locking functions.
  • Make sure that the new door knobs fit the precut holes in the door.

2. Disassembly

Once you have the new lock in your possession, it is time to begin the work of installing the new door knob. And if the door is already using a door knob, this will require taking existing hardware off the door. If the door knob is jammed or stuck, you will need to do a bit more to get it open. To remove your current door knob follow these basic instructions:

  1. Open the door.
  2. Locate the door knob set screws on the interior side of the door.
  3. Remove all set screws.
  4. Pull the door knob hardware from the spindle hole.
  5. Remove the latch hardware from the door.

Optional step:

  1. Remove set screws from the strike plate.

If you are putting a door knob onto a new door, then you do not have to worry about these steps. The door frame should still have an existing strike plate, so in the next section, the strike plate replacement should still be optional. Changing the strike plate too often will result in striping the holes for the set screw, making it less secure.

Key Takeaways:

  • If you are using a brand new door, ignore this step.
  • You do not necessarily need to replace your existing strike plate.
  • Replacing a strike plate can lead to striping the set screw holes.

3. Installation

The final part of the door knob replacement process is essentially reversing the disassembly steps. However, there is more that needs to be finessed in order to put the door knob hardware together. There should be detailed installation instructions included with your new door knob parts, but the process should break down into these steps:

  1. Keep the door open.
  2. Install the latch hardware.
    1. The latch may need to be extended to reach the center of the main hole.
  3. Locate the spindle hole on the latch that the door knobs will connect through.
  4. Feed the exterior door knob with the spindle rod, through the latch’s spindle hole.
    1. Exterior door knobs can be differentiated by having a keyed cylinder or by their lack of a thumbturn/push button actuator.
  5. Line up the interior door knob with the exterior spindle rod. 
  6. Check that rotating both sides retract the latch.
  7. Secure the door knob with set screws.

Optional step:

  1. Install the strike plate on the door frame.
    1. Use set screws at least 3-inches in length to secure into the stud.

This process can be a bit more complex if you are changing the door knob to an extent that requires a new door. Before installing a fresh door, make sure it was purchased with the appropriate precut holes. If the door is uncut, you can have a locksmith fit the lock to the door, or purchase a jig and corresponding cutting tools.

Key Takeaways:

  • Installation steps should be detailed in the new door knob documentation.
  • Consult a locksmith if you are using a fresh door without precut holes.
  • If you are replacing the strike plate, use 3-inch set screws.

Closing Advice

The main focus when you change door knobs is making sure the new hardware fits the door and functions properly when installed. If you are worried about whether you can accomplish this yourself, or run into any complications, call a locksmith. A locksmith can change door knobs, rekey existing doors, and give professional security advice.
Changing door knobs can also be the perfect time to burglar-proof doors, but the door knob itself provides very little in terms of security. The security upgrades you make when you change your door knob will focus on increasing the door’s strength around the lock. Be sure not to miss out on getting the most out of changing door knobs.

Category: Commercial, Residential

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